An Epic Story of Survival and a Modern Quest for Lost Heroes of World War II

Mitchell Zuckoff shares his experiences and lessons learned while writing Frozen In Time


On November 5, 1942, a US cargo plane slammed into the Greenland Ice Cap. Four days later, the B-17 assigned to the search-and-rescue mission became lost in a blinding storm and also crashed. Miraculously, all nine men on board survived, and the US military launched a daring rescue operation. But after picking up one man, the Grumman Duck amphibious plane flew into a severe storm and vanished.

Frozen in Time tells the story of these crashes and the fate of the survivors, bringing vividly to life their battle to endure 148 days of the brutal Arctic winter, until an expedition headed by famed Arctic explorer Bernt Balchen brought them to safety. Mitchell Zuckoff takes the reader deep into the most hostile environment on earth, through hurricane-force winds, vicious blizzards, and subzero temperatures.

Moving forward to today, he recounts the efforts of the Coast Guard and North South Polar Inc. – led by indefatigable dreamer Lou Sapienza – who worked for years to solve the mystery of the Duck’s last flight and recover the remains of its crew.

A breathtaking blend of mystery and adventure Mitchell Zuckoff's Frozen in Time: An Epic Story of Survival and a Modern Quest for Lost Heroes of World War II is also a poignant reminder of the sacrifices of our military personnel and a tribute to the everyday heroism of the US Coast Guard.


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An Amazon Best Book of the Month, April 2013: Talk about bad luck: In 1942, a United States cargo plane crash-landed while flying over Greenland, stranding the crew on sea of ice. A rescue flight was quickly dispatched--it crashed in a November storm, stranding its own nine crewmembers. The third time was not the charm: a second rescue mission disappeared in another blizzard, leaving neither clues nor apparent survivors. Subsequent attempts--some with fatal results--failed under the harsh conditions, forcing the men to weather the Arctic winter in makeshift shelters, including the tail section of a broken bomber. This tale of survival in the deadliest conditions would be enthralling on its own (and it is), but Zuckoff's meticulous research led him to a modern-day group dedicated to solving the mystery of the third flight. As a chronicler of their mission, Zuckoff is swept into their adventure, and his project becomes much more than an interesting World War II subplot. Part Alive, part Shackleton, Frozen in Time is a thrilling story of courage, perseverance, and loyalty that spans decades. --Jon Foro


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It sounds so implausible that you think it must be fiction: in 1942, a U.S. military cargo plane crashed in Greenland; soon after, a B-17 bomber, assigned to the rescue mission, also crashed; and, not much longer after that, a Coast Guard rescue plane carrying one of the B-17 survivors disappeared in a storm. Facts, not fiction. Nearly seven decades later, Lou Sapienza, a commercial photographer who documented an earlier effort to find lost WWII planes, put together an expedition to Greenland aimed at finding out what happened to that Coast Guard plane. Author Zuckoff tagged along, chronicling the adventures of the colorful Sapienza while also telling us, through flashbacks, the story of the survivors of the B-17 crash and their months-long ordeal to stay alive while awaiting rescue. Zuckoff, who also wrote 2011’s Lost in Shangri-La (about a different but equally compelling WWII crash-and-rescue story), juggles the modern-day and historical stories adroitly, making us feel as though we are right there with the crash survivors, fighting against the bitter cold. --David Pitt


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“Zuckoff has produced a wonderful book that combines telling details, thoughtful background and vivid storytelling into a fascinating tale of courage, war and perseverance.” —THE SEATTLE TIMES


Kirkus Review

An intrepid journalist joins a real-life Arctic search team seeking details about "three American military planes that crashed in Greenland during World War II."

Zuckoff’s (Journalism/Boston Univ.; Lost in Shangri-La: A True Story of Survival, Adventure, and the Most Incredible Rescue Mission of World War II, 2011, etc.) complex narrative involves the fates of three downed missions to Greenland in late 1942, juxtaposed with the events of the modern-day search effort, led by an exploration company in August 2012 and joined by the author. As a result of the many competing strands and characters, some confusion in the details ensues—though maps and a cast of characters are included to help orient readers. The original lost cargo plane, which contained five American servicemen, was part of the wartime Operation BOLERO’s so-called Snowball Route from the U.S. to Britain; on November 5, 1942, it crashed on an ice cap near the southeast coast of Greenland. Due to terrible winter storms, the plane’s radio messages grew increasingly weak, making it impossible to locate the plane for the subsequent B-17 bomber that took off days later on a rescue mission. Carrying nine crew members, the B-17 hit a whiteout and crashed into a glacier. The broken-off tail section remained intact, allowing the survivors to take shelter, but one man had already fallen through an ice bridge, another grew delusional and another had his feet frozen. In order to rescue this batch, a Grumman “Duck” plane was launched, carrying pilot John Pritchard and radioman Benjamin Bottoms; despite rescuing some of the survivors, the Duck vanished in a storm, remaining unclaimed until Lou Sapienza’s expedition of 2012. Much of the blow-by-blow narrative concerns the plight of the crews, as well as the elaborate outfitting for the Duck Hunt.

An exhaustively layered but exciting account involving characters of enormous courage and stamina.