Academic journal article Military Review

81 Days below Zero: The Incredible Story of a World War II Pilot in Alaska's Frozen Wilderness

Academic journal article Military Review

81 Days below Zero: The Incredible Story of a World War II Pilot in Alaska's Frozen Wilderness

Article excerpt

81 DAYS BELOW ZERO: The Incredible Story of a World War II Pilot in Alaska's Frozen Wilderness

Brian Murphy with Toula Vlahou, Da Capo Press, Boston, 2015, 238 pages

Americans are enamored with survival stories. Simply turn on your television and you are inundated with reality shows tied to survival (most very loosely). Consequently, when a book focuses on a true story of survival, it is likely to appeal to a significant audience. This is the case with 81 Days Below Zero.

Within this excellent volume, author Brian Murphy (with assistance from his wife Toula Vlahou) details the incredible story of Leon Crane. Crane was part of a five-man, B-24 Liberator crew that crashed in Alaska while conducting a test flight days before Christmas in 1943. He was the sole survivor, going on to survive an amazing eighty-one days in brutal conditions before his rescue.

The telling of Crane's story is a challenge for any would-be writer. Throughout his life, Crane was very reluctant to discuss his experience. Consequently, there is a not a great deal of archived material available. The challenge is even more difficult because Crane died in 2002; thus, the possibility of interviewing Crane was not available.

So how did Murphy meet the challenge and fill in the blanks? He made significant use of accessible resources. Those include an unedited transcript of an interview with Crane, a 1944 story written by Crane, and a videotaped oral history from the late 1990s. Murphy combined those with interviews of family members and friends to provide himself with an understanding of Crane's ordeal and of the man himself. …

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