Greenland Rescue

Author Unknown

Reprinted from Coast Guard Magazine, November 1942


Twenty-six American Army fliers, marooned for two weeks on the sub-zero desert which is the Greenland Ice Cap, thought the stub nose and squat hulk of a Coast Guard cutter in the Navy’s Greenland Patrol was the most beautiful marine design that ever came off the drawing boards.

The rescue was a soul-warming example of cooperation between Army and Navy forces. In less than 24 hours after the planes were forced down in the barren waste of ice and snow, Navy planes droned overhead dropping food and bedding and reading matter.

For 14 days the castaways lived in comfort awaiting the rescue party. Some of them even gained weight. They all acquired sun tans which would be the envy of a Miami Beach life guard. But they still wanted to get out.

Under command of Lieutenant (j.g.) Fred Crockett, U.S.N., an arctic and antarctic explorer, an Army Air Corps party reached the stranded group about noon one day. The Navy patrol planes were still zooming above acting as the “fire by night and pillar of cloud by day.”

At 9 P. M. the same day the entire group started down from the ice cap. Crunching through crusted snow, sinking hip deep in soft flakes, and creeping daintily over crevasse-split patches of glassy ice, they reach the coast 14 hours later.

They knew the coast would be uninhabited, but were not ready for the wilderness of icebergs which stretched as far as the could see—bergs in all fantastic shapes and sizes that an imaginative stage designer could produce, bergs 400 feet high and other bergs a mile long.

They had just had time enough to start feeling sorry for themselves again when two bergs slowly unclenched and through the narrow opening poked the stub nose of the Coast Guard cutter.

To get in, the cutter under command of Lieutenant Commander Francis C. Pollard, USCG, had spent 36 hours attacking the sea ice. It was a heart-breaking process of running for tens of miles in open leads in the ice only to be stymied and have to return. The break-through was finally made like the crossing of the Red Sea, the ice was pushed back on either side—and it closed in again immediately.

The fliers were a great deal more than dog-tired when they came aboard. The dog team that went in with the rescue party was right chipper. Outside of the weariness, the universal injury was foot blisters. The ship’s doctor was immediately christened “Florence Nightingale” for the great diminution in foot pain.

The trip out through the sea ice was more perilous than the trip in. under the influence of an on-shore breeze the bergs had moved closer to the beach and were rubbing cheeks. On one occasion two large blocks of ice, each the size of a Giant Market, were drawn inward by the suction of the ship’s wake and smashed together twenty feet behind the stern.

Soft, warm beds, plenty of steak and mashed potatoes, and water that they didn’t have to melt rejuvenated the Arctic Crusoes. They said there was only one more thing they could want—a tall drink with lots of ice.

 Mystery - Does anybody know which cutter came to the rescue?

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