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

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"A riveting...saga of survival against formidable odds" (>Washington Post) about one man who survived a World War II plane
crash in Alaska's harsh Yukon territory

Shortly
before Christmas in 1943, five Army aviators left Alaska's Ladd Field on
a routine flight to test their hastily retrofitted B-24 Liberator in
harsh winter conditions. The mission ended in a crash that claimed all
but one-Leon Crane, a city kid from Philadelphia with no wilderness
experience. With little more than a parachute for cover and an old Boy
Scout knife in his pocket, Crane found himself alone in subzero
temperatures. 81 Days Below Zero recounts, for the first time,
the full story of Crane's remarkable twelve-week saga.

Average Ratings and Reviews
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3.94

1612 Ratings

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Ratings and Reviews From Market


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Reviews for 81 Days Below Zero: The Incredible Survival Story of a World War II Pilot in Alaska's Frozen Wilderness:

1

Jul 03, 2015

1.5 stars - I didn't like it.

This survival story would make for an interesting magazine article, but there were simply not enough events or information to force a novel out of the story. Instead, the author cobbled together numerous tangents which make up the majority of the material, and created this very fractured and disjointed book. Unfortunately, the result is that it feels long and drug out despite its very short length.

The reader does not even feel like they really get to know Leon 1.5 stars - I didn't like it.

This survival story would make for an interesting magazine article, but there were simply not enough events or information to force a novel out of the story. Instead, the author cobbled together numerous tangents which make up the majority of the material, and created this very fractured and disjointed book. Unfortunately, the result is that it feels long and drug out despite its very short length.

The reader does not even feel like they really get to know Leon Crane, whom the title misleads you into thinking the whole book will concern. There was never a feeling of suspense, in part because the survival story is constantly being paused to go off on yet another tangent. I simply wasn't concerned with what happened next. This book was easy to put down and was only ever picked back up to finish it for a book club discussion.

-------------------------------------------
Favorite Quote: War is always a negative-sum outcome. It subtracts, removes, empties. No one who has witnessed combat can, with any honesty, describe it another way.

First Sentence: These are true stories.
...more
3

Jan 10, 2017

"81 Days Below Zero" felt like watching a Netflix or Hulu TV show without the paid subscription. It was like the free plan--the one with all the commercials. All you want to do is get through the commercials so you can finish your show.

I really wanted to go give this book a higher rating. But when three fourths of the book aren't even about the main survival story, it doesn't make it easy to recommend this read. A great story that's filled with too much filler.
5

Aug 05, 2016

This book was just right... enough detail, without getting bogged down. It had a number of tangents to "pad" the story, but I found those tangents quite interesting, as I learned a lot about the battles in the Aleutian Islands against the Japanese during WWII and about the culture of rural Alaska at the time. The characters were interesting and well-drawn, and the survival story kept me engaged. You do sense how vulnerable Crane was, as a pilot from Philadelphia with all-too-little survival This book was just right... enough detail, without getting bogged down. It had a number of tangents to "pad" the story, but I found those tangents quite interesting, as I learned a lot about the battles in the Aleutian Islands against the Japanese during WWII and about the culture of rural Alaska at the time. The characters were interesting and well-drawn, and the survival story kept me engaged. You do sense how vulnerable Crane was, as a pilot from Philadelphia with all-too-little survival training. I was moved by the efforts of modern day researchers to recover any remains of those who didn't survive. ...more
1

Aug 16, 2015

This is the first time that I skipped entire sections of a book. Normally, if I don't like what I am reading, I'll just stop. But, I was interested in the main subject and wanted to know what happened to him, how he was able to survive. There was way too much extraneous, irrelevant information that was not needed and most of it was boring. If all of the worthless stuff was removed, it would have been a very slim book. It should have been just a magazine article on the WWII pilot who survived the This is the first time that I skipped entire sections of a book. Normally, if I don't like what I am reading, I'll just stop. But, I was interested in the main subject and wanted to know what happened to him, how he was able to survive. There was way too much extraneous, irrelevant information that was not needed and most of it was boring. If all of the worthless stuff was removed, it would have been a very slim book. It should have been just a magazine article on the WWII pilot who survived the crash. ...more
4

Jun 26, 2015

I really enjoyed this book! It was an interesting tale from a unique experience. The background info and relevant historical data were also fascinating. I am by no means an airplane or war buff, so I would have been bored had the book gone into too much detail. But it didn't - it was just enough to teach me what I needed to know to understand the crash and war as it related to Alaska. I especially enjoyed learning about survival skills and the Alaskan winters (which I have experienced and are no I really enjoyed this book! It was an interesting tale from a unique experience. The background info and relevant historical data were also fascinating. I am by no means an airplane or war buff, so I would have been bored had the book gone into too much detail. But it didn't - it was just enough to teach me what I needed to know to understand the crash and war as it related to Alaska. I especially enjoyed learning about survival skills and the Alaskan winters (which I have experienced and are no joke).

This was a fairly quick read. The audiobook narrator was not my absolute favorite, but he was decent enough that it didn't take away from the book.

My true rating is 4.5 stars - so give this book a try! ...more
3

Dec 05, 2015

I still can't decide if I liked the fact that the author took so many breaks from the main story to tell a whole bunch of other people's stories. It did add a nice dimension to the story in terms of seeing how Crane's story fit into other things going on during the war and within the history of the Yukon/Alaska, but at the same time I sometimes felt impatient to find out what was going to happen to Crane. All that said, I definitely was hooked and excited to see how the story turned out (but I still can't decide if I liked the fact that the author took so many breaks from the main story to tell a whole bunch of other people's stories. It did add a nice dimension to the story in terms of seeing how Crane's story fit into other things going on during the war and within the history of the Yukon/Alaska, but at the same time I sometimes felt impatient to find out what was going to happen to Crane. All that said, I definitely was hooked and excited to see how the story turned out (but then I do like my polar survival stories...) ...more
5

Mar 10, 2016

Shortly before Christmas in 1943, five Army aviators left Alaska’s Ladd Field on a routine flight to test their hastily retrofitted B-24 Liberator in harsh winter conditions. The mission ended in a crash that claimed all but one—Leon Crane, a city kid from Philadelphia with no wilderness experience. With little more than a parachute for cover and an old Boy Scout knife in his pocket, Crane now found himself alone in subzero temperatures. Crane knew, as did the Ladd Field crews who searched Shortly before Christmas in 1943, five Army aviators left Alaska’s Ladd Field on a routine flight to test their hastily retrofitted B-24 Liberator in harsh winter conditions. The mission ended in a crash that claimed all but one—Leon Crane, a city kid from Philadelphia with no wilderness experience. With little more than a parachute for cover and an old Boy Scout knife in his pocket, Crane now found himself alone in subzero temperatures. Crane knew, as did the Ladd Field crews who searched unsuccessfully for the crash site, that his chance of survival dropped swiftly with each passing day.

But Crane did find a way to stay alive in the grip of the Yukon winter for nearly twelve weeks and, amazingly, walked out of the ordeal intact.

81 Days Below Zero recounts, for the first time, the full story of Crane’s remarkable saga. In a drama of staggering resolve and moments of phenomenal luck, Crane learned to survive in the Yukon’s unforgiving wilds. His is a tale of the capacity to endure extreme conditions, intense loneliness, and flashes of raw terror—and emerge stronger than before

my rating :5 out of 5 stars
what did I think of it:
OMG I just finished and I loved it, it was better than I that it was going to be, loved how there was so much history in it not only about the crew of the B-24 but also about their family, and the people who worked with them as will as the history of about the people and place that are mentioned, so much history that I didn't even know about, as I was reading all I could think was how the family and friends must had felt when they found out that the B-24 had went down, and what Mr. Crane must of felt trying to get back to Ladd Field, and the black and white phots , they just bring it to real life even more, this is a must read, I can't even put how I feel in words right now. ...more
5

Jul 31, 2015

It's beyond me how anyone can fail to be taken into this story of Leon Crane's survival, alone in Alaska, given up for dead. I guess it's because we all read from our unique perspective. Because of quirks, luck, and Crane's ingenuity, creativity and fortitude, he survives 81 days in sub-zero temperature, and makes his way back to civilization. I'm so glad that Brian Murphy did the research and told this story, especially when Crane never wanted to talk about it. All this happened during WWII, It's beyond me how anyone can fail to be taken into this story of Leon Crane's survival, alone in Alaska, given up for dead. I guess it's because we all read from our unique perspective. Because of quirks, luck, and Crane's ingenuity, creativity and fortitude, he survives 81 days in sub-zero temperature, and makes his way back to civilization. I'm so glad that Brian Murphy did the research and told this story, especially when Crane never wanted to talk about it. All this happened during WWII, but Murphy has through interviews and diaries of those involved reconstructed the story. Along the way, Murphy writes of related history of the war, and Alaska. It's what some called "filler." I call it fascinating. I never knew, for instance that the U.S. ferried planes to Alaska that were then flown by Soviet pilots to use in their efforts against Germany. This book was one of those I couldn't put down. My husband, a WWII buff is now enjoying it. I highly recommend it to anyone who likes history and a good survival story. ...more
2

Jul 02, 2015

The survival story was interesting but the rest felt like filler. I agree with another reviewer on here that said it would have been better off as a magazine article.
4

Sep 07, 2019

A well told story about an airman who bailed out of a B-24 bomber in the wilds of Alaska and managed to survive in freezing conditions until he hiked out to a town.
It's a pretty remarkable story, and Murphy does a nice job telling it.
For me, it was interesting to learn about Leon Crane (the man who survived the crash) and his role in the USAAF's testing of planes in extreme cold weather and the ferrying operations of aircraft to the Soviets via Alaska.
Murphy also does a nice job weaving in A well told story about an airman who bailed out of a B-24 bomber in the wilds of Alaska and managed to survive in freezing conditions until he hiked out to a town.
It's a pretty remarkable story, and Murphy does a nice job telling it.
For me, it was interesting to learn about Leon Crane (the man who survived the crash) and his role in the USAAF's testing of planes in extreme cold weather and the ferrying operations of aircraft to the Soviets via Alaska.
Murphy also does a nice job weaving in the tale of recovery of remains from the crash site and a history of the region of Alaska where this took place. ...more
5

Jan 15, 2018

I really enjoyed this nonfiction account of Leon Crane, of the US Army Air Force, whose plane went down in the Alaskan wilderness. It's a story of perseverance, survival and luck. I learned a lot about the WWII effort in Alaska (I had no idea!) and the history of the gold rush and how Alaska was built up. While I read it for my school's biography unit, so I could recommend it to students, it's not written necessarily for middle schoolers.
3

Sep 11, 2019

*** 2.5 Stars

The book was enjoyable: however, I was disappointed in the execution.

This is a true story of how a WWII pilot (Crane) survived in the Alaskan wilderness after his plane crashed. He took each agonizing step to live. After 9 days of starvation, he finds an abandoned cabin with provisions that helped him in the rest of the journey to an air strip.

He tells his story of survival and assists in finding his lost comrade.

The book also included historical references to the WWII and history *** 2.5 Stars

The book was enjoyable: however, I was disappointed in the execution.

This is a true story of how a WWII pilot (Crane) survived in the Alaskan wilderness after his plane crashed. He took each agonizing step to live. After 9 days of starvation, he finds an abandoned cabin with provisions that helped him in the rest of the journey to an air strip.

He tells his story of survival and assists in finding his lost comrade.

The book also included historical references to the WWII and history of Alaska. I found them to be very distracting when they were placed after each step of Crane's journey.

I bumped the book to 2.5 stars because the last 1/3th of the book was engaging till the end. ...more
4

Sep 05, 2017

Interesting read. It provided enough detail to give you a sense of what the ordeal was like without bogging down the story. I learned something about Alaska ' s role in WWII and also about life for those brave enough to live there.
2

Jul 07, 2015

Started out really slow. Pretty good now.

I did end up enjoying the book. I felt like the author got distracted and moved into other topics too frequently. He really lost his way at the end of the book when he sort of started another book.

Before I reread this one, I would read Mitchell Zuckoff's, Frozen in Ice, again or the one about Ted Shackleford's Antarctic adventure, which name I cannot now remember.

Leon Crane survived 81 days in Alaska after a plane crash in WWII. Temperatures were up to Started out really slow. Pretty good now.

I did end up enjoying the book. I felt like the author got distracted and moved into other topics too frequently. He really lost his way at the end of the book when he sort of started another book.

Before I reread this one, I would read Mitchell Zuckoff's, Frozen in Ice, again or the one about Ted Shackleford's Antarctic adventure, which name I cannot now remember.

Leon Crane survived 81 days in Alaska after a plane crash in WWII. Temperatures were up to -50 degrees. He had little food and water and was not prepared or dressed for the situation.

This is the second time I have read about JPAC, an organization that attempts to find and return the remains of military personnel lost or missing. (Unless they were lost at sea- then they are considered already entombed.) There are currently still 83 thousand military personnel missing, most of which are in Asia but about 300 in Alaskan area.
Wow, Wikipedia is saying that JPAC was deactivated this year due to some scandals. So now what about all those missing service personnel?
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joint_P...

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1

Oct 16, 2018

Exposition is the spice a writer uses to mark the stew's flavor pop, yet when you add too much garlic, even the best meat can become a bad meal. Im all for learning back story, but the author often lost me in completely unneeded history of every character who even slightly crossed paths with the story. If the core story wasn't so compelling I probably would have given up around the paragraphs explaining the importance of ravens to a culture that wasn't even part of the book. The author does Exposition is the spice a writer uses to mark the stew's flavor pop, yet when you add too much garlic, even the best meat can become a bad meal. Im all for learning back story, but the author often lost me in completely unneeded history of every character who even slightly crossed paths with the story. If the core story wasn't so compelling I probably would have given up around the paragraphs explaining the importance of ravens to a culture that wasn't even part of the book. The author does admit in the beginning that he does not have access to all the details when the main character was left alone in the wilderness, and it was obvious he was meeting a page count with endless unneeded filler.


What I was able to piece together between interruptions, was a tale of desperate survival under the harshest of conditions. He made it out thanks to a heavy help in of luck, and a dash of training.

Would have made a better article than novel. ...more
2

Jun 10, 2018

The story is very interesting but the author structured the book in a disjointed confusing way. He could have told a compelling story of the events in 1943/44 and then crafted just as interesting of a story of the search in later years for the crash site. Maybe weaving in more of Hoskins’ family’s desire to know what happened to him. At one point I thought my digital ap had glitches and skipped a bunch of pages because suddenly the author switched to 2004 and inserted photos. The structure The story is very interesting but the author structured the book in a disjointed confusing way. He could have told a compelling story of the events in 1943/44 and then crafted just as interesting of a story of the search in later years for the crash site. Maybe weaving in more of Hoskins’ family’s desire to know what happened to him. At one point I thought my digital ap had glitches and skipped a bunch of pages because suddenly the author switched to 2004 and inserted photos. The structure disrupted the story too much and impeded the reader’s immersion in the story. ...more
3

Oct 29, 2015

The part of the story where B-24 copilot bails out his out of control plane and then survives 81 days in the Alaskan winter is fascinating. There was not enough material to fill the book so there is a lot of back story, some more interesting than others. I rushed through those parts to get to the main story. If you like survival stories, you should enjoy this one. You can skip the other chapters and not miss much.
4

Apr 20, 2016

Fascinating, well-researched and presented in a readable way. Even includes a large number of photos. The author is a journalist, rather than a novelist, and it shows in this historical book. I really enjoyed it.
5

May 24, 2017

This was very well written. I enjoyed it so much that I literally could not put it down for the first 100 pages. I wish the ending would have had even more details but I understand how it ended. It was very moving.
5

May 30, 2017

Listened on audio. A gripping story of one man's survival from a B24 crash in Alaska during WW2. Added interest because my father in law was navigator in a B24 during the war. Reminded me of Hatchet by G Paulsen, another favourite book, but this one is true.
4

Dec 07, 2016

A true story about surviving against great odds in Alaska. The author goes off on numerous tangents but they are all relevant to the main character's challenges and add context.
4

Jul 04, 2017

Good read, interesting exploration of Alaska recent history and WW2.
4

May 22, 2017

Learned a lot about WWII and how Alaska was involved. Easy read. The best part was the survival skills used by the pilot to survive.
3

Oct 30, 2019

Leon Crane survived 81 days in freezing temperatures after his plane crashed. He was the only survivor. He had to brave cold, snow, hypothermia, frozen fingers, miles of walking, and desperate thoughts. Luckily, along the way, he found shelters that had items that enabled him to sleep, regain energy, eat, warm up, recoup! That was an intriguing story. There didn't seem to be enough of it. That story could have been told in less than 100 pages. What fluffs up the nonfiction work is the addition Leon Crane survived 81 days in freezing temperatures after his plane crashed. He was the only survivor. He had to brave cold, snow, hypothermia, frozen fingers, miles of walking, and desperate thoughts. Luckily, along the way, he found shelters that had items that enabled him to sleep, regain energy, eat, warm up, recoup! That was an intriguing story. There didn't seem to be enough of it. That story could have been told in less than 100 pages. What fluffs up the nonfiction work is the addition of vignettes, ranging from personal biographies to Alaskan history to Soviets living in America (!) to a complete side story set in the 1990s about DNA research and missing soldiers recovery. That was also an interesting story, describing the recovery efforts of the plane, the sifting through the debris some fifty years later, the finding of Hoskins' remains, and the burial of Hoskins' in Arlington. Furthermore, the vignettes were insights into stories often not told or well known. The fighting in Aleutian islands and the faulty planes led to fatalities on American soil (territory). The selling of American planes to the Soviets and providing housing for Soviets in the United States was an interesting factoid, in light of our ensuing Cold War post WWII. The book didn't read smoothly. It felt disjointed. However, while at times it felt tiresome jumping from point to point, each bit was interesting. As you can see from the following quotes and historical tidbits, it went everywhere!

Interesting facts:
Dutch Harbor/US base in Aleutian Islands saw the first Japanese bombers; Quite of a bit of drinking and gambling took place there to pass the time (p43, 44)

Our B-26 bombers needed 600 feet to trigger the bombs; without that, they's simply bounce! (p45)

On Umnak, they dubbed the single tree living there the "Umnak National Forest." It was brought in for the Colonel's dog Skooch! Awww! (p47)

"On Attu...more than 1000 Japanese soldiers stormed a settlement with fewer than fifty people. One resident was killed, and the rest were sent to a prison camp in Japan...they passed the time sewing little silk bags for the religious items carried by Japanese soldiers. About a third of the Attu detainees died in Japanese camps...On Kiska...five hundred [Japanese] marines...overran a US Navy weather station with ten men and a dog...One soldier...survived." (p49) Americans took back Attu a year later, after warning them with leaflets, shaped like the brown leaf of the kiri tree...which symbolizes loss and regret, "ill omen of the inevitable downfall of militarism." They were decimated. Needless to say, those on Kiska avoided a fight by leaving!

"Combatants die and suffer. So do people caught in the middle. No euphemisms such as counting civilian casualties as 'collateral damage' can cloud this fact." p55

Importance of b-24 p55

"Hunger can be an unpredictable companion...Small scoops of snow helped a little, but did almost nothing to curb his thirst...monstrous ironies of the Far North. That seemingly inexhaustible supply of water is an illusion. It takes huge amounts of powdered snow-melted or warmed into slush-to satisfy thirst." p61

"You can't just go out and kill a bear and let it rot." "Animal spirits are displeased by a hunter not utilizing an entire carcass." "Nature's rhythms and continuity...are reminders of the humility we must retain and the innocence we cannot let slip away. 'Nature grows over me and I have died out of the human world.' (Emerson) p69

1882-SS Illinois-200 Russian Jews leave after Jews are blamed for the bombing murder of Czar Alexander II and placed in pograms p77/78

Sweating/moisture-frostbite and gangrene p92

"There were no walls or barbwires cutting him off as with POWs. He wasn't pinned under wreckage. Only space and the winter stood in his way." p93/94

History of Fairbanks/Barnette-con artist? p101

83000 servicemen are still MIA or KIA and not found. 73,000 are from WWII. p112

Lend Lease program-supply routes for the Russians-from Montana where there was a Soviet contingency to Canada to Alaska to Russia-8000 planes-Ladd Field had Soviets pilots as they collected planes-bars/ladies-Russians loaded up on materials while in states-not a secret but never reported-red light district "Line"-create a Jewish republic in Siberia!?! p118-127 DID NOT KNOW ABOUT ANY OF THIS

"Before the rise of the Nazis, the symbol of the 45th was a swastika, one of the common markings used by the Native Plains tribes." p136 WHAT! WOW!

As quoted, "It's dead easy to die. It's the keeping on living that's hard."-Australian explorer Douglas Mawson quoting Yukon poet Robert W. Service. p145

1952 Air Force C-124 cargo plane crash east of Anchorage p154

Japan-opium, heroin, and other drug trade-military addicted-"The use of narcotics is unworthy of a superior race like that Japanese. Only inferior races, races that are decadent, like the Chine, Europeans and the East Indians, are addicted to the use of narcotics." As quoted from a Japanese military manual. p159

"If I don't come back, I wouldn't have lived in vain nor wasted my life because I had known you. The two greatest privileges a man can have is fighting for his wife and family in what he believes is a just cause, regardless of the outcome to himself." In one of Hoskin's last letters home-p161

Due to the war, gold production fell by 85%! Woodchopper and Coal Creeks would have collapsed as communities were it not for the air strip. p188

Rice-map out Alaska from the air-Grinnell couple helped Crane-no relation to Grinnell Lake in Glaciar National Park

Wright-military flight-Selfridge-first aviation fatality in the American military-p211

Last lines, regarding Beckstead's interview with Leon Crane, "Leon did not want to talk about the crash. He did not want to talk about his survival. He left some part of himself back in Alaska. It's something he does not want to disturb or share. The wilderness can do that to people who face it alone. It becomes a private thing, an almost sacred thing." p218





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4

Oct 19, 2017

The book started out great, it started at where it took place in World War 2 and how it happened and when it happened. The book has a lot of information about World War 2 and what it really was like during World War 2 and what the character saw in it to. This book gives a lot of detail of how the main character survives the harsh-cold winter of Alaska. The only thing that is wrong in the book is that it jumps to different times in the book like one minute the character is talking about the past The book started out great, it started at where it took place in World War 2 and how it happened and when it happened. The book has a lot of information about World War 2 and what it really was like during World War 2 and what the character saw in it to. This book gives a lot of detail of how the main character survives the harsh-cold winter of Alaska. The only thing that is wrong in the book is that it jumps to different times in the book like one minute the character is talking about the past and then the present and itś really confusing and takes the book off track and then you're just sitting there and reading it and you're going through your head thinking this doesn't make any sense.
Characters/Conflict: But what I really think that is interesting is that Crane survived for 3 months in the Alaskan wilderness for that long with a box of matches, Boy scouts knife, and a parachute that he used to safely go down to the ground without killing him or hurting him.
Plot: Then the book started to talk about a person that wasn’t even mostly even in the book and he probably didn't even make it to safety or to make it to a shelter.
What I learned: What I learned in the book was that World War 2 was a trouble war, millions of people died because they wanted to help win the war and have peace, but that all changed when Germany allied with Japan and started to take control of everything they conquered. What I also learned was that when you are flying in an airplane make sure that you have what you need to survive if you crash land in a different territory with harsh temperatures, or deadly animals or any of that make sure you are ready when you are about to take off. And if you are planning to fly on your own make sure that you have a radio to try and contact of settlements wherever you are in the world so you can call for help.
If anybody wants to read about survival or military and all that other stuff then this is your book to read if you enjoy it. I would recommend this book for 9th graders and up to read this book if you are into survival or military.
Or if you just want to read about adventures then this is your book to read and many more books that were made by Brian Murphy. That’s why I am rating this book ⅘ stars.
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