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

August 21, 2015

The author has done an enormous amount of research and ...
The author has done an enormous amount of research and, unfortunately, is determined to use every last bit of it. Some of it is pertinent, most isn't. Some of it makes for interesting trivia, most of it doesn't.
3

August 17, 2015

Great story, told poorly
I love adventure stories! Sadly, this one falls flat, considering the potential for a great story. The author seemed intent to wander endlessly, back and forth, barely sparing a few paragraphs on the subject of this man's trial, before he wandered back to another time, another person, and on and on it went! If the book were from a free source, I'd say "Yes", but for $15.00, I just have to say "Check the library", or find another book. This one is a test!
1

September 27, 2015

The person that said the book could have been written ...
The person that said the book could have been written in 50 pages was not exaggerating. There is as much about Jewish holidays as there is survival. I honestly have never skimmed over more pages- a complete bore.
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.
4

December 1, 2015

Fact and Fiction
As one who supplied some of the information that Brian Murphy incorporated in his book, I have several comments. First, it is a very good "read," written by one who is quite skilled in narrative writing. Second, although the backbone of facts is true, it is more in the category of "historical novel" than true story. I would compare its "truth" to the way in which Bernard Cornwall includes a framework of facts in his "Sharp" novels ... facts fleshed out with imagined or extrapolated, plausible, filler generated by the author. I grew up in Fairbanks, and my father is the R. C. Ragle mentioned in connection with the Ladd Field Air Search and Rescue and the Cold Weather Test operation. Murphy's material about being alone and on one's own in the Charley Creek drainage in midwinter ring true to me. Crane was very lucky to have stumbled across the trappers' cabins and caches, but it is my guess he wouldn't have survived without them.
3

October 2, 2016

It is worth reading to me because I love the period and the true stories of what numerous ...
I am nearly three-fourths the way finished with the book and about two-thirds of that has been bits of history on the war and backgrounds on some of the characters, including Cranes parents. Not much yet devoted to actually survival and his struggles in the wilderness. It is worth reading to me because I love the period and the true stories of what numerous persons went through to survive the war. May be a little premature in my review but I doubt the ending can make up for more than three stars.
2

November 28, 2015

Dissappointment
Expected more on his ordeal thru Alaska but too much went into other areas, such as type of airplanes, etc. It was information that perhaps could be interesting to some I was expecting more on "the incredible survival story". It seemed more as if was used to fill up the pages to make a book.
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

March 22, 2016

Horribly boring
This is probably the worst story that I have ever read. The author rambles on and on about everything but what I wanted to read about , which is how the guy made it 81 days in the Alaskan wilderness. I do a lot of reading and I wouldn't read anything again that the author "Brian Murphy" has written, just plain awful. I skipped through most of the book because it was so boring.
4

January 7, 2018

The author recounts an amazing survival tale of a WWII air pilot that survives ...
The author recounts an amazing survival tale of a WWII air pilot that survives 81 days in the Alaskan wilderness. All the research for the book was done posthumous to the main character, Leon Crane. This is an impressive display of research and reading this quilted story is satisfactory amazement in itself.
I enjoyed the book because I learned about the Alaskan wilderness and contemplated temperatures I would never even dream of experiencing. To learn of rivers producing and cracking four feet thick ice and -50 F temperatures is just awe inspiring. I also enjoyed learning the war history and the relevance of Alaska’s geography and the role it played in Russian-American relations during the time. I had not idea Alaska was even relevant to WWII but it really was an important military hub that helped the efforts to defeat Hitler.
I will contemplate Leon’s survival instincts for a long time and wonder if I would be able to last as long as he had. His level-headed decision-making at different points in his journey was phenomenal. His incredible will to live during his journey is an inspiration, and after he was returned to base, his humility as described by the author is just fantastic.
Lastly, I enjoyed the book because here in New England, temperatures have recently dropped to sub zero and while I would very much like to complain, I found myself incapable of whining about my circumstance as I was reading about this man, Lean Crane, who survived much worse on much less. The book has left me with a lasting gratitude on life and appreciation for my own comfortable surroundings!
It’s a pretty easy and fast read. I recommend it! There are parts in the book where I think "ok the author is really far-reaching his research", but this weakness is easy to overlook if you focus on the primary story.
2

January 10, 2016

Here's how to read this book
The author digresses too much about history and sometimes in the future. These digressions are usually whole chapters, so that sometimes the story of survival seems to be a backdrop -- 76 pages of digressions out of 220 pages total. But each chapter has a date and location. So just read the chapters from 1943 and 1944 and are also located in the wilderness, the two chapters when he arrives in Woodchopper and Fairbanks, chapter 19, which is interesting because of the theories about how the crash occurred, and the epilogue if you choose. Then you will have a good story.
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

August 11, 2015

An Exciting Story of Hardship, Survival, And Triumph
On December 21, 1943, Leon Crane and the rest of the crew of his B-24 bomber took off from Ladd field in Alaska. The purpose of their mission was to run tests on the propellers of the plane. The mission ended in disaster; the plane crashed and Crane was the only survivor. In this book, author Brian Murphy describes the flight, crash, and Crane's struggle to survive.

Crane managed to bail out of the stricken bomber, but he was not nearly prepared for what he was about to endure. He had forgotten his cold-weather mittens, and all he had of consequence with him were 40 matches and a boy scout pocket knife. For the next 81 days, Crane somehow managed to survive in Alaska's harsh wilderness. He used his parachute to sleep in and carefully rationed his matches for making fires. Fortunately, he stumbled upon an abandoned cabin which contained food and other useful items. It wasn't until much later that he came upon a person living in the wilderness who was able to help him get back to his base.

"81 Days Below Zero" is a harrowing tale of endurance and survival. The book not only tells Crane's story, but also that of crash investigators that searched over the plane years later. These investigators were also able to discover other human remains within the wreckage and have them positively identified. This book serves as a testament to Crane's struggle to survive, endure the unendurable, and emerge healthy and strong. Highly recommended.
3

May 14, 2017

Ok - but over-rated in my opinion.
It was okay - but the author spends most of the book regaling you with information about other early flying narratives and stuff in bush pilot days in Alaska - as apparently there wasn't enough to make an actual book out of the hero (Lt Leon Crane)'s exploits of surviving a B-24 plane crash in WWII on Alaska's frozen wilderness to do that on its own. In my opinion there is too little on Crane and too much on others lives, but it's readable. I finished it though in one day.
3

December 17, 2015

Great story that dragged on a bit
The story is certainly a remarkable one and worth telling. However, Crane didn't leave much information since he was tight lipped about the ordeal to begin with. For this reason I believe the author was forced to create a lot of filler in the book with other bits of history. This made for a rather dull read as you are constantly waiting to get back to the subject at hand. A few bits of historical background information were both useful and entertaining but a large portion of it I found distracting. I don't believe much of this is the fault of the author, the story truly needed to be told. Had Crane kept a diary on his person and used it as was common with his generation then the book may have been easier to write.
1

August 9, 2015

One Star
Not as good as I expected
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
2

August 16, 2017

Good story with too many rabbit trails
This is a great story about a downed flier facing the Alaska winter. Or it would be if not for the myriad side stories imbedded. Should focus more on main character and the events surrounding
his escape and survival.
2

January 14, 2017

like switching the channel on your television every 15 minutes
Author goes off on too many rabbit trails, like switching the channel on your television every 15 minutes, should have stuck to the main story THEN wrote about all the related historical facts. Will say this for the author, he did his homework, well researched.
2

June 5, 2016

Two Stars
Was ok and an amazing personal story but hard to determine what was fact and what was fiction
2

May 6, 2016

Heavy on History, Light on the Tale.
Interesting story, great WWII history but overall was far too light on the actual tale of survival. The actual survival story could be written in one chapter.
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

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