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Final Flight: The Mystery of a WW II Plane Crash and the Frozen Airmen in the High Sierra Paperback – September 14, 2010

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Editorial Reviews


Stekel has breathed warm life into these long lost World War II airmen who disappeared while on a training mission in 1942. Entombed in High Sierra glacial ice for more than sixty years before being discovered by climbers and the author himself, Stekel skillfully weaves the crew's fate in these rugged mountains with his own quest to unravel the mystery." —Eric Blehm, bestselling author of The Last Season and The Only Thing Worth Dying For

Because truth really does trump fiction for drama, Final Flight reads like a good novel and sticks with you like a particularly affecting play. Superbly researched, compellingly written, and lovingly relived, this gripping tale both solves an old mystery and serves as a moving tribute to all fallen fliers. By actually trekking to the remote site of the crash and making a stunning discovery there, Stekel rescues a sad story from dead-end status and turns it into a living memorial.—Robert Michael Pyle, author of Chasing Monarchs and Sky Time in Gray's River

... [An] invigorated appreciation of the dedication of the men and women of the Greatest Generation.? Michael Sledge, author of Soldier Dead: How We Recover, Identify, Bury, and Honor Our Military Fallen

Capture[s] the history, geography, and the mystery surrounding this inspiring tale of the High Sierra.—Pat Macha, author of Aircraft Wrecks in the Mountains and Deserts of California

Those who love the high country will find this a fascinating read.—William Tweed, Co-author of Challenge of the Big Trees: A Resource History of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks

If you love our parks, and if you love a good mystery, you need Final Flight; it will be a read you can not put down. Stekel does a masterful job of painstakingly putting this seven-decade old "jigsaw puzzle" together touchingly for you: frozen airman by frozen airman.—Charles R. "Butch" Farabee, Jr., author of Death, Daring, & Disaster - Search and Rescue in the National Parks

A thoroughly enjoyable...detective story—Douglas H. Clark, Ph.D. Associate Professor, Geology Department, Western Washington University

From the Author

Peter Stekel is an award-winning writer specializing in feature articles and photography of the Sierra Nevada.  Stekel grew up in Southern California and has been hiking and backpacking in the Sierra since he was twelve years old.

Peter Stekel's first trip to the Sierra Nevada was at summer camp with his Boy Scout troop, in Sequoia National Park. Under the weight of a heavy backpack and the arduous long distances, Stekel believed he might die actually from exhaustion. Upon reaching their destination--amidst the beauty of an alpine lake, granite cliffs, and wildflower fields--Stekel changed his opinion, and believed he had died--and gone to heaven. Since that time he has hiked all over the Southern Sierra, from the foothills to the High Sierra.

Peter Stekel is also the author of Best Hikes Near Seattle, and the novel The Flower Lover.  Stekel has appeared as an authority on the Sierra Nevada in various national and international media outlets including National Geographic, BBC 4, and countless other print, radio, and television media.  He holds a B.A. in Botany from the University of California at Davis, and a teaching credential from Humboldt State University.  He makes his home in Seattle with his wife, their tropical fish, and a menagerie of stuffed animals.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Wilderness Press; 1st edition (September 14, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0899974759
  • ISBN-13: 978-0899974750
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.2 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (70 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #191,475 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Peter Stekel - author of Final Flight, The Mystery of a WW II Plane Crash and the Frozen Airmen in the High Sierra.

In October 2005, two mountaineers climbing above Mendel Glacier in the High Sierra found the mummified remains of a man in a WW II uniform, entombed in the ice.

The "Frozen Airman" discovery created a media storm and a mystery that drew author Peter Stekel to investigate. What did happen to the four-man crew who perished on a routine navigation training flight in 1942, 150 miles off-course from its reported destination?

Stekel found bad weather, bad luck, and bad timing. Empty graves, botched records, and misguided recovery efforts. Then, in 2007, the unimaginable happened again. Stekel himself discovered a second body in the glacier. Another young man would finally be coming home.

Through meticulous research, interviews, and mountaineering trips to the site, Stekel uncovered the story of these four young men. Final Flight explores their ill-fated trip and the misinformation surrounding it for more than 60 years.

The book is a gripping account that's part mystery, part history, and part personal journey to uncover the truth of what happened on November 18, 1942.

In the process Stekel narrates the young aviators' last days and takes us on their final flight.

See for photos, video, and links to print media stories and author interviews on television and radio.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By K. Harris HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWER on August 18, 2010
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I know that "Final Flight" is a specialty title under the Wilderness Press banner and not targeted to be a mainstream bestseller, but I was very intrigued by its topic. Chronicling the 2005 discovery of a World War II era aircraft and its airmen wrecked in the High Sierra, "Final Flight" is obviously a labor of love for its author Peter Stekel. Unraveling the mysteries of who the soldiers were, why they had remained unrecovered for so long, and what had happened over 60 years ago to cause the crash make this a fascinating real life adventure. And Stekel really, really has a respect for the topic and clearly wants this document to honor those four airmen. I chose to pick up "Final Flight" because, for me, the appeal in subject matter was what has kept me intrigued by the works of Sebastian Junger and Jon Krakauer.

Ultimately, however, while I admire Stekel's achievements tremendously--"Final Flight" is so exhaustively researched and detailed that it may narrow the broader appeal of the story. I'm not trying to be critical, per se, for Stekel's work is at an advanced thesis level--the research is that impressive--but by being so specific about the technical minutiae, it may limit the target audience. There are meticulously and intensely documented sections of geography, weather, aircraft specifications, and military protocol. Each, on its own, is a part of solving the mystery--but it's dense going.

I think that anyone interested in this event specifically should absolutely pick up "Final Flight." Historians, especially those interested in the military, should find much to appreciate. Casual readers, however, may need to be wary.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By M. A. Filippelli VINE VOICE on August 5, 2010
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Final flight starts out as the story of four men that lost their lives on November 18th 1942 in a flight training accident but Final flight really becomes so much more then that.

Author Peter Stekel gives the reader a look into who William Gember, Leo Mustonen, Glen Munn, and John Mortenson where, how they grew up Stekel introduces the reader to several members of their families and their fond recollections. of the men. Stekel really brings the identities of these men home making them larger then life. At one point during the book I was thinking to my self that it would be nice if everyone that lost their lives in the military had an autobiography like what Peter Stekel has done for these men. Stekel interviewed as many relatives as he could find. They talked about the despair of loosing a loved one, parents waiting for the son that never comes home, a sister inconsolably misses her brother. Not only does Stekel pay respect to these for men but to all who lost thier lives defending America.

Aside from the stories of these four souls, Stekel does an excellent job of detailing the type of aircraft they were flying (Beech 18 AT 7), it's nuances what types of training it was used for. Stekel talks about the training these men went through, the long days at military facilities. Stekel interviews many WWII veterans and so eloquently puts their words to paper as they reflect on that time period in the military. Several people talk about what it was like to fly the Beech18 AT7

Stekel is one of the people that discovered the body of Glen Munn entombed in ice in 2007, Leo Mustonen was discovered in 2005. Stekel talks about being able to bring closure to a family after so many years.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By RBSProds TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on December 20, 2012
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
In "Final Flight: A True Story", author Peter Stekel documents the background and circumstances of the very interesting story that begins during October 2005 when two climbers find a dead airman's body emerging from the melting ice at 12,000 feet on Mendel glacier in the California Sierra mountains. After the initial media blitz, the author, amid much conflicting information, conducts a detailed investigation to discover the airman's identity and unravels the decades-old mysterious circumstances of his disappearance, his crew members, the mission, search personnel, a visit to the crash site, the missing airplane's characteristics, the High Sierra environment, and the probable reasons for the crash. He also documents the careful, respectful recovery procedures by the Park Service personnel, and the identification by the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command. With considerable assistance and investigations, the author helps find the probable answers in the end and gets more than he expected on many personal levels. This highly detailed and researched book, which goes into extensive detail at times, is a testament to both the missing crew and the author's investigative prowess. "A soldier is about to come home", indeed. Very Definitely Recommended. Four METICULOUS Stars! (256 pages with over 30 photographs; reviewed in Kindle text and text-to-speech modes.)
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Rose Keefe VINE VOICE on June 19, 2011
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
In November 1942 a Beech 18 AT-7 Navigator crashed in the High Sierra during a training flight. Sixty-three years later, two men hiking above Mendel Glacier encountered the mummified remains of a crew member embedded in the ice, undeployed parachute still intact. The discovery of the "Frozen Airman" ignited a media firestorm and raised questions about that ill-fated flight that killed four American airmen.

In "Final Flight: The Mystery of a WWII Plane Crash and the Frozen Airmen in the High Sierra", Peter Stekel examines the events surrounding the tragedy and exposes the flaws in the original crash investigation, which resulted in the both the wreckage and the bodies lying undiscovered in a frozen wasteland until 2005. Sensing inconsistencies in the official record, Stekel set out to learn the truth and publish a definitive account of what happened on November 18, 1942. His research is first rate: he interviewed surviving members of the 1947 and 1948 search parties and actually discovered the body of a second crew member during a 2007 visit to the site.

Despite the strong human interest aspect to the story - four young servicemen died in freezing isolation and remained missing for decades, denying closure to their families- "Final Flight" is not a book recommended for a general audience. The lengthy segments dedicated to military history, aviation technology, and geology could lose readers who are not conversant or interested in those fields. But as a tribute to America's World War II heroes and a plausible final solution to a decades-old mystery, "Final Flight" has immense value.
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