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Sledge Patrol: A WWII Epic Of Escape, Survival, And Victory
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48 of 49 people found the following review helpful
on August 8, 2001
Format: Paperback
Proving that truth is stranger than fiction, Sledge Patrol tells the story of ordinary men accomplishing unbelievable feats under extreme physical conditions and bizarre political circumstances during WWII. Living year-round in the Arctic desolation of eastern Greenland, nine men surreptitiously radioed crucial weather data to the Allies and patrolled the extensive coastline for a Nazi landing. When the Germans arrive, the conflict begins.
The book is exciting and inspiring, with moments that are both touching and funny. One of the highlights of the book is how the unarmed and unaggressive band of Danes, Norwegians and Eskimos can outlast and outdistance the better provisioned Germans who aren't prepared for life, let alone combat, in the frozen north.
Now reissued, Sledge Patrol was originally published in 1957. At that time, the author was able to get to know the parties involved, both Allied and German, adding dimension to the characters and realism to the story.
I loved this book!
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34 of 34 people found the following review helpful
on May 22, 2001
Format: Paperback
Recently, books such as INTO THIN AIR, THE PERFECT STORM, and ISAAC'S STORM have captured the imagination of armchair adventurers everywhere. Long before these books went to press, however, David Howarth penned THE SLEDGE PATROL, a remarkable story of survival and adventure. Written only a few years after the war, THE SLEDGE PATROL tells the story of seven Danish and Norwegian hunters and adventurers (and many Eskimos) who patrolled the entire east coast of Greenland during World War II on their own. Hundreds of miles of raw, icy coastline, thousands of square miles of nearly uninhabitable land, mountains, crevasses, driving blizzards, polar bears -- you ask, Why would anyone bother to protect that? The answer, as Howarth tells us so skillfully, is that the weather for the North Atlantic begins in Greeland, and accurate reports from just south of the north pole were vital to the survival of Allied convoys and the success of Axis U-boat patrols.
Seven men patrolled, by dogsled, the dangerous yet beautiful coast of Greenland, sending out weather forecasts to the British while sledding along the shore to report sightings of Germans in the vicinity. These men, who could hardly believe the Germans would or could venture this far north, one day find a strange footprint in the snow -- not theirs, not an Eskimo's. What begins is a 200-page race across the Arctic to evade the Nazis and end transmission of their weather reports back to Germany.
Howard writes of the beautiful danger of the Arctic, of hearty men who lived in harmony in the far north and who could not fathom evil in their midst. A great read.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on May 3, 2003
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
"The Sledge Patrol" is set in eastern Greenland during World War 2. Yes, that conflict even extended to the remote Danish colony. Greenland was strategic because weather patterns for Western Europe and surrounding waters form there. This was of obvious and vital interest to the American, British and German navies. Early in the War, the Danish colonial weather stations had broadcast reports "in the clear". Anyone, including the Germans could pick them up. Two critical events take place: Eske Brun, the Danish colonial head decides he had the power to resist German interest in his territory- and formed the Greenland Army with a force of 9 men. Then the Danish weather reports are sent in cipher so that the German navy can no longer eavesdrop. The Germans land a force to establish their own weather station. This the background to SP. What follows is almost as much a tale of personal honor and battling/surviving the Arctic elements than of military action. There is much dashing to and fro on sledges (dog sleds) to the point where this reader lost track of who was going where. The sides vie to avoid each other more than to engage in combat. And since there is minimal fighting and hence no real "bad guys", I found myself losing track of who was on which side. In fact, most of the men on both sides appear as nice, solid guys. The ending is almost academic. Readers will receive an excellent sense of the fierce and beautiful Greenland geography and Eskimo tradition. Mr.Howarth is an excellent writer and interest in his books appears to be going through a well-deserved revival. But one has to be cautious in recommending SP. It is simply too hard to keep track of the action. Furthermore, the maps are inadequate, adding to the confusion. A positive note: SP is well laid out in an eye pleasing typeface and paper stock. So many of us take such for granted but a tip of the hat to an anonymous graphics person is in order. Cautiously, I'm giving out 4 stars, but 3 may be more appropriate due to my frustrations with the maps. It really would have helped to know where these guys were rather than "somewhere in eastern Greenland".
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on August 8, 2001
Format: Paperback
Proving that truth is stranger than fiction, Sledge Patrol tells the story of ordinary men accomplishing unbelievable feats under extreme physical conditions and bizarre political circumstances during WWII. Living year-round in the Arctic desolation of eastern Greenland, nine men surreptitiously radioed crucial weather data to the Allies and patrolled the extensive coastline for a Nazi landing. When the Germans arrive, the conflict begins.
The book is exciting and inspiring, with moments that are both touching and funny. One of the highlights of the book is how the unarmed and unaggressive band of Danes, Norwegians and Eskimos can outlast and outdistance the better provisioned Germans who aren't prepared for life, let alone combat, in the frozen north.
Now reissued, Sledge Patrol was originally published in 1957. At that time, the author was able to get to know the parties involved, both Allied and German, adding dimension to the characters and realism to the story.
I loved this book!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on December 8, 2004
Format: Paperback
This is a story of bravery and endurance during World War II. I liked David Howarth's account of the Sledge Patrol and its mission to guard the coast of Greenland. Howarth did his research and what the reader gets is a down to earth factual description of the hardships the patrol faced while experiencing severe weather conditions. The sledge patrol alone in a vast wilderness of ice and snow had to survive on their own. This story is a tribute to them. It was interesting to see how the situation created enemies amongst those who might otherwise be friends. The lack of hostility in the Inuit demonstrated the great importance of culture. Howarth is a great author and this book is worth reading.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on January 4, 2013
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
I really enjoyed this book. Like David Howarth's "We Die Alone", it presents a part of World War 2 that I didn't even know existed. This book is about the lonely, cold work of the men who monitored the Greenland coast for German intrusion. (Weather stations in Greenland were necessary to predict weather patterns over England and eastern Europe, therefore the need for Germany to establish an outpost in the frigid, uninhabitable coastal area of NE Greenland). Very interesting. I do not believe anyone who enjoys reading about World War 2 or other survival books will be disappointed in David Howarth's books.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format: Paperback
Underscoring that World War II was indeed a global war, THE SLEDGE PATROL tells the story of its reach into Greenland. And it is quite a story, including many individual exploits of tough, brave men traveling hundreds of miles on foot and by dog sledge in perilous conditions.

Why did Germany invade Greenland? For information on the weather. As of 1940 a Danish-operated weather station 1,200 miles up the eastern coast of Greenland provided reports on Arctic weather conditions that were vital to naval operations in the North Atlantic, both German and British. But the Danes in Greenland decided to defy the Nazi conquerors of Denmark and in 1941 they started encoding their weather reports to make them unavailable to the Germans. For security reasons, they also set up the North-East Greenland Sledge Patrol to monitor more than five hundred miles of coast where only a few Eskimo hunters and even fewer Europeans lived. There were seven men at the northernmost base, called Eskimoness, which also was the site of the weather station. If the Germans were to invade, there would be little these seven men could do to oppose them but at least they could alert the British and the Americans.

As it happened German naval operations were seriously handicapped by the loss of weather reports from Greenland. So, in summer 1942 the Germans sent a trawler that landed in a secluded spot north of Eskimoness and began, once again, transmitting the all-important reports on weather conditions to the German navy. On March 11, 1943, one of the Danish sledge patrols accidentally stumbled upon the Germans. That triggered two-and-a-half months of frenzied activity over the frozen north, pitting the more numerous Germans armed with machine-guns and hand grenades against the Danes (and one Norwegian) armed only with hunting rifles but possessing much greater maneuverability with their sledges and dog teams. There were a couple firefights and the Germans overran Eskimoness and burned it down, with the Danes and their Eskimo helpers retreating south. Eventually the commander of the Germans was captured (or did he allow himself to be caught?). All told, there were multiple episodes of courage and endurance, including two heroic treks on foot.

David Howarth structures his tale very well, economically providing the necessary background and switching back and forth in his narrative between the Danes and the Germans. For the most part, the writing also is superior, although there are too many coy editorial asides for my taste. The book includes three useful maps and over a dozen somewhat grainy historical photographs. THE SLEDGE PATROL originally was written in 1957, when many of the leading figures were still alive and Howarth was able to interview them. I have the 2001 Lyons Press edition, which thankfully is not tricked out with the garish red and black swastika cover of the current edition.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on August 3, 2009
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
Like his book "We Die Alone" David Howarth acquaints us with a little know part of World War II, reminding us once again that this was really a WORLD WAR. The occupants of Greenland, faced with helping their home country of Denmark against the German aggression were willing to use their talents and experience. There wasn't much understanding of this war, especially among the native Eskimos, but they were willing to follow orders anyway. No ordinary men could have withstood the problems they incurred, such as traveling dozens of miles without adequate clothing. Although interviews and official documents were used to tell the story I suspect some of the thoughts of the men were fabricated. Also, it's obvious the story was written back in the 50s when religion and Christianity was so much more a part of the life of citizens of most of the world. These days there probably wouldn't have been reference to God, prayer, etc. It was refreshing to hear a variety of people comforted by their faith. I couldn't help but think that if everyone had the convictions of the Eskimos then there probably wouldn't have been a war at all! It was a little confusing sometimes to keep all the people straight and the places they were going. Would have liked to have an actual map of their travels. Also, don't know if this came from the original or from the reprint but there are a lot of typographical errors that tended to distract while reading. I counted one on three consecutive pages, simple things but things that should have been cleaned up by an editor. However, the book is worth reading and just adds another detail to the study of World War II.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon January 24, 2014
Format: Paperback
When one thinks of the battlefields of WW2 one rarely thinks of Greenland as caught up in a life and death struggle but that is exactly what happened in the spring of 1943 in this wonderful book by David Howarth.

After Denmark fell to the Germans in 1940 her radio station in Greenland, ceased sending out uncoded weather reports which the U-boats had been relying on. So a ship was dispatched to set up a new weather station on the frozen coast line. At the same time the governor of Greenland deputized about a dozen hunters living in the region into the `sledge patrol' to keep an eye on hundreds of miles of coast against such activity. Hardly an epic struggle when put on terms of places like Stalingrad, the total number of combatants in Greenland never exceeded 30 but for the men who lived through it, it was just as deadly.

As usual Howarth is not just satisfied to tell you who went where but also why and what was the life that drove them? Why were otherwise sane men happy to live insolated wastelands going months without seeing another human and what happened to these men when that peace was invaded. Less a story about war Howarth has written about people. Living in the wild and how that world, so far removed from cities and shipping lanes and even motor cars, responded when the world pushed into their lives.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on January 26, 2014
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
My husband and I both read this book and both liked it. My husband was stationed with the US Army in Alaska in the 70's so he is familiar with living and working in a cold environment. The author fleshed out the personalities of the two main characters and made even the Germans human. Having done some dog-sledding in Alaska I especially liked reading of the relationships between the men and their dogs. It is an exciting read.
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