A new book, “Final Flight: The Mystery of a WWII Plane Crash and the Frozen Airmen in the High Sierra,” will be released in September. The book explores the true-life mystery uncovered in 2005, when two mountaineers climbing above Mendel Glacier in the High Sierra found the mummified remains of a uniformed World War II US airman frozen in the ice. The ensuing media storm surrounding the “iceman” gripped the attention of the nation. Who was the Frozen Airman? Where did he come from and how did he get there? How had he remained so well preserved?
The mystery drew writer and Sierra devotee Peter Stekel deeper and deeper as he investigated: A navigation training flight missing since 1942 with its four-man crew. A crash site 150 miles off-course from its reported destination. Early attempts at recovery thwarted. Empty graves and botched records. Bad weather, bad luck, bad timing. Families waiting, long forgotten. Then, in 2007, the unimaginable happened: Stekel discovered a second body in the glacier and became part of the story. Another young man would finally be coming home.
Through years of archival research, interviews with experts, and his own mountaineering trips to the crash site, Stekel uncovered who these four young men were who had lost their lives in service to their country. Final Flight explores the story of the ill-fated flight, and the bad leads and misinformation surrounding it for nearly 70 years.
Along the way Stekel became convinced that the accepted facts of how these soldiers went missing did not give the whole story. The only way to find out for sure what happened was to discover all he could about these young men and their times, the war-era military they enlisted in, their training and experience, their Beech 18 aircraft, the state of navigation and weather science at midcentury, and their icy tomb. The book is part mystery, part history, and a personal journey to uncover the truth of what happened on Nov. 18,1942, according to the author.
The soft cover book is slated to be published in September by Wilderness Press.