Stranded in Greenland

So you think it’s cold in the Catskills? Consider the case of Louis A. Lane, who was stranded on a 7,800-foot ice cap in Greenland 70 years ago and lived to tell the tale.

Louis Lane’s senior portrait

Louis Arlington Lane was the son of Louis R. and Mary Quick Lane who lived in Arena and ran a general store there. The Lanes came from Willow, Ulster County in the early 1940s, first setting up shop in the Dickson/Post Office building at the corner of Main and Church Streets, and later moving to the Rickert building. Len Utter remembers you could buy everything from meat to milk, overalls to shoes at Lane’s store.
Louis A., born in 1918, was the oldest of six children. His siblings were Arthur, Virginia, Dottie, Gene and Duane, who was born in 1944 (“The doctor thought my grandmother had a tumor, but it was my uncle Duane,” said Mary Ellen Lane Lawrence.) When Louis’ family moved to Arena, he was married to Ruth Dorn, and about to embark on a military path. He spent a couple of years in Alabama and Texas during the war, returning to Arena in 1945. Then, as an Army Air Corps reservist, Louis went back into service., taking his family along to Greenland where he was stationed in 1947.
In December of 1948, the community was shocked to learn that 2nd Lt. Louis A. Lane was among 11 soldiers stranded on an icy outcropping on the frozen continent. Seven of the men had been there since Dec. 8 when their C-47 crash landed. Two others, including Lane, tried to rescue them but crashed in their B-17 on Dec. 13. Two more in a glider attempting a rescue mission then joined the group. Food, heaters, fuel and clothing were dropped by parachute. So was a Christmas tree, and the fixings for holiday dinner, while the Air Force figured out how to get the men out. They hunkered down in ice shelters and tried to stay warm in blizzard conditions that produced 100 mph winds and 40-below-zero temperatures.
Finally, on December 28, a jet-ski equipped transport landed on the ice cap and ferried Louis and his compatriots to safety. Len Utter remembers following the situation with concern. It captured a lot of media attention, including an article in Life Magazine.
Louis’ brother, Arthur (Mary Ellen’s dad) also served in WWII, as a medical assistant in North Africa and Italy. Their little brother, Duane, served in Vietnam in the Air Force, as did Duane’s nephew, Louis and Ruth’s son Russell, who was born in 1944. Russell died tragically in 1967 in an explosion at the Hercules Powder Company plant in Port Ewen where both he and his father worked.
Louis died in 1990, Ruth passed in 2006. Most members of the family are buried in Ulster County.