"Boskin’s book is a must read for understanding the Cold War and its discontents."—Joe Dorinson, Long Island University
"Boskin, the unit’s historian, has written a history as unlike the ‘official’ version as one could imagine, but one
with a perceptive immediacy and veracity, and an engaging sense of humor."—Andy Dunar, author of America in the Fifties
"A wonderful memoir, beautifully written with great humor. It is full of insights into the absurdities of army life on a remote base in Greenland but it may be applicable to army life on a base anywhere. A must read!"—Joel Tarr, Carnegie Mellon University
At the height of the Korean War in 1952, a budding young historian was drafted into the U.S. Army just as the Pentagon was organizing a top-secret, scientific expeditionary unit, the Transportation Arctic Group (TRARG). Consisting of 275 military members and a cluster of civilian scientists from the United States and other countries, TRARG was sent to Thule Air Force Base, located on the west coast of northern Greenland. Its ostensible purpose was to map the terrain and test complex equipment at the edges of the Ice Cap. The covert objective, however, was to determine the feasibility of constructing yet another air base on the other side of Greenland, one that would be much closer to the enemy.
As the sole historian of the unit, Corporal Boskin was responsible for compiling and transmitting weekly progress reports to the Pentagon and, at the conclusion of the mission, for assisting in the final assessment. The multivolume report was itself technically worthy, yet it possessed barely a hint of the personal story: the outsized characters, the dark comedy and real tragedy, the frustrations and waste, and the ongoing tug’of’war between the company commander and his corporal historian over the status of the report’s basic contents. Here Boskin tells that story, a keenly observed narrative that delivers both the absurd and the sublime in equal measure.
Joseph Boskin is professor emeritus of American social history and African American studies at Boston University. He is the author of Sambo: The Rise and Demise of an American Jester and Rebellious Laughter: People’s Humor in American Culture and the editor of The Humor Prism in Twentieth-Century America.
6 x 9, 212 pages, 16 black and white illustrations