Hy Rothman – Searching for Nazis on the Greenland Patrol

This post was compiled by Harry Kidd.  Harry is a volunteer at the National Archives working on textual and photographic digitization projects.  Harry is a former Navy photographer himself and came across this story while researching military photographers.


During WWII the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations interviewed over 600 servicemen from all branches of the military on their activities and experiences in the war.  Interviewees ranged from junior enlisted personnel to flag officers.  One of the individuals interviewed was Hy Rothman, Photographers Mate 2/Class, United States Coast Guard Reserve.

In a digest of the interview, Rothman recounted a harrowing tale in which he was sent on a mission to capture a German radio-weather outpost in Greenland.

26-G-2148 (Box 43)
Original Caption: Ramming through an ice field. Up in the ice fields of the Arctic, a Coast Guard combat cutter smashes a path through the frozen sea wastes. Cracked ice churns and boils under the hull of the sturdy vessel and then drifts back into the new-cut channel. This unusual photo was flashed at night by a Coast Guard Combat Photographer serving on the cutter. Local Identifier: 26-G-2148 (Box 43)

Rothman described how two Coast Guard Cutters, North Star and Northland, were stuck in the ice for many days and nearly ran out of food and supplies.  Rothman goes on to say that the crew of the Northland thought they would be stuck in the ice all winter and even made preparations to abandon the ship if needed.  Rothman and the crew survived the ordeal by using 75 of their 80 mines to break through the ice.

Despite the near catastrophe, the mission was ultimately successful.  Photographs taken by Rothman document the capture of the last enemy radio-weather outpost in Greenland.  The Coast Guardsmen took German prisoners who remained at the base along with enemy supplies.

All of the Rothman photographs used in this blog are now housed in the National Archives Still Picture Branch within the records of the United States Coast Guard.  The photographs are part of the series, Activities, Facilities, and Personalities (26-G), which is currently being digitized in its entirety.

A digest of the Rothman interview recorded on November 10, 1943, is now housed at the National Archives Textual Branch, along with other World War II Oral Histories, Interviews and Statements. The digest can be viewed in full below:




2 thoughts on “Hy Rothman – Searching for Nazis on the Greenland Patrol

  1. Very interesting. It just slightly reminded me of the book “Frozen in Time” by Mitchell Zuckoff. It’s about the search for a plane that was lost in Greenland and also details the misadventures of the plane’s crew that were stranded in the cold for days.

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