Disabled Veteran Ditches Plane, Abandons Trip To WWII Battlefield
CAROLYN S. CARLSON
Jul. 09, 1988
ATLANTA (AP) _ A pilot who crash landed in Greenland while making a charity flight to the German battlefield where he was shot and partially paralyzed during World War II says he will leave his plane behind as a historical marker.
Clark Harrison, who is paralyzed from the chest down, said Friday he was abandoning the trip to Stolberg, West Germany. He made the emergency landing Thursday after his single-engine, hand-controlled Piper Cherokee ran out of gas about 40 miles north of the U.S. Air Base at Sondrestrom, Greenland.
The 63-year-old Decatur businessman suffered a cut and some bruises in the crash. He said he would take a military flight to the United States and a commercial flight home tonight.
''We've decided to leave it up there,'' Harrison said of his airplane during a telephone interview from the base. ''It's going to be a historical marker,'' he added, half in jest.
Although the plane was not badly damaged, Col. Guy Sumter, commander of the supply base at Sondrestrom, said it may not be possible to remove the aircraft, which is nose down in a ditch next to a pond.
Harrison left DeKalb-Peachtree Airport in suburban Decatur on July 1 but was delayed in Canada by bad weather. He finally resumed the flight Thursday morning, three days after he had planned to reach Greenland.
But he ran into more harsh weather off the coast of Canada and his 19-year- old plane was blown off course. Harrison put in an emergency call and was shocked when it was answered by Pat Epps, the owner of Epps Air Service at DeKalb-Peachtree Airport, who was in Greenland on business.
''I felt God was answering,'' Harrison said of hearing his old friend's voice. Epps notified the base that Harrison was lost and almost out of fuel. On Epps' advice, Harrison climbed to 7,000 feet so the base could locate him on radar.
Harrison said he got his bearings when the clouds cleared as he approached the coast of Greenland and saw an island he recognized from his maps as being north of his plotted course. As he turned south toward the Air Force base, the plane ran out of fuel.
''All I saw was mountains and rocks. I looked down and I saw a little lake and it had a little green next to it and I said, 'That looks better than anything else,''' he said.
''I was pretty sure I wasn't going to be in this life when I got on the ground,'' Harrison said. ''I realized the plane had stopped and I was on the ground, but I couldn't remember where I was and what I was doing there.''
He was rescued a short time later.
''We knew when he got to the coast (by tracking him on radar) and we knew where he should have been,'' Sumter said.
Harrison's trip was planned as a fund-raising project for the Shepherd Spinal Center in Atlanta and its Center for Independent Living. Supporters pledged up to $1 for each mile covered by Harrison, a founding director of the 13-year-old medical facility for spinal-cord-injured patients.
Harrison had planned to complete the 4,669-mile flight to Aachen, West Germany, on Monday. City officials from nearby Stolberg, site of the World War II battlefield where he was shot by a German sniper in 1945, had planned a reception at historic Stolberg Castle in his honor.