Friday, April 9, 2021

All Snow and No Skiing

photo of Malcolm McLane in military uniformHave you all ever heard of Malcolm McLane? He was a New Hampshire boy, a member of Dartmouth's class of 1946, and a skiing enthusiast. He was also an aviator during World War II who was shot down over Europe and spent months in a German POW camp until he and others were liberated by the Russian Army in 1945. Today, for National Former Prisoner of War Recognition Day, we honor his memory and those of many other Dartmouth alums who served their country faithfully and endured bleak conditions as captives in a strange land.

Born in 1924 in Manchester, New Hampshire, McLane attended high school at St. Paul's School in Concord before coming to Hanover for his college education. While at Dartmouth, he was captain of the Dartmouth College Ski Team and continued his dedication to the sport for the rest of his life; in 1960, he served as an international alpine ski official at the Olympic Games in Squaw Valley, California, and was eventually inducted into the Ski Hall of Fame in Ishpeming, Michigan.

Despite this lifelong pursuit of skiing, McLane's access to the pastime was disrupted in the fall of 1942, when he was sworn into the United States Air Force as an aviation cadet. After flying 73 combat missions in P-47 fighter planes over France and Germany, his plane was shot down on December 23rd, 1944, near Trier, Germany, during the Battle of the Bulge. He was freed on the evening of April 30th after over four months of confinement in Stalag Luft I, a German prisoner-of-war camp near Barth, Germany.

McLane sent several postcards to his mother in Manchester during his imprisonment, most of them only a sentence or two in length. In those messages, he chose not to describe the harsh conditions of the camp
(probably to alleviate his mother's worry) and instead sighed over the fact that, despite the preponderance of snow in January, he wasn't able to go skiing in it. This observation was likely equal parts truth and a desire to protect those he loved.

Even if you haven't ever heard of Malcolm McLane before, you've probably heard of his daughter, who is an ardent advocate for the rights of US war veterans, both nationally and in her home state: Ann McLane Kuster, a member of Dartmouth's class of 1978, currently serves as the U.S. Representative for New Hampshire's 2nd congressional district (and has since 2013).

To explore Malcolm McLane's papers at Dartmouth College, come to Rauner and ask for MS-1051.