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Lost in Shangri-La: A True Story of Survival, Adventure, and the Most… (edition 2011)

by Mitchell Zuckoff

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Member:DarienHighSchool
Title:Lost in Shangri-La: A True Story of Survival, Adventure, and the Most Incredible Rescue Mission of World War II
Authors:Mitchell Zuckoff
Info:Harper (2011), Edition: First Edition, Hardcover, 400 pages
Collections:New Books for November 2012
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Lost in Shangri-La: A True Story of Survival, Adventure, and the Most Incredible Rescue Mission of World War II by Mitchell Zuckoff

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On May 13, 1945 a group of US Army servicemen and WACs stationed in New Guinea were taken on a sight-seeing tour over the jungle to view a remote valley nicknamed Shangri-La. The plane, a Gremlin, named for Roald Dahl's children's book, crashed in the uncharted area, killing all but three. Corporal Margaret Hastings, Lieutenant John McCollom (whose twin was also on the flight) and Sergeant Kenneth Decker were stranded in the rainforest with a stone-age people said to be cannibals on one side, and Japanese troops on the other. All three had severe injuries that quickly showed signs of becoming gangrenous. A yellow tarpaulin salvaged from the wreckage was spotted by a search plane after a few days. The parachutes dropping supplies were also spotted by the natives who came to ogle their visitors. Eventually two medics and a rescue party parachuted in. The problem in bringing about a rescue was that no one had any idea how to achieve it. The final plan to tow and release a glider on a cleared area, then snatch it up tethered to a another plane stretched the imagination. That journey on June 28 was horrific. As the canvas peeled away from the bottom of the glider Hastings said it was like a glass-bottomed boat with no bottom. The process was repeated three times to get everyone out.

The Dani people used no metal, and had not yet discovered the wheel. They were constantly at war with their neighbours believing war to be necessary. Although they had no religion, they chopped off the fingers of girls to satisfy the ghost of a relative killed in war. They counted only to three, any more was "many". Just as legend predicted, a new age dawned in the ensuing decades. Shangri-La is now known as the Baliem Valley. An interesting travel section in The New York Times describes it here http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/06/travel/papua-indonesia-frugal-traveler.html?_r...

Press interest in the crash at the time was intense but was eclipsed by the news of war ending. More than sixty years later Zuckoff met with the last remaining survivor who was able to show him diaries, photos, scrapbooks, military bulletins, maps, letters, and ground-to-air radio transcripts as well as film footage of events as they happened. Zuckoff's research paid off. Without glossing over attitudes prevalent at the time or straying off topic, he has produced an excellent account, written with a lot of flair. ( )
1 vote VivienneR | Jul 15, 2016 |
Interesting story. Sounds like it was big at the time. Was new to me. people overcame quite an "adventure". Very engrossing and enjoyable. Today, they would just pull out a cell phone can call for help. ( )
  bermandog | Jun 10, 2016 |
Absolutely fascinating history of survival and rescue in the remote jungles of New Guinea during WWII. Of 24 service members on a sight seeing tour break from War duties the majority of which were from the WAC. Three survive a devastating crash and have to make their way out of the jungle to open ground so they might have a chance to be seen by search and rescue planes. They contend with their injuries, the jungle bugs, snakes and bacteria and the natives who they fear may be hostile and possibly cannibals. They may be forced to walk 150 miles through the jungle or the swamps were Japanese soldiers may be holding out.

The authors style to this non-fiction is like an edge of your seat thriller with an incredible cast of characters. I read this for my Library Non Fiction Book Group.

( )
  yvonne.sevignykaiser | Apr 2, 2016 |
Listened to the book on CD. It was read by the author, who did a nice job with it.
I really enjoyed this book and would have liked to have learned more about the author's research, especially with regard to his contact with the people of New Guinea who remembered the crash. ( )
  KylaS | Feb 18, 2016 |
This is an enduring book about survival in an unknown territory. A territory not even specifically mapped at the time and with “hostile” native and hiding Japanese soldiers hiding within it's jungle, a crash landing of their plane was the lease of these survivor's problems. However, with luck, love, and genius planning, these people would live to tell their tale. But this isn't just the story of survival of three Americans but the survival of a native tribe as the white man invades their once uncharted land.

While a good book, I found that the author overdid his hand in filler, making it boring at times for me. And after reading Unbroken just a few weeks ago, my expectations of a survival story are quite high (if you enjoy Unbroken, you will surely enjoy this book, as long as you try not to compare the two). But I believe in a time where very few WWII survivors are alive any longer, it is important to get their stories out there, so that they are never forgotten. It is obvious that the author did a lot of researching and interviewing on this once-forgotten tale and the pictures throughout the book are an added bonus.
( )
  UberButter | Feb 9, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 75 (next | show all)
Polished, fast-paced and immensely readable—ready for the big screen.
added by Shortride | editKirkus Reviews (Jan 15, 2011)
 
Mitchell Zuckoff’s “Lost in Shangri-La” delivers a feast of failures — of planning, of technology, of communication — that are resolved in a truly incredible adventure. Truly incredible? A cliché, yes, but Zuckoff’s tale is something a drunk stitches together from forgotten B movies and daydreams while clutching the bar. Zuckoff is no fabulist, though, and in this brisk book he narrates the tense yet peaceful five weeks during 1945 that three plane crash survivors spent immersed “in a world that time didn’t forget. Time never knew it existed.” Even at the level of exposition, the book is breathless.
 
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On a rainy day in May 1945, a Western Union messenger made his rounds through the quiet village of Owego, in upstate NY.
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Book description
On May 13, 1945, twenty-four officers and enlisted men and women stationed on what was then Dutch New Guinea boarded a transport plane named the Gremlin Spicial for a sightseeing trip over "Shangri-La." A beautiful and mysterious valley surrounded by steep, jagged mountain peaks deep within the island's unchartered jungle, this hidden retreat was named after the fabled paradise in this bestselling novel Lost Horizon. But, unlike the peaceful Tibetan monks of James Hilton's book, this Shangri-La was the home of Stone Age warriors-spear-carrying tribesmen rumored to be headhunters and cannibals. The pleasure tour became an unforgettable battle for survival when the plane crashed. Miraculously, three passengers survived - WAC Corporal Margaret Hastings, Lieutenant John McCollom, and Sergeant Kenneth Decker. Margaret, barefoot and burned, had no choice but to wear her dead best friend's shoes. McCollom, grieving the death of his twin brother also aboard the Gremlin Special, masked his grief with stoicism. Decker, too, was severely burned and suffered a bloody, gaping head wound. Emotionally devastated, badly injured, and vulnerable to disease, parasites, and poisonous snakes in the wet jungle climate, the trio faced certain death unless they left the wreckage. Caught between man-eating headhunters and the enemy Japanese, with nothing to sustain them but a handful of candy and their own fortitude, they endured a harrowing trek down the mountainside - an exhausting journey into the unknown that would lead them straight into a primitive tribe of superstitious natives who had never before seen a white man-or woman. Drawn from personal interviews, declassified army documents, personal photos and mementos, a daily journal kept between the crash and the rescue effort, and original film footage, Lost in Shangri-La recounts this incredible true-life adventure for the first time. Mitchell Zuckoff reveals how the determined trio-dehydrated, sick, and in pain - traversed the dense jungle foliage to find help; how a brave band of Filipino-American paratroopers, led by a dogged captain, risked their own lives to save the survivors: how the Americans would be protected by and eventually befriend a noble native chief and his people; and how a cowboy colonel willing to risk the odds attempted a previously untried rescue mission to get them out. (ARC)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0061988340, Hardcover)

Amazon Best Books of the Month, May 2011: Near the end of World War II, a plane carrying 24 members of the United States military, including nine Women’s Army Corps (WAC) members, crashed into the New Guinea jungle during a sightseeing excursion. 21 men and women were killed. The three survivors--a beautiful WAC, a young lieutenant who lost his twin brother in the crash, and a severely injured sergeant--were stranded deep in a jungle valley notorious for its cannibalistic tribes. They had no food, little water, and no way to contact their military base. The story of their survival and the stunning efforts undertaken to save them are the crux of Lost in Shangri-La, Mitchell Zuckoff’s remarkable and inspiring narrative. Faced with the potential brutality of the Dani tribe, known throughout the valley for its violence, the trio’s lives were dependent on an unprecedented rescue mission--a dedicated group of paratroopers jumped into the jungle to provide aid and medical care, consequently leaving the survivors and paratroopers alike trapped on the jungle floor. A perilous rescue by plane became their only possible route to freedom. A riveting story of deliverance under the most unlikely circumstances, Lost in Shangri-La deserves its place among the great survival stories of World War II. --Lynette Mong
Amazon Exclusive: Hampton Sides Reviews Lost in Shangri-La

Hampton Sides is the editor-at-large for Outside magazine and the author of the international bestseller Ghost Soldiers, which won the 2002 PEN USA Award for nonfiction and the 2002 Discover Award from Barnes & Noble, and also served as the basis for the 2005 Miramax film The Great Raid.

Although World War II was the greatest conflict in the history of this planet, many a jaded reader has come to the reluctant conclusion that there aren’t any more World War II stories left to tell. At least not good ones—not tales of the “ripping good yarn” variety. Yet remarkably, in his new book Lost in Shangri-La, Mitchell Zuckoff has found one, and he’s told it with reportorial verve, narrative skill, and exquisite pacing.

What makes this World War II story all the more fascinating is that it isn’t really a war story—not in a strict military sense. It’s more of an exotic adventure tale with rich anthropological shadings. In 1945, near the end of the war, an American plane crashes in a hidden jungle valley in New Guinea inhabited by Stone Age cannibals. 21 Americans die in the crash, but three injured survivors soon find themselves stumbling through the jungle without food, nursing terrible wounds and trying to elude Japanese snipers known to be holding out in the mountains.

The first contact between the three Americans and the valley’s Dani tribesmen is both poignant and comical. The Americans, Zuckoff writes, have “crash-landed in a world that time didn’t forget. Time never knew it existed.” The tribesmen, who have never encountered metal and have yet to master the concept of the wheel, think the American interlopers are white spirits who’ve descended on a vine from heaven, fulfilling an ancient legend. They’re puzzled and fascinated by the layers of “removable skin” in which these alien visitors are wrapped; the natives, who smear their bodies in pig grease and cover their genitals with gourds, have never seen clothes before.

The Americans, in turn, are pretty sure their boartusk-bestudded hosts want to skewer them for dinner.

What ensues in Zuckoff’s fine telling is not so much a cultural collision as a pleasing and sometimes hilarious mutual unraveling of assumptions. Though the differences in the two societies are chasmic, the Americans and the Dani become—in a guarded, tentative sort of way—friends.

But when armed American airmen arrive via parachute to rescue the survivors, relations become more tense. The Americans make their camp right in the middle of a no-man’s land between warring Dani tribes—a no-man’s land where for centuries they have fought the battles that are central to their daily culture. Here, Zuckoff notes, the ironies are profoundly rich. The Dani, untouched by and indeed utterly unaware of the great war that’s been raging all across the globe, become thoroughly discombobulated when their own war is temporarily disrupted.

Yes, there are still a few good World War II stories left to tell. And yes, this one meets all the requirements of a ripping good yarn. Zuckoff, who teaches journalism at Boston University, is a first-rate reporter who has spared no expense to rescue this tale from obscurity. His story has it all: Tragedy, survival, comedy, an incredibly dangerous eleventh-hour rescue, and an immensely attractive heroine to boot. It’s extraordinary that Hollywood hasn’t already taken this tale and run wild with it. If it did, the resulting movie would be equal parts Alive, Cast Away, and The Gods Must Be Crazy. It’s as though the Americans have arrived in the Stone Age through a wormhole in the space-time continuum. The Dani don’t know what to do with themselves—and life, as any of us know it, will never be the same.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:24:16 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

Award-winning former Boston Globe reporter Mitchell Zuckoff unleashes the exhilarating, untold story of an extraordinary World War II rescue mission, where a plane crash in the South Pacific plunged a trio of U.S. military personnel into the jungle-clad land of New Guinea… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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