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Publisher: Harper Perennial$15.99Lost in Shangri-La (Audio Compact Disc - Unabridged)
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Award-winning former Boston Globe reporter Mitchell Zuckoffunleashes the exhilarating, untold story of an extraordinary World War IIrescue mission, where a plane crash in the South Pacific plunged a trio of U.S.military personnel into a land that time forgot. Fans of Hampton Sides' Ghost Soldiers, Marcus Luttrell's Lone Survivor, and David Grann's The Lost Cityof Z will be captivated by Zuckoff's masterfullyrecounted, all-true story of danger, daring, determination, and discovery injungle-clad New Guinea during the final days of WWII.
- ISBN-13: 9780061988349
- ISBN-10: 0061988340
- Publisher: HarperTorch
- Publish Date: April 2011
- Page Count: 384
- Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.1 x 1.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.35 pounds
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2011-03-14
- Reviewer: Staff
Zuckoff (Ponzi's Scheme) skillfully narrates the story of a plane crash and rescue mission in an uncharted region of New Guinea near the end of WWII. Of the 24 American soldiers who flew from their base on a sightseeing tour to a remote valley, only three survived the disaster, including one WAC. As the three waited for help, they faced death from untreated injuries and warlike local tribesmen who had never seen white people before and believed them to be dangerous spirits. Even after a company of paratroopers arrived, the survivors still faced a dangerous escape from the valley via "glider snatch." Zuckoff transforms impressive research into a deft narrative that brings the saga of the survivors to life. His access to journal accounts, letters, photos, military records, and interviews with the eyewitnesses allows for an almost hour-by-hour account of the crash and rescue, along with vivid portraits of his main subjects. Zuckoff also delves into the Stone Age culture of the New Guinea tribesmen and the often humorous misapprehensions the Americans and natives have about each other. In our contemporary world of eco-tourism and rain-forest destruction, Zuckoff's book gives a window on a more romantic, and naïve, era. (May)
Plane crash in paradise
It started as a Sunday afternoon lark and developed into one of the strangest survival stories of WWII. On May 13, 1945, a group of American soldiers—among them several members of the Women’s Army Corps—boarded a twin-engine C-47 in Hollandia, New Guinea, intending to do a brief flyover of a remote valley located high in the island’s central mountains. With luck, they’d be back in time for dinner.
A year earlier, an American pilot had spotted the lush valley and the tribes that inhabited it. The natives were so visibly excited when his plane swept in low above them that he concluded they had never seen an aircraft before. He also surmised that they might be headhunters or cannibals. News of his discovery spread quickly, and soon others were lining up to take the tour. To some, the valley’s beauty and inaccessibility brought to mind the mountain-fringed paradise James Hilton described in his 1933 novel Lost Horizon. Hilton called his valley “Shangri-La.”
Less than an hour into the flight, the pilot miscalculated the C-47’s altitude and flew it into the side of a mountain. Three of the 24 on board survived: Lieutenant John McCollom, Tech Sergeant Kenneth Decker and Corporal Margaret Hastings. Drawing on a wealth of documents and personal recollections, author Mitchell Zuckoff has reconstructed an almost hour-by-hour narrative of how the survivors, two of whom are seriously wounded, descend the mountain into the mythical valley, deal with the suspicious but generally friendly natives and eventually aid in their own perilous escape from Shangri-La.
A lot of readers are going to fall in love with Hastings. Thirty years old at the time of the crash, she is smart, flirtatious, fearless and gorgeous, a thoroughly modern woman even by today’s standards. It is a joy witnessing how adroitly she holds her own in situations normally controlled by men. Zuckoff’s impressive research includes dozens of photographs of the survivors and those involved in their rescue. He even makes a pilgrimage to the valley—now a much-violated Eden—to interview tribespeople who were children when the strange trio first hobbled into their midst. Lost in Shangri-La is a movie waiting to be made.