“A lost world, man-eating tribesmen, lush andimpenetrable jungles, stranded American fliers (one of them a dame withgreat gams, for heaven's sake), a startling rescue mission. . . . This is atrue story made in heaven for a writer as talented as Mitchell Zuckoff. Whew—what an utterly compelling and deeplysatisfying read!" —Simon Winchester, author of Atlantic
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.
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 na ve, era.
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A True Story of Survival and Cross-Cultural Awareness
Mitchell Zuckoff masterfully places the reader in the midst of the action, thoughts, and emotions of the survivors of a tragic military plane crash in an unexplored jungle in New Guinea (a very attractive WAC, an officer, and an enlisted man) and those of their eventual rescuers. His genius, however, comes across in his ability to acknowledge the individuals whose personalities, skills, and commitment combined to bring about ultimate success. Zuckoff's juxtaposition of the cultural values of the survivors and their rescuers against those of the indigenous tribes inhabiting the region of New Guinea where the crash occurred begins as a tenuous thread of trust between a prehistoric civilization and the presumably "civilized" World War II era. Overcoming trust issues and language barriers, this "thread" ultimately weaves into a strong bond of mutual respect and lifelong relationships: from Filipino volunteers, WACS, enlisted men, officers, and tribal members, to wartime correspondents and anxious family members on the home front, Zuckoff acknowledges each person, by name, whose contributions combined to create this compelling true story about America's Greatest Generation.