A New York Times bestseller and the winner of the Winship/PEN New England Award, Lost in Shangri-La is “a truly incredible adventure” (New York Times Book Review) about three brave survivors of a WWII plane crash in the jungle.
On May 13, 1945, twenty-four American servicemen and WACs boarded a transport plane for a sightseeing trip over “Shangri-La,” a beautiful and mysterious valley deep within the jungle-covered mountains of Dutch New Guinea. Unlike the peaceful Tibetan monks of James Hilton’s bestselling novel Lost Horizon, this Shangri-La was home to spear-carrying tribesmen, warriors rumored to be cannibals.
But the pleasure tour became an unforgettable battle for survival when the plane crashed. Miraculously, three passengers pulled through. Margaret Hastings, barefoot and burned, had no choice but to wear her dead best friend’s shoes. John McCollom, grieving the death of his twin brother also aboard the plane, masked his grief with stoicism. Kenneth Decker, too, was severely burned and suffered a gaping head wound.
Emotionally devastated, badly injured, and vulnerable to the hidden dangers of the jungle, the trio faced certain death unless they left the crash site. Caught between man-eating headhunters and enemy Japanese, the wounded passengers endured a harrowing hike down the mountainside—a 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 interviews, declassified U.S. Army documents, personal photos and mementos, a survivor’s diary, a rescuer’s journal, 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 to find help; how a brave band of paratroopers risked their own lives to save the survivors; and how a cowboy colonel attempted a previously untested rescue mission to get them out.
By trekking into the New Guinea jungle, visiting remote villages, and rediscovering the crash site, Zuckoff also captures the contemporary natives’ remembrances of the long-ago day when strange creatures fell from the sky. A riveting work of narrative nonfiction that vividly brings to life an odyssey at times terrifying, enlightening, and comic, Lost in Shangri-La is a thrill ride from beginning to end.
This ebook also includes an excerpt from Mitchell Zuckoff’s New York Times bestseller Frozen in Time.
About the Author:
Mitchell Zuckoff is a professor of journalism at Boston University. He is the author of Frozen in Time: An Epic Story of Survival and a Modern Quest for Lost Heroes of World War II, Robert Altman: An Oral Biography, Ponzi's Scheme: The True Story of a Financial Legend, Judgment Ridge: The True Story of the Dartmouth Murders, with Dick Lehr, Choosing Naia: A Family's Journey, and 13 Hours: The Inside Account of What Really Happened In Benghazi. He was a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize in investigative reporting, and the winner of numerous national awards as a reporter for The Boston Globe. He lives outside Boston.
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.
Customer ReviewsSee All
Lost in Shangri-La
Great reading. These are the hidden stories of WWII! Hard to comprehend the discovery of a civilization that no one know existed. The heartache that the survivors endured is hard to get a handle on, so a book like this is greatly appreciated and needed!
Especially loved that no creative liberties were taken and was completely and utterly true of fact from beginning to end. As with all good books, I didn't want it to end.
I loved this book! Learned more about history and unknown people. Impressed by the bibliography. Was sad when it was over.