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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.

Topics: Plane Crashes, Survival, World War II, Military, Adventurous, Suspenseful, Jungle, Island, and Investigative Journalism

Published: HarperCollins on Jan 1, 2011
ISBN: 9780062087140
List price: $9.99
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Just when you think you've heard about all the exciting stories to come out of World War II, something like this comes along. It's got it all: terrible plane crash in the jungle, a beautiful wounded WAC and two handsome officers, the tropical forests of New Guinea, tribal headhunters, and the Army effort to track them down and bring them home. How can you resist a story like that?I jumped right in to this book and I have to admit, I found it a pageturner. It reminded me once I again why I NEVER want to get lost in the jungle. At least if my plane crashes in the desert I just die from a heat stroke right off. But they had to deal with gangrene and bugs and starvation before finding possibly hostile natives. And that was just the beginning.Great story, and it's all true. At least, I sure hope it's all true! It was fun to read! Thanks to the First Reads program from GoodReads for this ARC.read more
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Lost in Shangri-La was my first experience with narrative non-fiction and I think I may be in love. For those of you like me who haven’t read narrative non-fiction before, I would describe it as a novel in which personal lives are as well researched as the bigger picture and the whole thing is presented as a story. In this particular story, we learn about a plane crash in New Guinea stranding three service men and women in the jungle with potentially unfriendly natives. Due to their isolated location, finding them in the jungle was only the first challenge. A daring and dangerous rescue mission was then required to get them out.Thanks to the many primary sources included in the narrative, this reads as much like an adventure novel as a non-fiction account. Unlike my experience with The Universe in a Mirror I never felt like the primary sources broke up the flow of the story. They were incredibly well integrated into the author’s narrative and helped make me feel really invested in the people involved. I also thought it enriched the story that we heard about the crash from the natives and got some explanation of the culture behind their reactions to the survivors. My only complaint with the book is that sometimes these asides about the natives or a new character’s personal history did interrupt the main plot line.This book was clearly well-researched and answered all the questions I could think of about the people involved. I particularly enjoyed the pictures and the new post-script in the paperback edition I read which included letters from relatives of the people involved. It was fun to get a little extra detail about their lives after the crash and to hear how their adventures were viewed by their families. This was a nice, easy read and I would recommend it to anyone interested in WWII as well as anyone who enjoys adventure novels.read more
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This is an interesting story about a plane crash during WW II on a New Guinea island plateau that few outsiders had visited at the time. Mitchell Zuckoff begins the by describing the lives of those that climbed aboard the plane that day for a look at the mysterious "Shangri-La" valley and its tribal inhabitants. The story follows the lives of the survivors of the crash and their incredible rescue by a troop of Filipino Americans.read more
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I don't read a lot of WWII history books, but when I heard that Lost in Shangri-La: The True Story of Survival, Adventure, and the Most Incredible Rescue Mission of World War II by Mitchell Zuckoff featured a WAC from Owego, I became intrigued.I grew up near Owego in central New York, and my dad has older sisters who served as WACs during the war. I always found that interesting, and so dived right into this incredible story.On May 13, 1945, a group of 24 American servicemen and WACs went on a sightseeing mission in New Guinea. They wanted to see this valley that "time forgot", and hoped to see the rumored "race of giants" tribesmen that they had been told existed there.When the plane crashed, only three survived- John McCollom, whose twin brother died in the crash, Kenneth Decker, who was badly burned and injured, and Margaret Hastings, who also was badly burned.The three managed to make it to a tribal village, and instead of giants, found a village filled with people who lived in a long-ago time. They had stone tools, wore gourds and skirts made of sticks, and had never seen a white person before.The book recounts the horrifying crash and the efforts of a group of paratroopers who parachuted in to try and rescue the survivors, and even more difficult, figure out how to get everyone out of a valley where no plane could land.Zuckoff had lots of primary source material, including the journals kept by Hastings, who caused quite a stir of interest from the tribesmen, and Captain C. Earl Walter, the man in charge of the paratroopers. They told their amazing story of the day-to-day life in the valley, working and befriending the tribespeople, and planning a way to get out.Unbelievably, a documentary filmaker also parachuted into the valley to document the effort to rescue the survivors. He is quite a character himself, and the fact that he was allowed to do this sounds like something out of the TV show MASH, yet it happened.Zuckoff's story is filled with photos of the survivors, paratroopers and tribesmen. The writing is superb, and the tension is palpable on the page as the survivors meet the tribesmen and try to communicate with them.There is also humor, as when the daily supply plane keeps dropping cases of Kotex for Hastings, but not one extra pair of panties that she had requested, a typical bureaucratic bungle.As I was looking at a photo of the servicemen and the tribesmen all working together to push a glider into position, I was struck with a thought: I think that everyone in Congress and the White House should read this book.How is it that two disparate groups of people who do not speak the same language and have little in common were able to come together to work towards a common goal, yet the people we have elected and paid to work for the American people to solve the major problems that face us all seem unwilling to work together?I can't believe that this story hasn't been made into a movie yet; it is made for the cinema (or maybe an opera?). I enjoyed the epilogue, where Zukoff follows up on the lives we have gotten to know, and he uses extensive endnotes to document each chapter. Zuckoff's website has video and photos from the mission.World War II history buffs will be thrilled with Lost In Shangri-La, as will readers who just enjoy a crackerjack true story, filled with interesting people in an amazing situation. It's better than any fictional thriller you could read.read more
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Must be one of the greatest true adventure books of all time! Well- researched and written. I was completely caught up in this story of three survivors of a plane crash in the dense New Guinea jungle, and their heroic rescuers. The author provides many details about New Guinea and its indigenous people, as well as related subjects such as the history of the Phillippines, military gliders, and the 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, a battallion of Filipino-American paratroopers.read more
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I'm not usually a non-fiction, war story type of reader but when I saw this title listed on the TLC Tours as an available review option I didn't have to think long. I mean, the title alone is quite the eye-catcher and then, once the book was received, I read the first few pages and immediately was hooked.One of the most compelling aspects of this book is Zuckoff's desire to acquaint the reader with the individual history and events leading up to each "central" character in this story. Rather than letting us read a bone-dry rehashing of the actual events, each survivor (and even those who didn't survive) were talked about, introduced and made to feel real so that when the fateful moment occurred, I felt a sense of loss and grief.Interspersed through the pages of the book are pictures, allowing the reader to not only learn about the people but to put a face to the name and that made it even more real to me.The story itself is an incredible one. Beyond incredible. When you take into consideration all of the events leading up to the eventual rescue of Margaret Hastings, John McCollom and Kenneth Decker, it seems incredible that everything fell so neatly into place. The bravery of those three individuals and their rescuers astounds me and made me feel a sense of pride and wonder at their strength and endurance through something that I cannot even imagine getting through myself.If you have a reader fond of WWII stories, if you are fond of non-fiction or.. if you want to take a chance to read a story that needs to be told and talked about then this is a perfect, prime example of one.read more
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In an intriguing look at one of the many World War II plane crashes, Zuckoff tells the story of three passengers who survived the crash in the valley of Shangri-La, a place far different from the fictional description in James Hilton's "Lost Horizons." After leaving the crash site, the three survivors are forced to find their way through the jungle while avoiding head hunters and the enemy Japanese. Also told is the means of their rescue by brave paratroopers who risked their lives to get the victims out.read more
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Readers who enjoyed the survival aspect of Lauren Hillenbrand's "Unbroken" will also find much to like in this survival story from WWII, focusing on three survivors of a plane crash deep in the mountains of New Guinea. "Lost in Shangri-La" looks at aviation in WWII, life in military outposts in the South Pacific, the amazing story of survival and rescue, and, perhaps most interestingly, the bonds the survivors and rescuers created with the native New Guineans that lived in the virtually unknown valley.read more
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I love to give books as gifts, especially to my dad. When the anniversary of his birthday came last January, I caught myself picking out books I would like to have given him if he was still alive. It’s become such second nature. As much as he loved mysteries and thrillers, I never quite seemed to put my finger on what he liked most (I sure did try though!)—but when it came to nonfiction, it was easy peasy. Mitchell Zuckoff’s Lost in Shangri-La is exactly the type of book I would have gotten for him (with the stipulation that he loan it to me after).World War II has always been a particular interest of mine (thanks, Dad!) and so it was only natural that I would gravitate towards Lost in Shangri-La for myself as well. It’s an amazing story as well as a tragic one.The author provides an inside view to the events leading up to and after that fateful Mother’s Day, May 13, 1945, when the Gremlin Special went down in the remote mountainous jungle of Dutch New Guinea. Twenty-four American serviceman and Women's Army Corps (WACs) were on board the plane that day. As a bit of fun, their commanding officer was treating them to a trip to see “Shangri-La” first hand. Shangri-La was a supposed paradise with natives still living in the stone ages, untouched by the world war going on around them.Despite the loss of their friends and comrades and life threatening injuries, the three survivors did what they could to survive, hoping against hope for rescue. Meanwhile, efforts to send in a rescue team were underway and a group of eager paratroopers were called upon to assist.I got to know many of the victims and survivors as well as the major players involved in the rescue, including the natives. Mitchell Zuckoff conducted in-depth interviews with survivors and family and friends of those who were touched by the event in some way, dug through declassified military documents, relied on personal diaries and journals, and viewed film footage. He did an excellent job bringing it—and the people involved—to life.Lost in Shangri-La reads like a novel, proving yet again how interesting real life can be. Even as sensational a story as it is and the media made it out to be at the time, Zuckoff takes great care with the story and with those he writes about. This book is much more about the people, about their will to survive, and about the human spirit.The area in which the survivors found themselves was (and is) extremely remote. Very few outsiders had ever been there before. The terrain was very rough, dense with growth and rocky in many parts. The survivors were very lucky in many respects and the rescuers even more so. The rescue itself was quite harrowing. The military had to be creative in determining how to get into the area and get out again. I found myself holding my breath several times throughout the book and praying alongside Margaret Hastings, one of the survivors, even though I knew the outcome of the events of that time were already sealed.I appreciated the author’s research and thoughts about the natives in then Dutch New Guinea. The misunderstandings between the Americans and natives were at times humorous, admittedly, but, when you think about it, had circumstances been different, it could have proved to be very dangerous and deadly for all involved. I couldn’t help but feel a bit sad for the natives knowing how much their way of life was about to change once their existence was fully known. “Progress” was about to come their way—and, as we all know, “progress” isn’t always favorable.Lost in Shangri-La did not disappoint. It was an emotional journey for not only the real life people involved but for this reader as well. I don’t know that I would have been as strong in such circumstances.I was fortunate enough to receive a paperback copy of the book for this tour and included in the back were letters written to the author, responses by friends and family of those involved in the crash or rescue effort. I had to stop several times as I read through the letters because they were causing me to tear up.read more
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I thoroughly enjoyed this true adventure tale. After a plane crashes deep in the jungle-covered mountains of New Guinea, three survivors (two seriously wounded), must survive the arduous landscape, cannibalistic native tribes, and hidden enemy Japanese, while the Army devises a dangerous rescue. Zucker builds his page-turner from contemporary news accounts, diaries, photographs, and interviews with surviving Americans and (remarkably) surviving members of the Dani tribe.read more
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This is how all history should be learned - through amazing story. Vivid descriptions, drama, humor, facts and insight into the history around this singular event. Wonderful on audio.read more
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With the subject matter (plane crash survivors stranded in New Guinea) and press this book has gotten, it'd be easy to think this is a thriller. It's not. It's still a historical non-fiction book -- it just reads like a very interesting one.4 stars:-I liked how the author integrated first person accounts and journal entries with what we know today. It makes for a richer read because you're essentially getting 3 sides to the story: the survivors' 1945 account; the natives' story, based on oral tradition and childhood memories, told today; and information historians and anthropologists gathered for decades after the crash.-Zuckoff is objective. He addresses racial and cultural stereotypes without being heavy-handed. He doesn't blame characters for their views, but instead points out their errors. More of a "today, anthropologists know..." instead of "it's ridiculous he'd think the natives were dangerous cannibals."-It could have been a little more cohesive -- Zuckoff seems to jump around a bit. For example, he could transition better from one person's background/account to the next person's story. I noticed some people thought there was too much detail about the key players' backgrounds. I think the detail helps shape the characters. For example, reading about why and how each of them ended up stationed in New Guinea makes their survival in Shangri-la even more remarkable. For me, it was more about how the detail was presented than the quantity.-I think this book would appeal to a wide-range of audiences -- I'm not a World War II buff and I don't read a ton of historical non-fiction. The story is intriguing, the writing has a good balance between providing context and moving the story along, and it's a manageable length.Tip: I think the way this book is being marketed ("real-life adventure thriller!!!!") could set some readers up to be disappointed. If you're a fiction reader, go into this remembering this isn't a "story inspired by true events," but rather an actual account of true events. It'd be like watching an engaging documentary of King George VI instead of the movie The King's Speech -- they're both good but they do different things. That said, this is still a remarkable story worth reading.read more
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The book is an easy read of a remarkable rescue of three survivors of an Army plane crash in unmapped Borneo during WWII. It is exhaustively footnoted and an excellent story, told by an experienced writer. It is a tribute to the survivors, their comrades, and the people of inner Borneo who had no idea there was a world beyond their valley.read more
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This is a captivating true story account of a plane crash that took place during WWII in the native jungles of New Guinea. Heroic measures were taken to rescue the three remaining survivors from a flight that carried 24 military personnel on May 13, 1945. What started out as a sightseeing adventure to a valley one of their co-horts had named Shangri-La, ended in diaster for those that signed on for this R&R tour. Zuckoff has provided a wonderful narrative of this piece of history that was perhaps over-shadowed by the war itself.read more
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1945 a us military plane crashes in Dutch new guinea. There were three survivors. Two were badly burned , they hike to a clearing and are spotted by a search plane but the difficulty is how to get them out because terrain is so difficult.they parachute in medical help and supplies and eventually use a glider to get everybody out.read more
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Cannibals, penis gourds and WACs, oh my! One afternoon in May 1945, a group of military sight-seers, board a transport plane, called the Gremlin Special, for a leisurely fly-over of a beautiful valley nicknamed Shangri-La, located on the island of Dutch New Guinea. There were 24 on board, a mix of officers and enlisted.Suddenly the plane crashes into this paradise, killing all but three. WAC Corporal Margaret Hastings, Lieutenant John McCollom, and Sergeant Kenneth Decker. Badly injured, they try to find help, hacking their way through the wet dense jungle, finally ending up in the midst of a primitive tribe of flesh-eating warriors.Yes, this sounds like a bad B-movie from the 50s, but it is a true adventure tale, told in an exciting, tense narrative. The story also focuses on the rescue mission, as a large group of pilots and paratroopers, attempt to pull the survivors out, under risky and terrifying conditions. If you like history, laced with action and colorful characters or are looking to explore narrative nonfiction, look no further.read more
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In the year 1945, on the island of what was then titled Dutch New Guinea, an Army base full of soldiers & WACS were stationed there waiting for shipment out to the Philippines. While killing time waiting for their next set of orders, they embark on mini day trips soaring the skies above the jungle canopy into the land of towering mountains and magical panoramic terrain. A native village had been sighted and those who enlisted for these special sightseeing flights were dubbed members of The Shangri-La Society. Flying over this village that was hidden deep in the valley gorges was extremely dangerous due to low visibility through cloud enshrouded mountains. Tight hairpin turns in between gorges didn’t leave a whole lot for airplane maneuverability. On one such run, the airplane nicknamed the Gremlin Special, took off for a day of fun to only end in tragedy. Clouds came in swiftly blocking visibility, causing a catastrophic plane crash that killed 24 men and women instantly. Three lucky survivors, although seriously burned, miraculously walked away. Lost in Shangri-La is the amazing story of their many months spent deep in the perilous jungle of New Guinea. Lost and alone, they were in drastic need of food, water, supplies, and more than anything, medical attention. John McCollum, Kenneth Decker, and a beautiful blonde petite WAC named Margaret Hastings were in rough shape. Maggie’s legs were horribly burned, Decker’s entire backside was worse, and although McCollum was able to walk away uninjured, he lost his twin brother in the flames. Walking to a nearby hillside brought the trio a little hope when the jungle walls parted and a group of frightening natives emerged, bows and arrows and spears at the ready. The story proceeds to detail the many ups and downs and daily obstacles the three survivors must endure, along with their enchantment of living amongst a lost tribe as if they had gone back in time to early civilization to visit primitive cave men. Eventually Army scouts locate them, drop supplies and follow up with a carefully planned daring rescue attempt. A dangerous mission in itself, finding a way to get their people out when no plane, boat, or helicopter can get close enough to the ground to land, puts the military to the test.I found the story of Lost in Shangri-La immensely interesting. For certain the event was a rare unusual accident for those that survived the trauma, yet lived to witness a primitive society previously unknown to man. That aspect of the book I enjoyed. However, I never really felt a great deal of intensity of hazard for what they experienced. I was not riveted or sitting on the edge of my seat. I believe that was the fault of the style of writing Zuckoff used. The execution of the story was at times very dry, almost too factual, and had a carefree attitude in the telling of these events. The writing itself, for me, didn’t portray the drama that this event certainly must have had. A major gripe I had was that there was a lot of filler and fluff. Serious editing needed to be performed on this manuscript. The author detailed way too much background history on every single person mentioned in the story. Everyone’s childhood, family, school, careers, was just too much information not applicable to the main heart of the story. I think if a lot of that boring data had been taken out, the book would have been more enjoyable. I found myself skipping paragraphs of this mundane minutia, wishing for additional stories of the natives themselves and the interaction between the two parties. It’s a good story, but it certainly could have been better with a little more literary drama to give it some zip.read more
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I found this mildly interesting and it got me to go on Google Earth to see where Dutch New Guinea (now Indonesia) actually is, and on to Wikipedia to read about the "Grand Valley." The characterizations of the main players was well done, and the background research Zuckoff did on the indigent culture was very interesting. Kind of amazing to think that there was a civilization of over 100,000 people not even suspected up until almost the beginning of WWII. It's a true story so I guess you can't add stuff to make it more fun. But I would have loved to have seen the survivors interact more effectively with the natives of the valley.Quick read, fast moving, I think a winner for the kind of book it is, but not something I'd go back and re-read.read more
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In this day and age, we tend to think of the majority of the planet as explored and accessible. We can't fathom societies which have not had any kind of interaction with outsiders. And we may be correct in thinking that these places and these peoples are a thing of the past. But perhaps not in such a distant past as we might imagine. In the waning days of World War II, one such place and the native inhabitants there captivated the United States. A military C-47 carrying 24 servicemen and women flying a sightseeing mission over the newly discovered valley nicknamed Shangri-La in Dutch New Guinea crashed into the impenetrable jungle killing 21 of those on board. The three survivors, two of whom were desperately injured, were suddenly plunged into the unknown world of the Dani tribe as they waited for the US military to try and concoct a plant to get them out of the seemingly inaccessible valley 150 miles from Hollandia, their military outpost on the coast.John McCollum, Ken Decker, and Margaret Hastings survived the terrible crash, the fiery deaths of their friends and colleagues (and in McCollum's case of his identical twin brother), and a desperate scramble down the mountainside to find a clearing in which to signal search planes. As they awaited rescue and the medical attention Decker and Margaret so direly needed to treat their gangrenous wounds, the three survivors are surrounded by the native Dani people, who are believed by the army to be warlike cannibals. Zuckoff details both the three survivors' assumptions about the primitive society into whose midst they have landed and the natives' beliefs which dictated how they treated the survivors.In their quest to get McCollum, Decker, and Hastings the treatment they need and then out of Shangri-La, the army first sends in a full complement of Filipino paratroopers, including two medics, led by Earl Walter and then comes up with a plan almost too far-fetched to be realistic, full of danger, and rife with the potential for failure to snatch all fourteen army personnel plus, improbably enough, one Hollywood filmaker, from the remote valley floor.The three crash survivors, a couple of the Dani tribesmen, and several of those who risked their lives to rescue McCollum, Decker, and Hastings are all carefully described and fleshed out both through their own accounts and the accounts of those who knew them. Their personalities and the personal histories that drove their actions are all carefully detailed. Although almost everyone involved in this story is now gone, their bravery and chutzpah shine again on these pages and their tale has been saved from obscurity. Woven in with the immediate story of the crash is the timeline of the war in the Pacific and the effect it had on a military outpost like Hollandia, Dutch New Guinea. Also included is a bit of an epilogue about the way that the people falling from the sky forever transformed the remote and previously untouched society of the Shangri-La Valley (properly called Baliem Valley).Zuckoff has written a gripping adventure story mixed with anthropology, a true survival tale that captures the readers' imagination just as completely as the situation did with contemporary audiences reading along in the papers as the incredible tale unfolded. Loaded with first-hand accounts and thoroughly researched information, this non-fiction narrative unfolds with pitch perfect pacing and tension. The ending is never in doubt and while this is not a WWII story in the traditional sense (the action is far from the war and fighting itself), it is still a fascinating story, one soon eclipsed by the horror and drama of the atomic bomb. Occasionally some of the bacground information threatens to overwhelm the immediate story but overall, this is a well-done and engrossing tale. I plan to pass it to both my husband and my teenaged son to read in turn as I'm quite sure that both of them will thoroughly enjoy it as well.read more
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It seems that the final stories of WWII involving interviews with living witnesses are now being written. Lost in Shangri-La is a case in point with the incredible story of a plane downed in the jungles of New Guinea and the rescue of its three survfivors. The author was able to find quite a few people who were either involved directly or indirectly with the plane and the crash, members of the very isolated New Guinea tribe who were of help to the survivors, the rescue team parachuted into the hidden valley, a documentary photographer, and members of the tow plane team who finally brought the survivors and the rescue team out of the inaccesible area. The author found a very compelling story and spent considerable time and effort in tracking down these witnesses, hearing their stories, looking at their pictures and then traveling to the actual site of the wreck. Another fine story of heroism, ingenuity, and the lengths to which our military went to effect the rescue of its own.read more
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The story is exciting BUT very short! 30% of the book is notation, I guess a requirement in the world of nonfiction. aThis fast-paced read is an account of a paratroop's rescue of three plane crash survivors into the heart of the New Guinea jungle just before the end of WWII. What awaited them was unbroked territory into a primitive society.read more
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Enjoyable book but I get a little tired of all these titles of the "greatest" or "most incredible" rescue/escape ... whatever. It was a good story resulting from an unfortunately tragic event but it was not the most incredible rescue mission of WWII. The author (who also narrated) was easy to listen to. Other than the exaggeration of "most incredible" I found it a little boring going over and over "Walters" life - yah he was an important guy but less fawning over him and more info about everyone involved would have made the story more enjoyable. I don't want to be too harsh because it was a good story and kept me (mostly) interested.read more
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A plane crash in New Guinea during World War 2 leaves a few survivors in a remote valley nicknamed "Shangri-La." The natives, rumored to be cannibals, have been isolated from the modern world and may have never seen a white person before. Meanwhile, back on the base in Hollandia, military personnel have a hard task before them in figuring out how to rescue the injured survivors.Journalist Mitchell Zuckoff brings together interviews, one of the survivor's shorthand diary, military documents, photographs, and more to tell the story of the survivors and the native people involved in this fascinating tale of survival and rescue. He incorporates detail without sacrificing the pace of the narrative, and clearly made the effort to include the natives' perspectives of the events: he isn't writing from an anthropological perspective, but he strikes me as presenting a balanced view. Just as interesting to read as it was the first time I did so a year ago.read more
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My sort of book. Set in WWII, involves planes, in the mysterious New Guinea. Super documentary redolent with atmosphere. I wasn't sure all the references were accurate but it didn't matter. Strongly recommended.BTW the photos worked well enough on the Kindle.read more
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This story takes place during World War II in New Guinea. Military personnel decide to take a leisure tour over the island, hoping to get a glimpse of the so-called cannibalistic natives. Tragedy strikes when the airplane crashes leaving few survivors. The rest of the book is about the problematic rescue and the obstacles they faced.

My favorite parts of the story were the encounters with the natives. The differences in perception, by both sides, were at times amusing. My favorite story involved a crate and a pig. The native’s response to the event was even funnier. Culture and customs are briefly explained, giving depth to the native’s perspective of the world.

There are always problems, of course. Some biographical sections dragged in places, and it seemed the author was running out of content at times. I would have preferred more depth, but in the end, it was still a good story.


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Near the end of World War II, twenty-four army servicemen and WACS stationed at Hollandia, Dutch New Guinea, boarded a C-47 transport plane to see a recently discovered ‘stone age’ village hidden in a deep valley in the midst of the mountainous jungles of Dutch New Guinea. The village’s location a mile above sea level and surrounded by 13,000 foot high mountains as well as quickly changing weather may have contributed to the crash of the C-47. The three injured survivors faced an uncertain future as they left the crash for a harrowing walk down the mountain and the possibility of running into enemy troops and unknown natives. This is a great true adventure story about recovery and rescue against terrific odds.read more
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Reason for Reading: I love true war stories but I also love true survival stories, so this doubly appealed to me.A sight-seeing plane carrying 24 enlisted passengers across the jungle of modern day New Guinea (who were stationed nearby) crashed and burned leaving a total of three survivors in a remote valley inhabited by tribes who mostly had not seen white men before and still lived in the stone age. This books gives the complete story of these people, enlisted and native. Prior to the fateful plane trip we meet the individuals who will be on board and learn their story, how and why they came to be aboard and some who just barely missed being passengers. We learn of life at the base of Hollandia where they were stationed, paratroopers on standby, enlisted soldiers waiting for deployment to somewhere else (where the action is) and a group of WACS fulfilling their enlisted duties.We go through terrifying details of how the crash was probably caused though no blame has ever been laid by officials and the gory aftermath of the scene. Of the three survivors, only one is unharmed, the other two have serious burns and other injuries and thus starts their survival story where they eventually meet up with the natives of the land. Mostly a war-like people, but little do the survivors know that they are fulfilling a legend of the natives.The main focus of the book though, is in the rescue of these people, as others are sent down to tend to their medical needs and set up a base of operations. The valley is surrounded by mountains too high and cross winds too dangerous. It is too narrow for an airstrip landing. The outside terrain is rough, dangerous, inhabited by known cannibalistic tribes and the island is also inhabited by hidden Japanese units. Rescue seems near impossible from any route: across land, by water or by air. But as the incident becomes known back in America and the one survivor a pretty WAC, reaches the interests of Hollywood, the pressure is doubled to make sure the rescue attempt is successful. The final solution is quite the thing and could only have happened at this time in history.A captivating story that starts with daily enlisted life on a tropical island where no real wartime action was being seen at this point, an horrific plane crash and the emotional and mental endurance of the survivors. The interesting transformation of the (I won't say white men as many of them were Filipino) "civilized" people's opinion's of the natives whom they regularly called "savages" at first to the the respectful attitude they held when they said their tearful goodbyes. This is a good read, a quick read and a non-fiction story that keeps the reader reading and enthralled. The author's personal interviews with some of the survivors and having gone back to the scene of the crash and talked to those natives who were children when the events happened he's managed to bring the natives' perspective of the events to the reader as well. An enjoyable and fascinating read.read more
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I love a good adventure story. The gold standard by which I hold all other adventure stories to is Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer. Unfortunately for this book I happened to be listening to that novel on CD at the same time and so Lost in Shagri-La paled in comparison. Lost in Shagri-La is the true story about 24 American women and men WWII service members who went on a site seeing plane expedition that crashed into the jungles of New Guinea. Only five members of the party survived more than a day, two of which were badly injured. While waiting for rescue the survivors encountered native people who were living the same way as they had for hundreds of years and who had never seen a white person up close. The rest of the story is about the interactions with the native people and the rescue mission that brought out the survivors. This a fairly interesting story but it did seem to have a little filler material. The pages describing the type of rescue plane used held little interest for me. The stand out part of the book was the survivors and their interaction with the natives. I especially loved Margaret, she was one tough cookie. The author seemed a little preoccupied with her sex life though. I am not sure what was up with the promiscuous portrayal, probably could have left that out. If you enjoyed this book check out the Lost City of Z another excellent adventure book in this vein.read more
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One of the best non-fiction stories I have read in a while. Short but sweet read filled with details drawn from pictures, interviews, transcripts, documents that give the story legs to run on. Couldn't put it down!read more
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Very quick and very interesting read. Excellent research obvious in all the little details that make the characters really shine through the story. For some reason, I particularly liked Walter the Filipino rescue unit, especially the medics.read more
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Just when you think you've heard about all the exciting stories to come out of World War II, something like this comes along. It's got it all: terrible plane crash in the jungle, a beautiful wounded WAC and two handsome officers, the tropical forests of New Guinea, tribal headhunters, and the Army effort to track them down and bring them home. How can you resist a story like that?I jumped right in to this book and I have to admit, I found it a pageturner. It reminded me once I again why I NEVER want to get lost in the jungle. At least if my plane crashes in the desert I just die from a heat stroke right off. But they had to deal with gangrene and bugs and starvation before finding possibly hostile natives. And that was just the beginning.Great story, and it's all true. At least, I sure hope it's all true! It was fun to read! Thanks to the First Reads program from GoodReads for this ARC.
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Lost in Shangri-La was my first experience with narrative non-fiction and I think I may be in love. For those of you like me who haven’t read narrative non-fiction before, I would describe it as a novel in which personal lives are as well researched as the bigger picture and the whole thing is presented as a story. In this particular story, we learn about a plane crash in New Guinea stranding three service men and women in the jungle with potentially unfriendly natives. Due to their isolated location, finding them in the jungle was only the first challenge. A daring and dangerous rescue mission was then required to get them out.Thanks to the many primary sources included in the narrative, this reads as much like an adventure novel as a non-fiction account. Unlike my experience with The Universe in a Mirror I never felt like the primary sources broke up the flow of the story. They were incredibly well integrated into the author’s narrative and helped make me feel really invested in the people involved. I also thought it enriched the story that we heard about the crash from the natives and got some explanation of the culture behind their reactions to the survivors. My only complaint with the book is that sometimes these asides about the natives or a new character’s personal history did interrupt the main plot line.This book was clearly well-researched and answered all the questions I could think of about the people involved. I particularly enjoyed the pictures and the new post-script in the paperback edition I read which included letters from relatives of the people involved. It was fun to get a little extra detail about their lives after the crash and to hear how their adventures were viewed by their families. This was a nice, easy read and I would recommend it to anyone interested in WWII as well as anyone who enjoys adventure novels.
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This is an interesting story about a plane crash during WW II on a New Guinea island plateau that few outsiders had visited at the time. Mitchell Zuckoff begins the by describing the lives of those that climbed aboard the plane that day for a look at the mysterious "Shangri-La" valley and its tribal inhabitants. The story follows the lives of the survivors of the crash and their incredible rescue by a troop of Filipino Americans.
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I don't read a lot of WWII history books, but when I heard that Lost in Shangri-La: The True Story of Survival, Adventure, and the Most Incredible Rescue Mission of World War II by Mitchell Zuckoff featured a WAC from Owego, I became intrigued.I grew up near Owego in central New York, and my dad has older sisters who served as WACs during the war. I always found that interesting, and so dived right into this incredible story.On May 13, 1945, a group of 24 American servicemen and WACs went on a sightseeing mission in New Guinea. They wanted to see this valley that "time forgot", and hoped to see the rumored "race of giants" tribesmen that they had been told existed there.When the plane crashed, only three survived- John McCollom, whose twin brother died in the crash, Kenneth Decker, who was badly burned and injured, and Margaret Hastings, who also was badly burned.The three managed to make it to a tribal village, and instead of giants, found a village filled with people who lived in a long-ago time. They had stone tools, wore gourds and skirts made of sticks, and had never seen a white person before.The book recounts the horrifying crash and the efforts of a group of paratroopers who parachuted in to try and rescue the survivors, and even more difficult, figure out how to get everyone out of a valley where no plane could land.Zuckoff had lots of primary source material, including the journals kept by Hastings, who caused quite a stir of interest from the tribesmen, and Captain C. Earl Walter, the man in charge of the paratroopers. They told their amazing story of the day-to-day life in the valley, working and befriending the tribespeople, and planning a way to get out.Unbelievably, a documentary filmaker also parachuted into the valley to document the effort to rescue the survivors. He is quite a character himself, and the fact that he was allowed to do this sounds like something out of the TV show MASH, yet it happened.Zuckoff's story is filled with photos of the survivors, paratroopers and tribesmen. The writing is superb, and the tension is palpable on the page as the survivors meet the tribesmen and try to communicate with them.There is also humor, as when the daily supply plane keeps dropping cases of Kotex for Hastings, but not one extra pair of panties that she had requested, a typical bureaucratic bungle.As I was looking at a photo of the servicemen and the tribesmen all working together to push a glider into position, I was struck with a thought: I think that everyone in Congress and the White House should read this book.How is it that two disparate groups of people who do not speak the same language and have little in common were able to come together to work towards a common goal, yet the people we have elected and paid to work for the American people to solve the major problems that face us all seem unwilling to work together?I can't believe that this story hasn't been made into a movie yet; it is made for the cinema (or maybe an opera?). I enjoyed the epilogue, where Zukoff follows up on the lives we have gotten to know, and he uses extensive endnotes to document each chapter. Zuckoff's website has video and photos from the mission.World War II history buffs will be thrilled with Lost In Shangri-La, as will readers who just enjoy a crackerjack true story, filled with interesting people in an amazing situation. It's better than any fictional thriller you could read.
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Must be one of the greatest true adventure books of all time! Well- researched and written. I was completely caught up in this story of three survivors of a plane crash in the dense New Guinea jungle, and their heroic rescuers. The author provides many details about New Guinea and its indigenous people, as well as related subjects such as the history of the Phillippines, military gliders, and the 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, a battallion of Filipino-American paratroopers.
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I'm not usually a non-fiction, war story type of reader but when I saw this title listed on the TLC Tours as an available review option I didn't have to think long. I mean, the title alone is quite the eye-catcher and then, once the book was received, I read the first few pages and immediately was hooked.One of the most compelling aspects of this book is Zuckoff's desire to acquaint the reader with the individual history and events leading up to each "central" character in this story. Rather than letting us read a bone-dry rehashing of the actual events, each survivor (and even those who didn't survive) were talked about, introduced and made to feel real so that when the fateful moment occurred, I felt a sense of loss and grief.Interspersed through the pages of the book are pictures, allowing the reader to not only learn about the people but to put a face to the name and that made it even more real to me.The story itself is an incredible one. Beyond incredible. When you take into consideration all of the events leading up to the eventual rescue of Margaret Hastings, John McCollom and Kenneth Decker, it seems incredible that everything fell so neatly into place. The bravery of those three individuals and their rescuers astounds me and made me feel a sense of pride and wonder at their strength and endurance through something that I cannot even imagine getting through myself.If you have a reader fond of WWII stories, if you are fond of non-fiction or.. if you want to take a chance to read a story that needs to be told and talked about then this is a perfect, prime example of one.
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In an intriguing look at one of the many World War II plane crashes, Zuckoff tells the story of three passengers who survived the crash in the valley of Shangri-La, a place far different from the fictional description in James Hilton's "Lost Horizons." After leaving the crash site, the three survivors are forced to find their way through the jungle while avoiding head hunters and the enemy Japanese. Also told is the means of their rescue by brave paratroopers who risked their lives to get the victims out.
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Readers who enjoyed the survival aspect of Lauren Hillenbrand's "Unbroken" will also find much to like in this survival story from WWII, focusing on three survivors of a plane crash deep in the mountains of New Guinea. "Lost in Shangri-La" looks at aviation in WWII, life in military outposts in the South Pacific, the amazing story of survival and rescue, and, perhaps most interestingly, the bonds the survivors and rescuers created with the native New Guineans that lived in the virtually unknown valley.
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I love to give books as gifts, especially to my dad. When the anniversary of his birthday came last January, I caught myself picking out books I would like to have given him if he was still alive. It’s become such second nature. As much as he loved mysteries and thrillers, I never quite seemed to put my finger on what he liked most (I sure did try though!)—but when it came to nonfiction, it was easy peasy. Mitchell Zuckoff’s Lost in Shangri-La is exactly the type of book I would have gotten for him (with the stipulation that he loan it to me after).World War II has always been a particular interest of mine (thanks, Dad!) and so it was only natural that I would gravitate towards Lost in Shangri-La for myself as well. It’s an amazing story as well as a tragic one.The author provides an inside view to the events leading up to and after that fateful Mother’s Day, May 13, 1945, when the Gremlin Special went down in the remote mountainous jungle of Dutch New Guinea. Twenty-four American serviceman and Women's Army Corps (WACs) were on board the plane that day. As a bit of fun, their commanding officer was treating them to a trip to see “Shangri-La” first hand. Shangri-La was a supposed paradise with natives still living in the stone ages, untouched by the world war going on around them.Despite the loss of their friends and comrades and life threatening injuries, the three survivors did what they could to survive, hoping against hope for rescue. Meanwhile, efforts to send in a rescue team were underway and a group of eager paratroopers were called upon to assist.I got to know many of the victims and survivors as well as the major players involved in the rescue, including the natives. Mitchell Zuckoff conducted in-depth interviews with survivors and family and friends of those who were touched by the event in some way, dug through declassified military documents, relied on personal diaries and journals, and viewed film footage. He did an excellent job bringing it—and the people involved—to life.Lost in Shangri-La reads like a novel, proving yet again how interesting real life can be. Even as sensational a story as it is and the media made it out to be at the time, Zuckoff takes great care with the story and with those he writes about. This book is much more about the people, about their will to survive, and about the human spirit.The area in which the survivors found themselves was (and is) extremely remote. Very few outsiders had ever been there before. The terrain was very rough, dense with growth and rocky in many parts. The survivors were very lucky in many respects and the rescuers even more so. The rescue itself was quite harrowing. The military had to be creative in determining how to get into the area and get out again. I found myself holding my breath several times throughout the book and praying alongside Margaret Hastings, one of the survivors, even though I knew the outcome of the events of that time were already sealed.I appreciated the author’s research and thoughts about the natives in then Dutch New Guinea. The misunderstandings between the Americans and natives were at times humorous, admittedly, but, when you think about it, had circumstances been different, it could have proved to be very dangerous and deadly for all involved. I couldn’t help but feel a bit sad for the natives knowing how much their way of life was about to change once their existence was fully known. “Progress” was about to come their way—and, as we all know, “progress” isn’t always favorable.Lost in Shangri-La did not disappoint. It was an emotional journey for not only the real life people involved but for this reader as well. I don’t know that I would have been as strong in such circumstances.I was fortunate enough to receive a paperback copy of the book for this tour and included in the back were letters written to the author, responses by friends and family of those involved in the crash or rescue effort. I had to stop several times as I read through the letters because they were causing me to tear up.
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I thoroughly enjoyed this true adventure tale. After a plane crashes deep in the jungle-covered mountains of New Guinea, three survivors (two seriously wounded), must survive the arduous landscape, cannibalistic native tribes, and hidden enemy Japanese, while the Army devises a dangerous rescue. Zucker builds his page-turner from contemporary news accounts, diaries, photographs, and interviews with surviving Americans and (remarkably) surviving members of the Dani tribe.
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This is how all history should be learned - through amazing story. Vivid descriptions, drama, humor, facts and insight into the history around this singular event. Wonderful on audio.
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With the subject matter (plane crash survivors stranded in New Guinea) and press this book has gotten, it'd be easy to think this is a thriller. It's not. It's still a historical non-fiction book -- it just reads like a very interesting one.4 stars:-I liked how the author integrated first person accounts and journal entries with what we know today. It makes for a richer read because you're essentially getting 3 sides to the story: the survivors' 1945 account; the natives' story, based on oral tradition and childhood memories, told today; and information historians and anthropologists gathered for decades after the crash.-Zuckoff is objective. He addresses racial and cultural stereotypes without being heavy-handed. He doesn't blame characters for their views, but instead points out their errors. More of a "today, anthropologists know..." instead of "it's ridiculous he'd think the natives were dangerous cannibals."-It could have been a little more cohesive -- Zuckoff seems to jump around a bit. For example, he could transition better from one person's background/account to the next person's story. I noticed some people thought there was too much detail about the key players' backgrounds. I think the detail helps shape the characters. For example, reading about why and how each of them ended up stationed in New Guinea makes their survival in Shangri-la even more remarkable. For me, it was more about how the detail was presented than the quantity.-I think this book would appeal to a wide-range of audiences -- I'm not a World War II buff and I don't read a ton of historical non-fiction. The story is intriguing, the writing has a good balance between providing context and moving the story along, and it's a manageable length.Tip: I think the way this book is being marketed ("real-life adventure thriller!!!!") could set some readers up to be disappointed. If you're a fiction reader, go into this remembering this isn't a "story inspired by true events," but rather an actual account of true events. It'd be like watching an engaging documentary of King George VI instead of the movie The King's Speech -- they're both good but they do different things. That said, this is still a remarkable story worth reading.
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The book is an easy read of a remarkable rescue of three survivors of an Army plane crash in unmapped Borneo during WWII. It is exhaustively footnoted and an excellent story, told by an experienced writer. It is a tribute to the survivors, their comrades, and the people of inner Borneo who had no idea there was a world beyond their valley.
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This is a captivating true story account of a plane crash that took place during WWII in the native jungles of New Guinea. Heroic measures were taken to rescue the three remaining survivors from a flight that carried 24 military personnel on May 13, 1945. What started out as a sightseeing adventure to a valley one of their co-horts had named Shangri-La, ended in diaster for those that signed on for this R&R tour. Zuckoff has provided a wonderful narrative of this piece of history that was perhaps over-shadowed by the war itself.
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1945 a us military plane crashes in Dutch new guinea. There were three survivors. Two were badly burned , they hike to a clearing and are spotted by a search plane but the difficulty is how to get them out because terrain is so difficult.they parachute in medical help and supplies and eventually use a glider to get everybody out.
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Cannibals, penis gourds and WACs, oh my! One afternoon in May 1945, a group of military sight-seers, board a transport plane, called the Gremlin Special, for a leisurely fly-over of a beautiful valley nicknamed Shangri-La, located on the island of Dutch New Guinea. There were 24 on board, a mix of officers and enlisted.Suddenly the plane crashes into this paradise, killing all but three. WAC Corporal Margaret Hastings, Lieutenant John McCollom, and Sergeant Kenneth Decker. Badly injured, they try to find help, hacking their way through the wet dense jungle, finally ending up in the midst of a primitive tribe of flesh-eating warriors.Yes, this sounds like a bad B-movie from the 50s, but it is a true adventure tale, told in an exciting, tense narrative. The story also focuses on the rescue mission, as a large group of pilots and paratroopers, attempt to pull the survivors out, under risky and terrifying conditions. If you like history, laced with action and colorful characters or are looking to explore narrative nonfiction, look no further.
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In the year 1945, on the island of what was then titled Dutch New Guinea, an Army base full of soldiers & WACS were stationed there waiting for shipment out to the Philippines. While killing time waiting for their next set of orders, they embark on mini day trips soaring the skies above the jungle canopy into the land of towering mountains and magical panoramic terrain. A native village had been sighted and those who enlisted for these special sightseeing flights were dubbed members of The Shangri-La Society. Flying over this village that was hidden deep in the valley gorges was extremely dangerous due to low visibility through cloud enshrouded mountains. Tight hairpin turns in between gorges didn’t leave a whole lot for airplane maneuverability. On one such run, the airplane nicknamed the Gremlin Special, took off for a day of fun to only end in tragedy. Clouds came in swiftly blocking visibility, causing a catastrophic plane crash that killed 24 men and women instantly. Three lucky survivors, although seriously burned, miraculously walked away. Lost in Shangri-La is the amazing story of their many months spent deep in the perilous jungle of New Guinea. Lost and alone, they were in drastic need of food, water, supplies, and more than anything, medical attention. John McCollum, Kenneth Decker, and a beautiful blonde petite WAC named Margaret Hastings were in rough shape. Maggie’s legs were horribly burned, Decker’s entire backside was worse, and although McCollum was able to walk away uninjured, he lost his twin brother in the flames. Walking to a nearby hillside brought the trio a little hope when the jungle walls parted and a group of frightening natives emerged, bows and arrows and spears at the ready. The story proceeds to detail the many ups and downs and daily obstacles the three survivors must endure, along with their enchantment of living amongst a lost tribe as if they had gone back in time to early civilization to visit primitive cave men. Eventually Army scouts locate them, drop supplies and follow up with a carefully planned daring rescue attempt. A dangerous mission in itself, finding a way to get their people out when no plane, boat, or helicopter can get close enough to the ground to land, puts the military to the test.I found the story of Lost in Shangri-La immensely interesting. For certain the event was a rare unusual accident for those that survived the trauma, yet lived to witness a primitive society previously unknown to man. That aspect of the book I enjoyed. However, I never really felt a great deal of intensity of hazard for what they experienced. I was not riveted or sitting on the edge of my seat. I believe that was the fault of the style of writing Zuckoff used. The execution of the story was at times very dry, almost too factual, and had a carefree attitude in the telling of these events. The writing itself, for me, didn’t portray the drama that this event certainly must have had. A major gripe I had was that there was a lot of filler and fluff. Serious editing needed to be performed on this manuscript. The author detailed way too much background history on every single person mentioned in the story. Everyone’s childhood, family, school, careers, was just too much information not applicable to the main heart of the story. I think if a lot of that boring data had been taken out, the book would have been more enjoyable. I found myself skipping paragraphs of this mundane minutia, wishing for additional stories of the natives themselves and the interaction between the two parties. It’s a good story, but it certainly could have been better with a little more literary drama to give it some zip.
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I found this mildly interesting and it got me to go on Google Earth to see where Dutch New Guinea (now Indonesia) actually is, and on to Wikipedia to read about the "Grand Valley." The characterizations of the main players was well done, and the background research Zuckoff did on the indigent culture was very interesting. Kind of amazing to think that there was a civilization of over 100,000 people not even suspected up until almost the beginning of WWII. It's a true story so I guess you can't add stuff to make it more fun. But I would have loved to have seen the survivors interact more effectively with the natives of the valley.Quick read, fast moving, I think a winner for the kind of book it is, but not something I'd go back and re-read.
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In this day and age, we tend to think of the majority of the planet as explored and accessible. We can't fathom societies which have not had any kind of interaction with outsiders. And we may be correct in thinking that these places and these peoples are a thing of the past. But perhaps not in such a distant past as we might imagine. In the waning days of World War II, one such place and the native inhabitants there captivated the United States. A military C-47 carrying 24 servicemen and women flying a sightseeing mission over the newly discovered valley nicknamed Shangri-La in Dutch New Guinea crashed into the impenetrable jungle killing 21 of those on board. The three survivors, two of whom were desperately injured, were suddenly plunged into the unknown world of the Dani tribe as they waited for the US military to try and concoct a plant to get them out of the seemingly inaccessible valley 150 miles from Hollandia, their military outpost on the coast.John McCollum, Ken Decker, and Margaret Hastings survived the terrible crash, the fiery deaths of their friends and colleagues (and in McCollum's case of his identical twin brother), and a desperate scramble down the mountainside to find a clearing in which to signal search planes. As they awaited rescue and the medical attention Decker and Margaret so direly needed to treat their gangrenous wounds, the three survivors are surrounded by the native Dani people, who are believed by the army to be warlike cannibals. Zuckoff details both the three survivors' assumptions about the primitive society into whose midst they have landed and the natives' beliefs which dictated how they treated the survivors.In their quest to get McCollum, Decker, and Hastings the treatment they need and then out of Shangri-La, the army first sends in a full complement of Filipino paratroopers, including two medics, led by Earl Walter and then comes up with a plan almost too far-fetched to be realistic, full of danger, and rife with the potential for failure to snatch all fourteen army personnel plus, improbably enough, one Hollywood filmaker, from the remote valley floor.The three crash survivors, a couple of the Dani tribesmen, and several of those who risked their lives to rescue McCollum, Decker, and Hastings are all carefully described and fleshed out both through their own accounts and the accounts of those who knew them. Their personalities and the personal histories that drove their actions are all carefully detailed. Although almost everyone involved in this story is now gone, their bravery and chutzpah shine again on these pages and their tale has been saved from obscurity. Woven in with the immediate story of the crash is the timeline of the war in the Pacific and the effect it had on a military outpost like Hollandia, Dutch New Guinea. Also included is a bit of an epilogue about the way that the people falling from the sky forever transformed the remote and previously untouched society of the Shangri-La Valley (properly called Baliem Valley).Zuckoff has written a gripping adventure story mixed with anthropology, a true survival tale that captures the readers' imagination just as completely as the situation did with contemporary audiences reading along in the papers as the incredible tale unfolded. Loaded with first-hand accounts and thoroughly researched information, this non-fiction narrative unfolds with pitch perfect pacing and tension. The ending is never in doubt and while this is not a WWII story in the traditional sense (the action is far from the war and fighting itself), it is still a fascinating story, one soon eclipsed by the horror and drama of the atomic bomb. Occasionally some of the bacground information threatens to overwhelm the immediate story but overall, this is a well-done and engrossing tale. I plan to pass it to both my husband and my teenaged son to read in turn as I'm quite sure that both of them will thoroughly enjoy it as well.
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It seems that the final stories of WWII involving interviews with living witnesses are now being written. Lost in Shangri-La is a case in point with the incredible story of a plane downed in the jungles of New Guinea and the rescue of its three survfivors. The author was able to find quite a few people who were either involved directly or indirectly with the plane and the crash, members of the very isolated New Guinea tribe who were of help to the survivors, the rescue team parachuted into the hidden valley, a documentary photographer, and members of the tow plane team who finally brought the survivors and the rescue team out of the inaccesible area. The author found a very compelling story and spent considerable time and effort in tracking down these witnesses, hearing their stories, looking at their pictures and then traveling to the actual site of the wreck. Another fine story of heroism, ingenuity, and the lengths to which our military went to effect the rescue of its own.
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The story is exciting BUT very short! 30% of the book is notation, I guess a requirement in the world of nonfiction. aThis fast-paced read is an account of a paratroop's rescue of three plane crash survivors into the heart of the New Guinea jungle just before the end of WWII. What awaited them was unbroked territory into a primitive society.
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Enjoyable book but I get a little tired of all these titles of the "greatest" or "most incredible" rescue/escape ... whatever. It was a good story resulting from an unfortunately tragic event but it was not the most incredible rescue mission of WWII. The author (who also narrated) was easy to listen to. Other than the exaggeration of "most incredible" I found it a little boring going over and over "Walters" life - yah he was an important guy but less fawning over him and more info about everyone involved would have made the story more enjoyable. I don't want to be too harsh because it was a good story and kept me (mostly) interested.
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A plane crash in New Guinea during World War 2 leaves a few survivors in a remote valley nicknamed "Shangri-La." The natives, rumored to be cannibals, have been isolated from the modern world and may have never seen a white person before. Meanwhile, back on the base in Hollandia, military personnel have a hard task before them in figuring out how to rescue the injured survivors.Journalist Mitchell Zuckoff brings together interviews, one of the survivor's shorthand diary, military documents, photographs, and more to tell the story of the survivors and the native people involved in this fascinating tale of survival and rescue. He incorporates detail without sacrificing the pace of the narrative, and clearly made the effort to include the natives' perspectives of the events: he isn't writing from an anthropological perspective, but he strikes me as presenting a balanced view. Just as interesting to read as it was the first time I did so a year ago.
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My sort of book. Set in WWII, involves planes, in the mysterious New Guinea. Super documentary redolent with atmosphere. I wasn't sure all the references were accurate but it didn't matter. Strongly recommended.BTW the photos worked well enough on the Kindle.
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This story takes place during World War II in New Guinea. Military personnel decide to take a leisure tour over the island, hoping to get a glimpse of the so-called cannibalistic natives. Tragedy strikes when the airplane crashes leaving few survivors. The rest of the book is about the problematic rescue and the obstacles they faced.

My favorite parts of the story were the encounters with the natives. The differences in perception, by both sides, were at times amusing. My favorite story involved a crate and a pig. The native’s response to the event was even funnier. Culture and customs are briefly explained, giving depth to the native’s perspective of the world.

There are always problems, of course. Some biographical sections dragged in places, and it seemed the author was running out of content at times. I would have preferred more depth, but in the end, it was still a good story.


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Near the end of World War II, twenty-four army servicemen and WACS stationed at Hollandia, Dutch New Guinea, boarded a C-47 transport plane to see a recently discovered ‘stone age’ village hidden in a deep valley in the midst of the mountainous jungles of Dutch New Guinea. The village’s location a mile above sea level and surrounded by 13,000 foot high mountains as well as quickly changing weather may have contributed to the crash of the C-47. The three injured survivors faced an uncertain future as they left the crash for a harrowing walk down the mountain and the possibility of running into enemy troops and unknown natives. This is a great true adventure story about recovery and rescue against terrific odds.
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Reason for Reading: I love true war stories but I also love true survival stories, so this doubly appealed to me.A sight-seeing plane carrying 24 enlisted passengers across the jungle of modern day New Guinea (who were stationed nearby) crashed and burned leaving a total of three survivors in a remote valley inhabited by tribes who mostly had not seen white men before and still lived in the stone age. This books gives the complete story of these people, enlisted and native. Prior to the fateful plane trip we meet the individuals who will be on board and learn their story, how and why they came to be aboard and some who just barely missed being passengers. We learn of life at the base of Hollandia where they were stationed, paratroopers on standby, enlisted soldiers waiting for deployment to somewhere else (where the action is) and a group of WACS fulfilling their enlisted duties.We go through terrifying details of how the crash was probably caused though no blame has ever been laid by officials and the gory aftermath of the scene. Of the three survivors, only one is unharmed, the other two have serious burns and other injuries and thus starts their survival story where they eventually meet up with the natives of the land. Mostly a war-like people, but little do the survivors know that they are fulfilling a legend of the natives.The main focus of the book though, is in the rescue of these people, as others are sent down to tend to their medical needs and set up a base of operations. The valley is surrounded by mountains too high and cross winds too dangerous. It is too narrow for an airstrip landing. The outside terrain is rough, dangerous, inhabited by known cannibalistic tribes and the island is also inhabited by hidden Japanese units. Rescue seems near impossible from any route: across land, by water or by air. But as the incident becomes known back in America and the one survivor a pretty WAC, reaches the interests of Hollywood, the pressure is doubled to make sure the rescue attempt is successful. The final solution is quite the thing and could only have happened at this time in history.A captivating story that starts with daily enlisted life on a tropical island where no real wartime action was being seen at this point, an horrific plane crash and the emotional and mental endurance of the survivors. The interesting transformation of the (I won't say white men as many of them were Filipino) "civilized" people's opinion's of the natives whom they regularly called "savages" at first to the the respectful attitude they held when they said their tearful goodbyes. This is a good read, a quick read and a non-fiction story that keeps the reader reading and enthralled. The author's personal interviews with some of the survivors and having gone back to the scene of the crash and talked to those natives who were children when the events happened he's managed to bring the natives' perspective of the events to the reader as well. An enjoyable and fascinating read.
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I love a good adventure story. The gold standard by which I hold all other adventure stories to is Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer. Unfortunately for this book I happened to be listening to that novel on CD at the same time and so Lost in Shagri-La paled in comparison. Lost in Shagri-La is the true story about 24 American women and men WWII service members who went on a site seeing plane expedition that crashed into the jungles of New Guinea. Only five members of the party survived more than a day, two of which were badly injured. While waiting for rescue the survivors encountered native people who were living the same way as they had for hundreds of years and who had never seen a white person up close. The rest of the story is about the interactions with the native people and the rescue mission that brought out the survivors. This a fairly interesting story but it did seem to have a little filler material. The pages describing the type of rescue plane used held little interest for me. The stand out part of the book was the survivors and their interaction with the natives. I especially loved Margaret, she was one tough cookie. The author seemed a little preoccupied with her sex life though. I am not sure what was up with the promiscuous portrayal, probably could have left that out. If you enjoyed this book check out the Lost City of Z another excellent adventure book in this vein.
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One of the best non-fiction stories I have read in a while. Short but sweet read filled with details drawn from pictures, interviews, transcripts, documents that give the story legs to run on. Couldn't put it down!
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Very quick and very interesting read. Excellent research obvious in all the little details that make the characters really shine through the story. For some reason, I particularly liked Walter the Filipino rescue unit, especially the medics.
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