Excerpt from Lost in Shangri-La by Mitchell Zuckoff, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Lost in Shangri-La

A True Story of Survival, Adventure, and the Most Incredible Rescue Mission of World War II

by Mitchell Zuckoff

Lost in Shangri-La
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    May 2011, 400 pages
    Paperback:
    Apr 2012, 400 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Megan Shaffer

Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt


"Give me your hand!" he ordered.

A moment later, Margaret watched as McCollom led out her friend Laura Besley. McCollom placed the WAC sergeant on the fire-seared ground, turned around, and headed back inside the burning fuselage.

He fought his way through the smoke toward Private Eleanor Hanna, who'd sat next to Laura Besley, directly across from him and Margaret. Eleanor had been badly burned, far worse than Margaret or Laura. Her hair still crackled with burning embers when he carried her out.

By now, McCollom's hands were scorched and his hair was singed from rescuing the two WACs. Otherwise, remarkably, he remained unhurt. Still, he couldn't go back for a third rescue mission - the fire raged higher and hotter, and one explosion after another echoed from inside the wreckage. He doubted anyone inside could still be alive.

Startled by a movement, McCollom looked up and saw a man walk woozily toward him from around the right side of the plane. Any hope that it was his twin brother quickly faded. He recognized Sergeant Kenneth Decker - McCollom supervised Decker's work in the drafting room of the Fee-Ask maintenance department. Decker was on his feet, but dazed and badly hurt. Margaret saw a bloody gash several inches long on the right side of Decker's forehead, deep enough to expose the gray bone of his skull. Another cut leaked blood on the left side of his forehead. Burns seared both legs and his backside. His right arm was cocked stiffly from a broken elbow. Yet somehow Decker was on his feet and moving zombielike toward them.

"My God, Decker, where did you come from?" McCollom asked.

Decker couldn't answer. He would never regain any memory of what happened between takeoff at the Sentani Airstrip and his deliverance into the jungle. Later, McCollom would find a hole on the side of the fuselage and conclude that Decker had escaped through it, though he also thought it possible that the sergeant had been catapulted through the cockpit and out through the windshield.

As he walked unsteadily toward McCollom and Margaret, Decker repeatedly muttered, "Helluva way to spend your birthday."

Margaret thought he was talking gibberish from the blows he'd taken to the head. Only later would she learn that Decker was born on May 13, 1911, and this really was his thirty-fourth birthday.

Turning back to the three surviving WACs, McCollom saw Margaret standing fixed in place, apparently in shock. He set aside his hollowness, his feelings of unspeakable grief at being alone for the first time in his life. The situation was clear. McCollom was the least injured among the five survivors, and though he was only a first lieutenant, he outranked Decker and the three WACs. McCollom steeled himself and assumed command.

He snapped: "Hastings, can't you do something for these girls?"

Laura Besley and Eleanor Hanna were lying next to each other on the ground where McCollom had placed them. Margaret knelt by Eleanor. The bubbly young WAC private from rural Pennsylvania didn't seem to be in pain, but Margaret knew it was too late to help her. The fire had seared off all her clothes, leaving Eleanor with vicious burns over her entire body. Only her cherubic, fair-skinned face was unscarred.

Eleanor looked up with pleading eyes and offered Margaret a weak smile.

"Let's sing," she said. They tried, but neither could make a sound.

Laura Besley was crying uncontrollably, but Margaret and McCollom couldn't understand why. She seemed to have suffered only superficial burns.

McCollom heard someone yell. He scrambled around the right side of the plane to a spot where he could see Captain Herbert Good lying on the ground. McCollom knew that he was the reason that Good was aboard the Gremlin Special. That morning, McCollom had bumped into Good at the base in Hollandia. Affable as always, McCollom asked Good, a member of General MacArthur's staff, whether he had afternoon plans. Good was free, so McCollom invited him to join in the fun on a trip to Shangri-La.

Excerpted from Lost in Shangri-La by Mitchell Zuckoff. Copyright 2011 by Mitchell Zuckoff. Excerpted by permission of Harper, a division of HarperCollins, Inc. All rights reserved.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book:
  Charms Candies

One-Month Free Membership

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Commonwealth
    Commonwealth
    by Ann Patchett
    Opening Ann Patchett's novel Commonwealth about two semi-functional mid-late 20th Century ...
  • Book Jacket: A Gentleman in Moscow
    A Gentleman in Moscow
    by Amor Towles
    It is June 21, 1922, and 33-year-old Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov is convicted of being a class ...
  • Book Jacket: I Contain Multitudes
    I Contain Multitudes
    by Ed Yong
    If a stranger were to accost you on the street and tell you that, from birth, you have never been ...

First Impressions

Book Discussions
Book Jacket
Circling the Sun
by Paula McLain

An intoxicatingly vivid portrait of colonial Kenya and its privileged inhabitants.

About the book
Join the discussion!
Win this book!
Win Blood at the Root

Blood at the Root

"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

D C Y C Before T A H

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.

 
X

Free Weekly Newsletter

Keep up with what's happening in the world of books:
Reviews, previews, interviews and more!



Spam Free: Your email is never shared with anyone; opt out any time.