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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 by Mitchell Zuckoff X
Lost in Shangri-La by Mitchell Zuckoff
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  • First Published:
    May 2011, 400 pages
    Apr 2012, 400 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Megan Shaffer

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American servicemen and women, New Guinea, and WW II, are the backdrops for Lost in Shangri-La.

Margaret Hastings' life as a WAC in New Guinea is the main focus. Margaret and the other servicemen and women on site longed to see Shangri-La, so their captain arranged for a day trip. Little did the twenty-four passengers realize that their dream to see the hidden villages in the jungle would not turn out to be what they expected. When something went wrong during the flight, it crashed into a mountain, and the nightmare began.

Out of the twenty-four passengers only three survived, and these three were burned, hurt, and starving. They painfully made their way to a clearing and were spotted by an American plane, but they were also spotted by hundreds of the island's inhabitants who approached with spears. Luckily continual smiling at the island's people assured them that the strangers were not a cause for alarm. No way of communication other than hand gestures and smiles made it difficult, but at least they were still alive, and the indigenous people were friendly.

As the three survivors waited out each day in pain and in hopes of being saved, their rescue team was simultaneously in the process of being organized. Being accepted by the island's inhabitants became somewhat better each day, but their wounds were increasingly becoming more infected and painful. Margaret and Decker were in the most pain, and thankfully McCollum was somewhat strong and alert.

When the rescue medics finally arrived, it hadn't been too soon...gangrene was starting to set in, and a few more days without medical treatment may have meant death. The other half of the rescue team landed a few days later, but getting to the survivors was being hampered by the foliage and continuous rain. They finally arrived, and everyone waited for the flight team that would take them off the inaccessible island.

The rescue from the island was every bit as eventful and fascinating as the time spent there.

The book is a marvelous read, beautifully written, and an outstanding re-creation of events. Mr. Zuckoff should be commended for his research, and Ms. Hastings and Mr. Walter should also be commended for keeping a daily journal so that their tale could be told all these years later.

You will love hearing about the lives of the natives and their legends and also of the lives of those who survived and who took part in the rescue....wonderful facts and information.

The photos greatly enhanced the book. To me it was another not well-known part of history coming alive. World War II enthusiasts should not miss reading this book. 5/5
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