Lost in Shangri-La

ISBN: 978-0307917256
Review Date:

Full Title: Lost in Shangri-La: A True Story of Survival, Adventure, and the Most Incredible Rescue Mission of World War II

On 13 May 1945, a C-47 transport aircraft took off for a sightseeing flight over Baliem Valley in New Guinea, where an entire stone age civilization resided, unknown to the western world until the 1930s. The aircraft crashed in the valley, and of all 20-some aboard, only three survived the crash and the injuries sustained. Corporal Margaret Hastings, Sergeant Kenneth Decker, and Lieutenant John McCollom initially feared the natives as man-eating savages, but they soon found them to be friendly and kind. They were spotted four days later, and paratroopers were sent in to give them medical aid, and they were taken out by gliders many weeks after the crash. Author Mitchell Zuckoff's Lost in Shangri-La told of this adventure tale in a primitive land at a time when the world was engulfed in a modern war.

Zuckoff did a great job telling this story, setting a scene that was more so a novel than a non-fiction. The infected wounds, the unfamiliar jungles, and the gradual endearment to the native Dani people were all told in a lively manner that grabbed my attention. It was clear that the author leaned more heavily on the drama rather than the history, however. Being a military history enthusiast, I caught more than a few factual errors and cursory generalizations that probably would make fellow history buffs cringe as well, but on the other side of the token Zuckoff's inclusion of the presence of Women's Army Corps (WAC) and Filipino paratroopers in this part of WW2 history was commendable.

I had reviewed this book in its audio book format, and I particularly enjoyed the fact that author had read the book himself. The reading was clear, and perhaps because the author and the narrator were one of the same, the punctuations and stresses in the reading were rather nicely done.

I could not say that Lost in Shangri-La was the most exciting nor best-written of WW2 survival stories I had come across, but it was an interesting one nevertheless. Although not a title I would add to my personal collection, it might be a fun read if you come across it at your local library, where I stumbled upon this.

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Winston Churchill, on the RAF