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

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

3.8 409
by Mitchell Zuckoff

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“A lost world, man-eating tribesmen, lush andimpenetrable jungles, stranded American fliers (one of them a dame withgreat gams, for heaven's sake), a startling rescue mission. . . . This is atrue story made in heaven for a writer as talented as Mitchell Zuckoff. Whew—what an utterly compelling and deeplysatisfying read!" —Simon Winchester,…  See more details below


“A lost world, man-eating tribesmen, lush andimpenetrable jungles, stranded American fliers (one of them a dame withgreat gams, for heaven's sake), a startling rescue mission. . . . This is atrue story made in heaven for a writer as talented as Mitchell Zuckoff. Whew—what an utterly compelling and deeplysatisfying read!" —Simon Winchester, author of Atlantic
Award-winning former Boston Globe reporter Mitchell Zuckoffunleashes the exhilarating, untold story of an extraordinary World War IIrescue mission, where a plane crash in the South Pacific plunged a trio of U.S.military personnel into a land that time forgot. Fans of Hampton Sides’ Ghost Soldiers, Marcus Luttrell’s Lone Survivor, and David Grann’s The Lost Cityof Z will be captivated by Zuckoff’s masterfullyrecounted, all-true story of danger, daring, determination, and discovery injungle-clad New Guinea during the final days of WWII.

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Editorial Reviews

Michael Washburn
Lost in Shangri-La delivers a feast of failures—of planning, of technology, of communication—that are resolved in a truly incredible adventure. Truly incredible? A cliché, yes, but Zuckoff's tale is something a drunk stitches together from forgotten B movies and daydreams while clutching the bar. Zuckoff is no fabulist, though, and in this brisk book he narrates the tense yet peaceful five weeks during 1945 that three plane crash survivors spent immersed "in a world that time didn't forget. Time never knew it existed." Even at the level of exposition, the book is breathless.
—The New York Times
David Grann
…compelling…and vividly reconstructed…As with many suspense stories, the build-up of Lost in Shangri-La is a bit more enthralling than the denouement. Yet overall Zuckoff has pulled off a remarkable feat—and held the reader firmly in the grip.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
Zuckoff (Ponzi's Scheme) skillfully narrates the story of a plane crash and rescue mission in an uncharted region of New Guinea near the end of WWII. Of the 24 American soldiers who flew from their base on a sightseeing tour to a remote valley, only three survived the disaster, including one WAC. As the three waited for help, they faced death from untreated injuries and warlike local tribesmen who had never seen white people before and believed them to be dangerous spirits. Even after a company of paratroopers arrived, the survivors still faced a dangerous escape from the valley via "glider snatch." Zuckoff transforms impressive research into a deft narrative that brings the saga of the survivors to life. His access to journal accounts, letters, photos, military records, and interviews with the eyewitnesses allows for an almost hour-by-hour account of the crash and rescue, along with vivid portraits of his main subjects. Zuckoff also delves into the Stone Age culture of the New Guinea tribesmen and the often humorous misapprehensions the Americans and natives have about each other. In our contemporary world of eco-tourism and rain-forest destruction, Zuckoff's book gives a window on a more romantic, and naïve, era. (May)
Cleveland Plain Dealer
“This is an absorbing adventure right out of the Saturday-morning serials. . . . Lost in Shangri-La deserves a spot on the shelf of Greatest Generation nonfiction. It puts the reader smack into the jungle. ”
Seattle Times
“A riveting tale in the hands of a good storyteller. . . . LOST IN SHANGRI-LA is the most thrilling book, fiction or nonfiction, that I have read since I can’t remember when.”
Entertainment Weekly
“[A] gripplingly cinematic account. . . . A remarkable cast of characters. . . . A.
LOST IN SHANGRI-LA has all the hallmarks of a classic jungle adventure story. Three survivors of a tragic plane crash—an attractive Women's Army Corps corporal; a square-jawed, handsome lieutenant; and a gravely wounded, stoic sergeant with a cynical sense of humor—are lost in an uncharted and inaccessible valley in New Guinea, where the only inhabitants are primitive natives constantly at war with one another…the book revives the story and fills in the gaps with personal interviews, declassified army documents, a daily journal kept by one of the survivors, and original film footage shot by one of the rescuers….Lost in Shangri-La reads like an adventure novel, except that there are no bad guys and more than the usual number of heroes.
New York Times Book Review
“A truly incredible adventure.”
Library Journal
On May 13, 1945, 24 military personnel, including officers and male/female enlisted persons, took off for a leisurely sightseeing trip over the uncharted regions of Dutch New Guinea. Their trip to Shangri-La to see the remote native communities from the sky ended in disaster. The plane crashed, leaving three survivors to fend for themselves in one of the world's most remote areas. Zuckoff tells this story brilliantly—the survivors' bravery, the courage of the paratroopers dropped in to protect them, and the ingenuity of those who devised and executed the daring rescue. Zuckoff also reveals the amazing record of first contact between the Americans and local natives and how they interacted peacefully despite extreme language and cultural barriers. This title is accessible to a wide audience beyond patrons who enjoy military history and biography. ["This excellent book will be enjoyed by anyone who loves true adventure stories of disaster and rescue such as Alfred Lansing's Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage," read the also starred review of the New York Times best-selling Harper: HarperCollins's hc, LJ 2/1/11.—Ed.]—Emma Duncan, Brampton Lib., Ont.

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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


Copyright © 2011 Mitchell Zuckoff
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780061988349

Chapter One

On a rainy day in May 1945, a Western Union messenger made
his rounds through the quiet village of Owego, in upstate New
York. Just outside downtown, he turned onto McMaster Street, a
row of modest, well-kept homes shaded by sturdy elm trees. He
slowed to a stop at a green, farm-style house with a small porch
and empty flower boxes. As he approached the door, the messenger
prepared for the hardest part of his job: delivering a telegram
from the U.S. War Department.
Directly before him, proudly displayed in a front window,
hung a small white banner with a red border and a blue star at its
center. Similar banners hung in windows all through the village,
each one to honor a young man, or in a few cases a young woman,
gone to war. American troops had been fighting in World War II
since 1941, and some blue-star banners had already been replaced
by banners with gold stars, signifying a loss for a larger gain and a
permanently empty place at a family's dinner table.
Inside the blue-star home where the messenger stood was
Patrick Hastings, a sixty-eight-year-old widower. With his wire rim
glasses, his neatly trimmed silver hair, and the serious set of his
mouth, Patrick Hastings bore a striking resemblance to the new
president, Harry S. Truman, who'd taken office a month earlier
upon the death of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
A son of Irish immigrants, Patrick Hastings grew up a farm
boy across the border in Pennsylvania. After a long engagement,
he married his sweetheart, schoolteacher Julia Hickey, and they'd
moved to Owego to find work and raise a family. As the years
passed, Patrick rose through the maintenance department at a
local factory owned by the Endicott-Johnson Shoe Company, which
churned out combat boots and officers' dress shoes for the U.S.
Army. Together with Julia, he reared three bright, lively daughters.
Now, though, Patrick Hastings lived alone. Six years earlier, a
fatal infection had struck Julia's heart. Their home's barren flower
boxes were visible signs of her absence and his solitary life.
Their two younger daughters, Catherine and Rita, had
married and moved away. Blue-star banners hung in their homes, too,
each one for a husband in the service. But the blue-star banner in
Patrick Hastings's window wasn't for either of his sons-in-law. It
honored his strong-willed eldest
daughter, Corporal Margaret
Hastings of the Women's Army
Corps, the WACs.
Sixteen months earlier, in
January 1944, Margaret Hastings
had walked into a recruiting
station in the nearby city of
Binghamton. There, she signed
her name and took her place
among the first generation of
women to serve in the U.S.
military. Margaret and thousands
of other WACs were dispatched
to war zones around the world,
mostly filling desk jobs on bases
well back from the front lines.
Still, her father worried, knowing
that Margaret was in a strange, faraway land: New Guinea,
an untamed island just north of Australia. Margaret was based
at a U.S. military compound on the island's eastern half, an area
known as Dutch New Guinea.
By the middle of 1945, the military had outsourced the delivery
of bad news, and its bearers had been busy: the combat death
toll among Americans neared 300,000. More than a 100,000 other
Americans had died noncombat deaths. More than 600,000 had
been wounded. Blue-star families had good reason to dread the
sight of a Western Union messenger approaching the door.
On this day, misery had company. As the messenger rang
Patrick Hastings's doorbell, Western Union couriers with nearly
identical telegrams were en route to twenty-three other star-banner
homes with loved ones in Dutch New Guinea. The messengers
fanned out across the country, to rural communities including
Shippenville, Pennsylvania; Trenton, Missouri; and Kelso,
Washington, and to urban centers including New York, Philadelphia,
and Los Angeles.


Excerpted from Lost in Shangri-La by Mitchell Zuckoff Copyright © 2011 by Mitchell Zuckoff. Excerpted by permission of HarperCollins. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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What People are saying about this

David Grann
“Mitchell Zuckoff has uncovered, and vividly reconstructed, such an astonishing tale. . . . Zuckoff skillfully builds narrative tension and deft character portraits. . . . . He has pulled off a remarkable feat — and held the reader firmly in the grip.”

Meet the Author

Mitchell Zuckoff is a professor of journalism at Boston University and the author of five previous books, including the New York Times bestseller Lost in Shangri-La, which won the Winship/PEN Award for Nonfiction. As a reporter for the Boston Globe, he was a Pulitzer Prize finalist and won the Distinguished Writing Award from the American Society of Newspaper Editors. He lives in Newton, Massachusetts.

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