About Lost in Shangri-La: A True Story of Survival, Adventure, and the Most Incredible Rescue Mission of World War II
• Hardcover: 400 pages
• Publisher: Harper (April 26, 2011)
“Zuckoff delivers a remarkable survival story….Polished, fast-paced and immensely readable—ready for the big screen.”
— Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“LOST IN SHANGRI-LA is a riveting work of narrative history and a thrilling journey to the beginning of time.”
— James L. Swanson, New York Times bestselling author of Manhunt
“A lost world, man-eating tribesmen, lush and impenetrable jungles, stranded American fliers (one of them a dame with great gams, for heaven’s sake), a startling rescue mission. And then, an unread diary and a single survivor living quietly half a century later in Oregon, still remembered by the jungle-men of New Guinea. This is a true story made in heaven for a writer as talented as Mitchell Zuckoff. Whew—what an utterly compelling and deeply satisfying read!”
— Simon Winchester
On May 13, 1945, twenty-four officers and enlisted men and women stationed on what was then Dutch New Guinea boarded a transport plane named the Gremlin Special for a sightseeing trip over “Shangri-La.” A beautiful and mysterious valley surrounded by steep, jagged mountain peaks deep within the island’s uncharted jungle, this hidden retreat was named after the fabled paradise in the bestselling novel Lost Horizon. But unlike the peaceful Tibetan monks of James Hilton’s book, this Shangri-La was the home of Stone Age warriors—spear-carrying tribesmen rumored to be headhunters and cannibals.
But the pleasure tour became an unforgettable battle for survival when the plane crashed. Miraculously, three passengers survived—WAC Corporal Margaret Hastings, Lieutenant John McCollom, and Sergeant Kenneth Decker. Margaret, barefoot and burned, had no choice but to wear her dead best friend’s shoes. McCollom, grieving the death of his twin brother also aboard the Gremlin Special, masked his grief with stoicism. Decker, too, was severely burned and suffered a bloody, gaping head wound.
Emotionally devastated, badly injured, and vulnerable to disease, parasites, and poisonous snakes in the wet jungle climate, the trio faced certain death unless they left the wreckage. Caught between man-eating headhunters and the enemy Japanese, with nothing to sustain them but a handful of candy and their own fortitude, they endured a harrowing trek down the mountainside—an exhausting 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 personal interviews, declassified Army documents, personal photos and mementos, a daily journal kept between the crash and the rescue effort, 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 foliage to find help; how a brave band of Filipino-American paratroopers, led by a dogged captain, risked their own lives to save the survivors; how the Americans would be protected by and eventually befriend a noble native chief and his people; and how a cowboy colonel was willing to risk a previously untried rescue mission to get them out.
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.
Mitchell Zuckoff’s honors include the 2000 Distinguished Writing Award from the American Society of Newspaper Editors. His book Choosing Naia: A Family’s Journey was a Boston Globe bestseller and won the Christopher Award.
Mitchell’s Tour Stops
Tuesday, April 26th: Acting Balanced
Tuesday, April 26th: Silver’s Reviews
Wednesday, April 27th: Wordsmithonia
Thursday, April 28th: Man of La Book
Monday, May 2nd: The Lost Entwife
Tuesday, May 3rd: Chaotic Compendiums
Wednesday, May 4th: Dreaming About Other Worlds
Monday, May 9th: Reading Lark
Wednesday, May 11th: Life is Short. Read Fast.
Thursday, May 12th: Wandering Thoughts of a Scientific Housewife
Wednesday, May 18th: The Serpentine Library
Thursday, May 19th: Among Stories
Monday, May 23rd: Sarah Reads Too Much
Tuesday, May 24th: Layers of Thought
Thursday, May 26th: My Reading Room
Friday, May 27th: Chocolate & Croissants
Wednesday, June 15th: A Blog About History