20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
An amazing, gripping story of war time heroics with a study of cultures thrown in,
This review is from: Lost in Shangri-La: A True Story of Survival, Adventure, and the Most Incredible Rescue Mission of World War II (Hardcover)
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I pretty much devoured this book, reading it eagerly when I had any spare moment. I am not a big fan of war stories, but honestly, even though this book takes place during WWII, the story occurs on the island of Dutch New Guinea during a time where there isn't much fighting action going on there. It reads like a fiction book, but thanks to the plentiful authentic photos included, you are continually reminded that this was an adventure (albeit a tragic one) that numerous people went through and lived to tell about.
The book begins by introducing you to Margaret Hastings, a feisty single woman who enlisted in the WAC's and is stationed at Hollandia in Dutch New Guinea. The author gives you back history on her and several other characters who play a part in the upcoming events. You learn that while the army personnel do numerous flights over the island, they notice a large cleared area in the mountains and they see what appear to be villages. They name this area Shangri-La, but as it is well over 150 miles from the army base, no one can reach it by foot, plane or boat. The terrain is difficult and hazardous, headhunting natives are said to be in the mountains, and a large number of scattered Japanese soldiers are supposed to be hiding out in the jungle. So the army personnel can only enjoy occasional flyovers of this uncharted and unknown native habitat.
During a sightseeing trip over the island to boost morale, a large C-47 cargo plane crashes with 24 personnel on board. From that moment on you are glued to the pages of the book as you get detailed accounts of what happens afterwards. Don't think that large periods of time are filled in by the author with what he "thinks" may have happened. Due to diaries, military records, photographs, a film camera and interviews with survivors, natives and rescuers, the entire story is authenticated and true.
The author, Zuckoff, did an astounding and thorough job researching the book. The initial events occurred in 1945 and his research took him to New Guinea where he was able to see and interview some of the natives who were children when the crash first happened. I thoroughly enjoyed how at the end of the book Zuckoff wraps up what happened to many of the key figures in the book, after all it was 65 years later when he concluded his research. Even reading about what happened to the various tribes in the area was interesting, if not a little sad.
Finally, I completely recommend this book, even if you aren't a big fan of wartime stories. This is more a story of individual heroics as well as the introduction of a culture that had never seen a white man before. I can only hope they make a movie out of this book, it is that good of a story.