Lost in Shangri-la – a review

“Peering down from the cockpit windows, Elsmore and Grimes saw several hundred small, clearly defined native villages. Surrounding the native compounds were carefully tended gardens, with primitive but effective irrigation systems, including dams and ditches.”

“Crops were in full growth everywhere and, unlike the scene in most topic lands, the fields were literally alive with men, women, and children, all hard at work.”

“they called it Shangri-La.”

Describing New Guinea’s Happy Valley

The Story

On a reconnisence flight to find a new landing strip in New Guinea during WW II, a young Amerian pilot discovered a fertile valley, populated with hundreds of natives. The valley was hidden deep within a mountain range and deemed inaccessible for aircraft. It was also believed that any natives would be cannibals and headhunters. It was originally called Hidden Valley and became a “fly-over” attraction to relieve the stresses of war. Two war correspondents later named it Shangri-La, taking the name from James Hilton’s novel, Lost Horizon.

On Sunday, May 13, 1945 a “navigational training” mission left on a sight-seeing joyride for the valley. Twenty-four members of the military were onboard; 9 were WAC’s. It was expected to be a 3-hour flight. It never returned, Only 2 men and 1 woman survived the crash.

Having crashed into a dense mountain range, the 3 survives needed to find an opening where they could be spotted.

Lost in Shangri-La is the true story of 3 people’s fight for survival and a nearly impossible rescue mission. Their “joyride” ended with their rescue on June 28, 1943.

About the Author

Mitchell Zuckoff is a professor of journalism at Boston University and a former special projects reporter for the “Boston Globe” where he was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in investigative reporting.

Zuckoff stumbled upon this story while investigating another project. He set it aside but did not forget it. Sometime later he returned to it. His research, interviews and trip to the valley are Lost in Shangri-La.

My Thoughts

Authors like Tom Clancy or Clive Cussler could not have written a better fiction novel. The difference is, this one is true! The depth and breadth of Zuckoff’s research proves why he is an award winning investigative reporter. His writing brought all this reader’s emotions to the surface, leaving me feeling drained yet exilerated at the end.

Zuckoff’s book was originally published in 2011. I picked it up from a Bag Sale at the local library recently and had never heard of it but thought it sounded interesting. That is an understatement, it is a definite 5+ stars. Highly recommend.