I always like reading good non-fiction books and have been pleasantly surprised by the ones I have managed to get done this summer. Lost in Shangri-La by Mitchell Zuckoff was one of these books, quickly devoured over the weekend.
Zuckoff researched this little known and forgotten story. During World War II soldiers were stationed in New Guinea, an island close to Australia. In addition to the male soldiers, WACs were also stationed there. On May 13, 1945 a group on the island decided to take a sightseeing flight, looking for an area set in a valley between mountains. An indigenous settlement existed there and was a curiosity to the Americans on the island.
Instead of a pleasant plane ride, what occurred was a tragic accident resulting in the death of twenty-one of the twenty-four people on board. The remaining three survivors were injured and in need of rescue. They were also able to spend some time interacting with this native group of people. Rescue did not come quickly. The location of the accident made it impossible for a rescue plane to land. Instead supplies were airlifted in and medics were parachuted to assist them.
This was an incredible story, an amazing story of survival. Zuckoff included photographs of these people, taken during the rescue and the survivors' time on the island. I appreciated Zuckoff's introduction to the passengers on the plane, making them real people whose loss could be felt. While this story ends with the rescue of the survivors and their return home, Zuckoff also shares what occurred in their lives in later years. The one piece I would still like to have filled in is the way in which life continued for the natives on New Guinea. Is that group of people still living as they were back in the 1940s? I am always fascinated by these groups that live closed off from the rest of the world.
If you are looking for a great non-fiction read, love history, or want to learn about a little known event in World War II, this is a great selection.