I was so bummed when I read badkittyuno’s review last year and realized that, since it was an audiobook, I couldn’t immediately borrow Lost in Shangri-La.
“At two o’clock in the afternoon it was time to go. As the passengers lined up outside the Gremlin Special, Prossen told them to expect the tour to last three hours.”
In May of 1945 a morale-boosting plane ride crashed over an unexplored Dutch New Guinea valley servicemen called Shangri-la. Three survivors emerged from the crash: a lieutenant whose twin brother perished in the crash, a sergeant who keeps the extent of his wounds to himself and a woman whose presence in the crash caused nationwide interest. Unlike most survival stories, the survivors in Shangri-la were spotted by search & rescue planes within a few days. However, it took over a month to formulate a plan to attempt a rescue.
C. Earl Walter Jr was trying to make a name for himself, and his unit of Filipino paratroopers called the 1st Recon, when the crash happened. He was tasked with the rescue mission, including sending two medics into the valley to tend to the survivors. Zuckoff really highlights how integral these men were to the extraction of the survivors, especially since the media in 1945 overlooked their part in the story.
There is also a lot of great information about the natives of Shangri-la, who were feared to be cannibals, and how they reacted to seeing a group of white men (and a woman) for the first time.
“Fear is something I don’t think you experience unless you have a choice. If you have a choice, then you’re liable to be afraid. But without a choice, what is there to be afraid of? You just go along doing what has to be done.”
Zuckoff uses interviews from survivors, as well as natives who witnessed the crash, to give his story eye-witness accounts. He also goes through declassified documents and the diaries of Margaret Hastings & Capt. Earl Walter from their time in the jungle. Despite the immense amount of information, there is never a dull moment.
Seriously though, where is the Spielberg adaptation of this one?