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Lost in Shangri-la: A True Story of Survival, Adventure, and the Most Incredible Rescue Mission of World War II

3.84  ·  Rating details ·  36,156 Ratings  ·  2,634 Reviews
Lost in Shangri-La recounts the incredible true-life adventure of twenty-four officers and enlisted men and women who boarded a transport plane for a sightseeing trip , which became an unforgettable battle for survival when the plane crashed.

On May 13, 1945, twenty-four officers and enlisted men and women stationed on what was then Dutch New Guinea boarded a transport plan
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published April 26th 2011 by HarperCollins Publishers (NYC) (first published January 1st 2011)
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Glenn Gray I agree with David Bowman. It is an enjoyable read that could easily be managed by any reader with high school or better reading skills.

Community Reviews

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Will Byrnes
Jan 16, 2011 rated it really liked it
Mitchell Zuckoff in Papua New Guinea, next to the wreckage of the Gremlin Special - image from BU Today - photo by Buzz Maxey

I bet you watched at least some TV coverage of the rescue of Chilean miners in 2010. The whole world did. In 1945 there was comparable interest in a remarkable rescue. People followed the search and then the rescue attempts for weeks. But a few small events, like the first use of nuclear weapons and the subsequent end of the war, pushed the story out of the public eye. Wh
Jeffrey Keeten
Jul 08, 2012 rated it really liked it

"The cabin crumbled forward toward the cockpit. The walls of the fuselage collapsed as though sucked inward. Both wings ripped away. The tail section snapped off like a balsa-wood toy. Flames shot through the wreckage. Small explosions rang out like gunshots. Black smoke choked off the light. The air grew bitter with the stench of burning metal, burning leather, burning rubber, burning wires, burning oil, burning cloths, burning hair, burning flesh."

It wasn't easy getting a seat on the Gremlin
I have said it before, and I'll say it again: The jungles of the earth must be DESTROYED. *

* Before you break your fingers on your keyboard in your haste to flame me for that comment take a moment to ask yourself if I might be joking.

In the last months of World War II as America worked its way towards Japan a plane load of military personnel took off for a sightseeing tour of a remote valley in New Guinea that had been dubbed Shangri-La. Previous flights had noted tribes of natives numbering in
Nov 03, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
The story is compelling enough: a U.S. army plane crashes in a remote, inaccessible part of New Guinea killing nearly everyone on board. Three people survive, two men and a woman. Two are severely injured. They need to trek through the jungle to a clearing, so they can be spotted and rescued. Rescuers will have a tough time not only getting in, but due to the geographic problems, getting them out will be near impossible.

Did I mention that the area is inhabited by war-like Stone-Age cannibals?

Jan 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
How is this not a Hollywood epic movie? WWII Plane crash in the jungle; survivors include a beautiful, plucky, injured WAC; Stone Age lost civilization; rescue mission by paratroopers; tabloid exploitation by news media and government; impending loss of “innocence” as the modern world intrudes into “Shangri-La”. All of it true and expertly covered in the Four Star Lost in Shangri-la: A True Story of Survival, Adventure, and the Most Incredible Rescue Mission of World War IIa. Highly recommended. ...more
The only regret I have about reading Lost in Shangri-La now is that I can't put it on a library best list until December 2012. It was that good!

You'd think with all the stories written with regards to World War II that all had been told. And then along comes another and you're amazed that you never heard anything about this one. Lost in Shangri-La is such a story.

On Sunday, May 13, 1945, Colonel Peter Prossen planned a special outing for some of his staff, a flight to view a remote valley known
May 08, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, war
I read a great deal of non-fiction mostly history, military, and political science. After completing graduate school with a degree in international relation and an undergraduate degree in history. I have a set idea of how nonfiction should be written and that it must be cited and documented. When I have a book in my hand I frequently flip back and forth from the book to the citations and notes. It gives me the confidence that what is written is true and verified. So naturally, I am turned off wi ...more
Jan 25, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2012, travel, history
Shangri-La. What exactly is that?! I had always assumed that Shangri-La referred to either the all-girl pop band from the 60s, or was a generic name for seedy motels of questionable repute (ie Andrew McCarthy's very bad TV movie, The Courtyard). I was unexpectedly enlightened when I recently picked up Mitchell Zuckoff's book, Lost in Shangri-La: Escape from a Hidden World, A True Story.

Shangri-La was a fictional valley in the Himalayas created by James Hilton in his 1933 novel entitled Lost Hori
Joy D
Non-fiction written as a compelling narrative of the survivors of a plane crash in “Shangri-La” (named after the valley in the James Hilton novel Lost Horizon) in Dutch New Guinea near the end of WWII. Faced with limited food and serious injuries, not to mention the perils of the jungle, the survivors must find a way to get rescued or face travel over hundreds of miles of dense forest filled with warring natives and Japanese in hiding. Once they were discovered missing, the U.S. military had to ...more
A.L. Sowards
Here’s what I liked about this book: the author did his research and stuck to the facts. If there was snappy dialog, it was from a letter or a diary or an interview. And the characters were interesting. There were the three survivors of the crash: a beautiful, unconventional WAC; a brave leader who just lost his twin brother; a stoic guy with really awesome one-liners. And there was the young paratrooper with something to prove sent to rescue them. The author didn’t make stuff up. But unfortunat ...more
Jan 27, 2012 rated it really liked it
Lost in Shangri-La is a simple, enjoyable story about a tragic plane crash and a subsequent rescue mission. It's a little slow at the start but after initial character introductions it's a smooth read. The prose is straightforward, effective, and doesn't contain overwhelming details; just enough to engage your imagination (although at some points in the book I wished for more detail about the lives of the natives). This may not be the greatest survival story ever but it's quite an interesting ad ...more
Dec 18, 2011 rated it it was ok
Recommended to Rachel by: NPR
Shelves: non-fiction
This book is SO not what I was expecting. A plane goes down in New Guinea in WW2 and only 3 people survive and have to find a way out of the jungle surrounded by cannibals stuck in the Stone Age and perhaps rogue Japanese soldiers. Shouldn't that be exciting? It should, but this book is strangely unemotional, disconnected and boring. What tension the author tries to inject is obviously manufactured. I really wanted to like this book, but it is a strong 1 1/2 stars.
Dec 29, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2014
Smashing nonfiction story about a few plane crash survivors in WWII New Guinea and the increasingly ludicrous efforts to get them out of the hidden cannibal-infested mountain valley they landed in. It has basically nothing to do with James Hilton's Lost Horizon, the book that invented "Shangri-La"; that place was in Tibet. But with a story this terrific, all a writer has to do is stay out of its way. Zuckoff almost pulls that off, but he can't quite get his boner out of it.

Because he can't at al
Apr 09, 2013 rated it really liked it
Lost in Shangri-la tells the true story of the fatal plane crash in May, 1945 of 24 U.S. Army servicemen and WAC's on a pleasure tour of the remote New Guinean jungle with only 3 survivors. This incredible story details their encounter with the local natives, their horrific life-threatening injuries, and the dangerous conditions of the rescue mission while still adding in a bit of humor. Amazing historical read!
Jan 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley
I wasn't expecting much from this book. I had read a book similar in location and issue, "Savage Harvest" by a completely different author about Michael Rockefeller going missing many decades ago, but after the events in this book occurred. That book was rather terrible, so I didn't have much hope that this one would be any better.

I was completely, 100% wrong.

This book is AMAZING. It deals with WWII, which is my all-time favorite historical time to read about, so it rang that bell. It was abou
Jane Stewart
Too many extraneous details. Author was not good as the audiobook narrator.

This is a true story - a good story. I liked the substance of it. But I’m not sure I liked the things the author chose to put in the story. It was more like journalism than a story. I’ve read other authors who take facts and make them into an engaging story. This one needed some changes if that’s the goal. But I was very engaged during the last 2/3.

My complaints:

1. The author did too much background detail on various char
Apr 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Grab some "Color-by-color" hard candies (reds, greens, yellows, and so on), start sucking and start reading this book!
Wow--What an adventure ride. My GOD!!!

I thought I was waiting to read this book WHY???

I KNEW I wanted to read this book (the first week it was released when I just happened to be in Barnes and Noble and discover it myself 'before' hearing others talk about it)....
Why did I wait?
I had just read "Unbroken" by Laura Hillenbrand
I also read..."Even Silence Has An End" by Ingrid Beta
Saleh MoonWalker
Sep 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
Onvan : Lost in Shangri-la: A True Story of Survival, Adventure, and the Most Incredible Rescue Mission of World War II - Nevisande : Mitchell Zuckoff - ISBN : 61988340 - ISBN13 : 9780061988349 - Dar 384 Safhe - Saal e Chap : 2011
Nov 18, 2017 rated it really liked it

This is the kind of story that if it weren't true would be completely unbelievable. Zuckoff writes well, and the narrative has just the right amount of back story to flesh out a page-turning yarn.
May 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: adventure-true
If you like pork and sweet potatoes maybe you would have liked living among the New Guinea natives back in the 30s or 40s, or if you liked tropical jungles that look like paradise, you may love living in one, but you would also have to worry about jungle rot, malaria, elephantiasis, and dengue fever just to mention a few. I rather wished that I lived in the jungle, but a tame one without jungle rot…

Well, the first chapter put me in a deep funk, which was totally unexpected. All I knew about the
Jenny (Reading Envy)
(Really more 3.5 stars)

I thought I was done reading books set in New Guinea but when I was flying home the only book that sounded interesting on my iPad was this story about a plane that crashes into the Baliem Valley of New Guinea during World War 2.

I know the Baliem Valley because that is where the Dani people live, and I have read multiple books about them. They are the group Michael Rockefeller photographed before traipsing into the jungle for art, that Peter Mattheiessen wrote about in the
Jun 29, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Find this and other reviews at: http://flashlightcommentary.blogspot....

I'm not sure who decided to dub Mitchell Zuckoff's Lost in Shangri-La a thrill ride in the blurb, but I respectfully disagree with the assessment. I mean no offense, but the book put me to sleep on multiple occasions and that's not an experience I associate with heart-pounding, adrenaline inducing excitement.

To be clear, I liked the content. There's a certain novelty to the subject matter and I enjoyed digging into a story t
Nov 20, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Cheri by: Will Byrnes
Lost in Shangri-la: A True Story of Survival has been on my TBR list ever since I read I read Zuckoff’s Frozen in Time, and while the two have very different paths, there’s a commonality in their stories, somewhat similar to Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken: A World War II Book of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption.

All three stories will leave you in awe of the strength of these men and women’s spirits, their will to not only survive but especially in Lost in Shangri-La, how their spirits thrive
This is one of the most unusual stories from World War II that I have read! In 1945, a plane carrying 24 members of the U.S. military and Women's Army Air Corps crashed in a remote jungle area in Guinea. The three survivors had no food, water, or supplies. Two of them had serious injuries. The area was so inaccessible that the native tribes who were living in primitive conditions there had never seen a white person. Japanese troops also occupied much of the surrounding area. Rescue planes could ...more
Oct 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
Three people survive when a plane goes down in a very remote jungle containing natives at constant war with each other. The problem for the Americans is how to get them out when there is no landing field and the three survivors are unable to walk out because of their injuries. This was very interesting. The author gathered his facts, journals, news clippings, personal letters and assembled them into this story. Committment and good old fashioned ingenuity never ceases to amaze me when they make ...more
Mar 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Lost In Shangri-La
By Mitchell Zuckoff
Published by Harper, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers

In Lost In Shangri-La, author Mitchell Zuckoff takes readers on a sensational and extraordinary true-life journey. On May 13, 1954, a C-47 military plane called the Gremlin Special, carrying 24 service men and women on a sightseeing expedition to the fabled valley of “Shangri-La”, crashed deep in the jungle of Dutch New Guinea.

Unbelievably, three of the passengers survive: Women’s Army Corps (WAC) Cor
Rex Fuller
Jun 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
Even today, after they have been on television, the Dani and Yali people of the Beliem Valley in Western New Guinea are still primitive, unabsorbed by modern life. In 1945, they could only account for white people showing up as the beginning of the end of days described in their creation mythology.

The U.S. Army Air Force stationed on New Guinea called the valley Shangri-La when they accidentally found it and saw the neat villages and row crops laid out on the green valley floor. Being Americans,
Jan 08, 2011 rated it it was amazing
What an amazing story - a plane filled with "sightseeing" servicemen and WACs crashes in what they think is a hidden valley (except it's actually one valley over), and only three people survive. One has a severe head injury and burned buttocks, one has burned feet, hands, face and legs, and the other is seemingly unharmed. They escape the crash site, hidden in the jungle, and make it to a clearing where they meet Stone Age tribesmen who don't kill them, and after a few days are found by a search ...more
Apr 04, 2011 rated it really liked it
This is a fantastic look at one of the lost stories of World War II. Though the story garnered brief worldwide attention in 1945, the details soon were lost in the bigger picture of the Allied victory in the war. Zuckoff takes many characters and gives each one depth and detail, then weaves their stories into one epic tale. After reading the book, I feel like I know the characters. Additionally, Zuckoff paints such a vivid picture of New Guinea that it seems I have visited the exotic locale.


I expected to like this more than I did. At times very compelling, ultimately the story seemed rushed somehow, and ended on a sad note as the author detailed the lives of those involved following their return from New Guinea. The story of the natives following this incident was also quite sad.
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Mitchell Zuckoff is a professor of journalism at Boston University. He is the author of Lost in Shangri-La: A True Story of Survival, Adventure and the Most Incredible Rescue Mission of World War II. His previous books are: Robert Altman: The Oral Biography, one of's "Best Books of 2009"; Ponzi's Scheme: The True Story of a Financial Legend, a New York Times Editors' Choice book; and Ch ...more
More about Mitchell Zuckoff

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“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.” 15 likes
“fear is something i don't you experience unless you have a choice. If you have a choice, you're liable to be afraid. But without a choice, what is there to be afraid of? You just go along and do what has to be done.".,” 3 likes
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