In Prof. Mitchell Zuckoff’s newest book – Lost in Shangri-La – he discovers a nearly forgotten tale of a World War II-era plane crash that left three Americans stranded in an eerie, little-known part of world, surrounded by mountains and jungle.
Here, the three castaways lived alongside a New Guinean tribe, which ate the hands of their enemies and was so secluded from the rest of the world that it had not yet discovered the wheel, Zuckoff writes in The Boston Globe:
Halfway up the jungle-covered mountain, we came to a ravine spanned by a single log. The log was slick with rain-soaked moss, and a misstep would mean a plunge into jagged rocks 15 feet below. My barefoot guide scampered across and beckoned me forward.
Several thousand feet higher on the mountain was the wreck of the Gremlin Special, a US military transport plane piloted by a junior high school teacher from Medford that crashed in May 1945. Turning back would mean I wouldn’t see where 21 passengers and crew died and where two airmen and a member of the Women’s Army Corps began a quest for survival. I stood transfixed, my jaw clenched, the ripe smells of the rain forest reminding me of an overheated funeral parlor.
My journey from my home near Boston to this mountain on the island of New Guinea in early 2010 was the climax of my research into what, these days, might be the rarest find for a writer: an untold story from World War II.
- Zuckoff returns to Shangri-La
- Author Talk with Jeff Glor: A True Story of Survival (CBS News)
- Amazing Shangri-La rescue story (CNN)
- Editor’s picks for May 2011: Lost in Shangri-La (Amazon.com)
- Zuckoff visits The Daily Show
- New York Times review