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Birmingham Bar Association Bulletin Winter 2015

Book Review Robert R. Kracke ABORIGINALS-NEW ZEALAND, AUSTRALIA & NEW GUINEA LOST IN SHANGRI-LA A True Story of Survival, Adventure, and the Most Incredible Rescue Mission in World War II by Mitchell Zuckoff | Harper Perennial, 2011, 400 pg. Last year this reviewer and his wife took a slow boat to New Zealand and Australia from San Diego. While there, we came into contact with New Zealand Maori tribal members and Australian Aboriginals and on a trip to the Canadian Rockies this year, we again came into contact with Canadian Aboriginals called First Nation, or Inuits. While on this second trip to Canada, this reviewer’s wife ran out of reading material and we visited the only book store we had come into contact with for a week at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise Resort, where she purchased a book called Lost in Shangri- La. First, the title is somewhat misleading inasmuch as Shangri-La was a fi ctional place described in the 1933 novel Lost Horizons by British author James Hilton. It was, as described by the author, “a mystical, harmonious valley,” and the term is now used to describe any permanently happy land isolated from the outside world. Lost in Shangri-La describes a true World War II occurrence concerning troops, both male and female, stationed in New Guinea at a location called Hollandia. At the end of World War II, New Guinea was called Dutch New Guinea and to put the time line into perspective, the incident described in this book took place toward the end of the war, approximately two weeks after Adolf Hitler committed suicide on April 30, 1945. In May 1945, an airplane was loaded with “sight-seeing GIs” who were going to be taken to what a military colonel described as a new Shangri-La in New Guinea. Th e fl ight began innocuously with certain soldiers being included or excluded on the fl ight depending upon rank and preferences of the brass. Th e plane crashed in the New Guinea mountainous wilds that had virtually never been penetrated by the outside world. Th ere were 20 or so people on the airplane and only 3 survived the crash in a desolate region in western New Guinea. Th e survival and rescue of these 3 Air Force personnel, 2 men and a WAC female Corporal, is what this book revolves around. All three of them had been injured with burns and/or broken bones. Th e region in which they crashed was so remote that military map makers were unaware of a large valley 150 miles southwest of Hollandia in the mountain range that crosses the island’s mid-section. After gathering their wits, the three hungry survivors realized that there were eyes observing their movements from the thick, dark jungle that surrounded them. One of the survivors was a Lieutenant who had lost his twin brother in the crash; another, an enlisted man, had been injured severely in the head; and then there was a woman, Margaret Hastings, who became the “queen of Shangri-La” as the book progresses. Mitchell Zuckoff researched this book so carefully that all of the information contained in it is non-fi ction based upon diaries, memoranda, and military records. Margaret Hastings kept her diary in old style shorthand and described her day-to-day activities while lost and found in Shangri-La. Th e Aboriginals they encountered 18 Birmingham Bar Association


Birmingham Bar Association Bulletin Winter 2015
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