Are you an American citizen? Are you a boy? Are you nearing your eighteenth birthday? If these apply to you, do you know what you have to sign when you become an adult? In the United States, there is a federal law stating that once a boy turns 18, he must register for the military draft. For girls, it is optional to sign up. Millions of people are forced to sign up every year, but there have only been few instances in American history where the military needed to use the draft. If drafted, men and women must endure grueling camps that get them in shape, and teach them how to be a basic soldier. Trainees need to possess a multitude of virtues such as loyalty, respect, and courage all throughout the camp and are expected be able to use them when out fighting in war. Only in a few cases is a soldier's courage tested because they usually don't face close combat. Still, it is important for soldiers to maintain virtues they learned in camps, because there is only one thing that is true about wars: You never know what will be thrown at you. A great example of an instance where soldiers didn't expect anything out of the norm to happen was in the case of the crew that flew the Gremlin Special in World War II. The crew set on a mission to explore an unknown area in the southeast island of New Guinea. It was supposed to be fun and easy, but it was the opposite…. tragic. This occurrence is detailed in Mitchell Zuckoff’s Lost in Shangri-La, a story about three survivors of a plane crash and how they displayed immense courage even when facing certain death.
As World War II was coming to an end, an American air base in the Southwest Pacific island of New Guinea located a valley of inhabited land surrounded by mountains. No modern day human had seen this area before and when first reported to US generals at the air base on the eastern half on the island, 24 servicemen and women were commissioned to gather information about the valley known as Shangri-La. The trip was presumed to be quick and easy, but in this event it was anything but a piece of cake. The team boarded a C-47 airplane named The Gremlin Special and left on May 13, 1945. The crew gathered information from previous flyovers and found out that the area was dense and populated by violent stone aged warriors who were believed to be cannibals. They didn't know much, but knew the task at hand. Everyone was excited to get away from base as well as optimistic that they would discover something new that the world hadn't seen before. As they entered the uncharted territory, the excitement and optimism that filled the servicemen and women's body slowly decreased until it became nonexistent. The pilot lost control of the plane and the Gremlin Special began losing altitude. There was no safe place to land in the valley. The plane crashed in the thick foliage of the valley and within days members back at base began to become suspicious. Their eagerness made them wonder what was taking so long. After multiple days of suspicion, search teams were finally sent out to find the squad. From the crash only three people survived, a Women's Army Corporal Margaret Hastings, Sergeant Kenneth Decker and Lieutenant John McCollom. Weak, and stuck in a vast unknown area, the three had two options, to be courageous, and find a way back to base or die and risk never being found again. This is where they remembered the virtues they learned back at camp. The three chose to move on and fight for their survival.
Margaret, Kenneth, and John lived off the water and the vegetation from the area for weeks. They were tired and weak but knew that they need to eat and drink in order to survive. As they got stronger, they slowly moved back towards base. Crossing over rivers and hills. Until they reached the mountains surrounding the valley. By that time search times were already closing in on them. They thought, in order to be found, they needed to get around the mountains and make a signal so paratroops could easily pinpoint their location. Unfortunately they were captured by one of the many tribes and they were taken to the tribes village. They're chances at survival became dim but they still had hope. A chief in the tribe didn't harm them in anyway, in fact Margaret became close friends with the chief. They were eventually found by paratroopers and were taken back to base safely. The three were shocked that they all survived but happy to be back at base. 21 people were killed in the accident, one only remembered by the number of deaths. This was truly a sad accident but at the same time it was a remarkable story of survival.
The author includes many details about the lives of the three survivors such as where they lived, previous jobs and families. As a result, the reader becomes emotionally attached to the three and pulls for them to make it out alive. The reader doesn't want to see them die under the circumstances that they went through. This book also made me think about my reality, if I am ever drafted, Do I have what it takes to serve the United States just like how Margaret, Kenneth, and John did?
I really enjoyed this book. It was sad but at the same time it gave me a strong sense of patriotism. Reading about the unfathomable conditions that the three soldiers faced and picturing their will to survive made me think of how strong the soldiers in the US military are. Also, the book the gave me pride, because now I am able to realize the strength of our milItary. When this story was heard around the world, The three survivors made America look strong.
In my lifetime, there has been a perception about the US military. People have always seen us as powerful, not because of the soldiers, but because of all of our weapons and technology. After reading this book, Margaret Hastings, Kenneth Decker’s , and John McCollum's stories reinforce that this perception is wrong. I had always agreed with that perception, but after reading this novel, the military is strong because the United States is made up of remarkable men and women who risk everything for their country they so love.
The story of Margaret Hastings, John McCollom and Kenneth Decker was truly remarkable. They displayed courage all throughout their rescue mission. They never looked down, they always had hope that they were going to be saved. Margaret, Kenneth, and John were spectacular examples of what the military looks for today. You never know what your future will hold, so will you be ready to fight if you are drafted?