Lost in Shangri-La Book Review

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

By Mitchell Zuckoff

Hardcover in dustjacket, 384 pages, bibliography, notes, and index

Published by Harper Collins, 2011

Language: English

ISBN-13: 978-0-06-198834-9

Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.4 x 9.3 inches

In the central mountains of Dutch New Guinea lies a valley, cut off from the outside world by mountainous terrain and jungle.  In the valley thousands of people lived in isolation, a stone-age society with their own unique culture and traditions.  The area was uncharted and did not show up on any of the maps of the time.  During WWII the USAAF became aware of the valley and its people while searching for areas suitable for constructing new airfields.  The reconnaissance flights were tricky, requiring the aircraft to fly through passes in the mountains before dropping into the valley, often through clouds and shifting winds.

By May 1945 the war had moved on and New Guinea had become a backwater.  Japanese troops who remained on the island were disorganized and avoided contact with the Americans.  Likewise, Allied troops avoided the cannibalistic tribes which inhabited other parts of the island.  To break the boredom, additional personnel began tagging along on the reconnaissance flights to the newly-discovered valley, eager to see its natural beauty and the villages scattered throughout.  Little was known about the people there, so imagination filled in the gaps and soon the inhabitants became seven-foot-tall cannibals, the valley’s natural beauty causing it to be called Shangri-La.  As the stories spread, the local command began organizing sight-seeing flights for personnel.

On 13MAY45 a C-47 transport named the Gremlin Special failed to clear a ridge and crashed in the valley.  Of the twenty-four people on board only three survived – Lt. John McCollom, who lost his twin brother in the crash; Sgt. Ken Decker; and WAC Corporal Margaret Hastings.  Both Decker and Hastings were injured.

This is an excellent story and author Mitchell Zuckoff does an outstanding job telling it.  The rescue effort was considerable and involved air drops of various supplies and a small unit of Filipino-American paratroopers to assist.  Only after the paratroopers were inserted was the question of how to get everyone out addressed.  I was surprised to see the perspective of the local tribesmen included.  Their society and culture has since been studied by anthropologists and Zuckoff flew to New Guinea to conduct interviews with those who witnessed the events as children.  This is a fast read which I can recommend without hesitation, both as an adventure story and to those interested in military history.

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Airfix Douglas C-47 Skytrain in 1/72 Scale

This is the new mold Airfix C-47A in 1/72 scale.  It is a fine kit in all respects, it builds up quickly and with no surprises.  The interior is perfectly adequate, very little can be seen in any case and I would advise against adding additional detail as the effort will be wasted.  I did add ignition wiring to the engines as these can be seen, and I replaced the kit wheels with aftermarket resin which offered a small improvement.  I added brake lines from wire, and Uschi antenna lines.  Kit decals were used, and represent “Kilroy is Here” of the 92nd Troop Carrier Squadron / 439th Troop Carrier Group operating from Devon, England for the Normandy landings.  The invasion stripes showed through the fuselage insignia so those were doubled up with spares from the decal stash.  A nice kit overall, one which can be recommended without reservation.

Build thread here:  https://inchhighguy.wordpress.com/?s=airfix+douglas+c-47

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Airfix Douglas C-47 Skytrain Build in 1/72 Scale Part III

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The first step in painting for me is a coat of Mr. Surfacer 1000.  This is a final check for seams and other construction errors – anything amiss is sanded back and re-primed.  Even at this stage everything is applied in the direction of airflow, that way any variation in the finish is a contribution to the final weathering instead of a flaw.
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The iconic image of the C-47 is dropping paratroopers behind the Normandy beaches, so invasion stripes are in order.  White was applied first then masked, then black and more masking.  Both the white and black were toned down a bit, the pure colors are just too stark when applied to a model.
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The aircraft I’m modeling had Medium Green 42 disruptive patches on the wings and tail surfaces, these were masked off with poster putty.
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Next the basic camouflage of Olive Drab over Neutral Gray was applied using Mr. Color paints.  Both of these colors were darkened, then lighter mixes were applied to vary the tone.  The control surfaces were then masked off and shot with Olive Drab lightened with Light Gray and Orange to simulate the fading seen on the canvas material.
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All masks are removed revealing the basic finish.
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Next the de-icer boots are masked off and painted using Mr. Color Tire color.  The entire model then was sprayed with a layer of Glosscoat in preparation for weathering and decals.
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I had intended to model this C-47 of the 98th Troop Carrier Squadron at Devon, and had purchased the Xtradecal sheet for this aircraft.  Unfortunately, Xtradecal missed the chalked number “1” seen between the cargo door and the invasion stripes so I had to use the kit decals.
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The kit decals are for the well-known “Kilroy is Here” C-47 of the 92nd Troop Carrier Squadron.  The older Italeri C-47 also had a boxing with these markings.  The Airfix decals worked well and include all the stenciling, the only flaw is the white is a little transparent so the invasion stripes show through the national insignia on the fuselage.  I doubled those up with spares from the decal stash and all was well.
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Panel lines were enhanced with Tamiya Panel Line Accent Color, black for the panel lines and brown to simulate oil leaks from the radial engines (which always seem to leak).  The excess was wiped off in the direction of airflow, so any streaking is a feature, not a flaw!
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After all the fiddly bits are attached the model is sealed with Testors Dullcoat and rigged with Uschi elastic line.  Overall a rather straight-forward build with no surprises.  Now if only I can find a set of those EDO floats …

Airfix Douglas C-47 Skytrain Build in 1/72 Scale Part II

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Airfix has made some interesting engineering choices with this kit.  The wing center section spans across the underside of the fuselage.  The wing spar sits on top of this piece, and forms the back of the wheelwells and the wing leading edge landing lights.  Should be no problem getting the dihedral tight on this one!
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The wing panels fit nicely, just follow the build sequence in the instructions.  The after part of the wing fillet is molded as a separate piece which is unusual, but this fit well and caused no issues.
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The engines are nicely molded.  You could invest in some aftermarket engines but they are not required to get a good build.
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I did add ignition wires to mine, a simple improvement which improves the detail.  The wires are made from very fine copper electronics wire.  These were folded in half and superglued into holes drilled behind the harness ring.
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Painting propellers can be a pain.  Most U.S. propellers have yellow tips and a polished hub.  I painted these first and protected the tips with masking tape.  The hub is a bit more difficult to mask, so I made a slotted piece of card to slip over the blades to protect the hub from overspray.  Airfix provides both broad and narrow prop styles so there is a set for the spares box.  While I was at it I painted up both sets so future me will have a little less to do next time.
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All the transparencies are installed and protected with Eduard masks.  I then sprayed Mr. Surfacer 500 to check seams.  The kit really assembles quickly and with no drama.  After this is smoothed she’ll be ready to prime.

Airfix Douglas C-47 Skytrain Build in 1/72 Scale Part I

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I’ve always had a soft spot for the C-47, it’s one of those designs where they got it right.  They were flying long before I was born, and they’ll still be at it long after I’ve gone.  When Airfix released their new C-47 I couldn’t resist.
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Airfix provides a nice interior, the real aircraft was not that busy inside and you won’t be able to see much of it anyway.  If you leave the crew access door open some of this would be visible.
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The fuselage is basically empty – just like it should be.  The jump seats are optional and are molded as separate pieces.  The cargo doors and crew access door are also molded as separate pieces, posing the cargo doors open would reveal the fuselage interior pretty well for those wanting to do so.
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I painted the interior Dull Dark Green (FS 34092).  Seatbelts are made from masking tape.  There is a decal for the instrument panel, but I doubt it will be visible once the fuselage is closed up.  I put mine in anyway because I had it, but I wouldn’t invest in an aftermarket panel.
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I washed the interior with acrylic black and drybrushed the raised detail with silver.  The cargo bay floor is natural aluminum.  For those wanting something different, there is ample photographic evidence that many C-47 interiors were painted a color resembling RAF Sky.

Douglas C-47C Skytrain Floatplane Color Photographs

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During the Second World War a small number of C-47 Skytrain transports were converted to amphibians  by installing two large floats.  The floats were constructed by the EDO Corporation of College Park, New York.  The amphibious Skytrains were intended for medical rescue work and supply of Pacific Island outposts.
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EDO constructed a total of 33 sets of floats and Douglas manufactured approximately 50 airframes with the floatplane conversion hardware installed.  11 airframes were fitted with floats, making them the largest floatplanes ever built.
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Serial numbers known to have been converted are 42‑5671, 41‑18582, 42-92577, 42‑92699 and 42-108868.
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The floats were 42 feet long and were divided into fourteen compartments.  The floats each contained a 325 gallon fuel tank.  The aircraft was fully amphibious and could operate from either land or water.  The floats contained a fully retractable nosewheel and a semi-retractable mainwheel and the float step.
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42‑5671 was used for the initial test program and is the most photographed of the C-47C floatplanes.  It crashed into Jamaica Bay, NY on 13NOV43 during load tests and was written off.
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The floatplanes operated as far North as Alaska and as far South as Australia.  In model form the C-47C has been kitted in 1/144 scale by Minicraft.  Resin conversion sets have been produced in 1/72 scale but are currently unavailable.  An unusual subject for modelers lucky enough to locate a set!
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One amphibian was operated in civilian livery by Folsom Aviation.  This is an ex-USAAF C-53D, serial 42-68834, and was converted by her civilian owners to a floatplane using a set of surplus EDO floats.  The struts are not standard, they were made from Aluminum tubing compressed into oval sections.  Her FAA certificate is Experimental, not authorized as a commercial transport for passenger service.  The floats were removed for repairs in 2008, the aircraft has since been returned to a standard wheeled configuration.
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Surprisingly, there is color video footage of the EDO floats leaving the factory and the XC-47C test flights.  Screen captures are below, a link to the video is here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=1&v=g_8ccwoVZTc

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