Lost in the Pacific, 1942 tells the incredible story of a plane crash at sea during World War II. Eight men float for weeks in three tiny rafts. Will they all survive?
- Reread the first page of the prologue. What emotions and expectations does the initial page of the story create in the reader? Why do you think that the author chose to begin this tale of survival with a scene well into the airmen’s journey?
- A collection of photographs of the castaways follows the table of contents. The photo of Eddie Rickenbacker describes him as “the VIP.” Why was Rickenbacker so highly regarded? What other information about Rickenbacker’s life outside of the military added to his VIP status?
- Franklin Roosevelt declared December 7, 1941, as a “date that will live in infamy.” Why is this date significant and how did the president’s declaration alter the lives of the American people?
- Why was Rickenbacker assigned to visit the war zone in the Pacific? Why was it considered important for the Allies to keep the supply route between Australia and the United States open? Refer to the map on pages 26–27 for details.
- Captain Cherry, his crew, and the passengers began to realize that they had missed Canton Island — their destination for refueling. The reality of their miscalculation caused the airmen to scramble for ways to locate their position. What are some of the strategies the airmen used to locate land or to least notify others that the crew was lost?
- Plan B came into play when all of the crew’s other strategies failed. What was Plan B and how did the airmen prepare for the drastic measure they had to take in order to survive? How did the airmen’s choices and instincts shape what happened in the handful of minutes after the plane landed in the Pacific?
- Once in the three life rafts, the men faced other challenges to their survival. What did Jim Whittaker notice in the water surrounding the life rafts? What dangers accompanied Whittaker’s observation?
- In the chaos surrounding the crew landing the plane in the ocean, many important items did not make it off the plane with the crew. What were the important things left behind and what items were salvaged by crew members and brought to the life rafts?
- Rickenbacker tried to seize command of the airmen stranded at sea in the life rafts. What directions and incentives did he give the men to help them all survive at sea? How did the other men react to Rickenbacker’s leadership style? Do you think Rickenbacker helped the men to survive, or not?
- What conflict did the men experience on the rafts? How did their disagreements affect their survival?
- As the men drifted in the vast Pacific Ocean, they wondered if their families knew what had happened and how they were reacting to the men’s disappearance. How did Rickenbacker’s wife, Adelaide, and the families of the other men cope with the uncertainty of their loved ones’ fate?
- The men faced severe physical challenges while stranded at sea. They were surrounded by water but dehydrated. They were surrounded by fish yet they were starving. What happened to the men’s health as the days became weeks at sea? How did the men try to solve the problem of their thirst and hunger?
- Surviving a plane crash at sea and drifting for weeks without basic supplies makes for a profound experience. Each man interpreted this life-changing experience in his own way. How did each of the surviving airmen make sense of the tragedy at sea after being rescued?
- In your opinion, what are the lessons that could be learned from this tale of survival during WWII? Think beyond the strategies for survival and focus on the moral and emotional lessons that were exemplified by the men adrift in the three life rafts.