Unbroken is a mind-blowing epic true story of one man's personal heroism and perseverance. If you have read Seabiscuit then you know how Laura Hillenbrand can weave an amazing story of survival and redemption in the midst of WWII. The book itself has been on the Amazon bestseller list for weeks and enjoys rave reviews.
|Louie (left) and his brother Pete (right)|
The son if Italian immigrants, Louis Silvie Zamperini was born in 1917 in Torrance, California. He was a wild and unruly child, always getting into all kinds of trouble, breaking into homes, and no one, not even his own parents could control him. It was not until he was 14 did someone finally manage to channel his energies into something that he would find meaningful enough to give him a goal in life, and that was running, which his brother Pete introduced him to. As soon as his legs hit the tracks and learned to run, he began breaking records, including collegiate, state and finally national for the mile. At 19 he muddled his way into the US Olympic team for the wrong event, the 5,000m, at the very last opportunity, and within days was on a steamer heading for the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Through it all he remained cheerful and charismatic. In the finals, he came eighth, shook hands with Hitler, and went home determined to win Olympic gold for the mile in 1940. No one doubted it was possible, and he knew he could be the first, as many experts agreed, to break the four-minute barrier.
|The B-24 Liberator, the bomber plane model |
that Louis became a crew of. Their plane crashed
in the Pacific during one of there missions
What happens next is Louis' terrific ordeal as a prisoner of war that extended for over 3 years in Japanese prison camps, where the living conditions were anything but humane. POWs were beaten and humiliated almost on a daily basis, made to live on broth and gruel alone, were not allowed baths, made to sleep in cramped vermin-infested prison cells, and left to be ravaged by disease. One particular warden Mutsuhiro Watanabe or 'The Bird' singled out Louis and was determined to make his life a living hell. By then Louis' life hung by thread.
When the war ended Louis was finally able to come home, but he was far from saved. Memories of the war still haunted him and in many ways the war was still not over for him. Watanabe had been declared a war criminal and was hunted by the authorities but was never found. An overwhelming need for revenge engulfed Louis. It was not until he discovered an evangelist did he finally find peace, and was able to finally forgive his captors, even "The Bird." I have not read other books on WWII but what I thought made this book special was how in the end Louis was able to find truth and forgiveness despite his extraordinary ordeal. While most prisoners of war come home broken for the rest of their lives, Louis remains to be cheerful, charismatic and most of all, UNBROKEN. Let his story of redemption serve as an inspiration to us all.
|Louis Zamperini, 94, lights the torch |
he carried at the 1994 Olympics