Tag Archive | Louis Zamperini

Louis Zamperini – The WWII Surviver in the book “Unbroken”

Louis Zamperini to speak at JSerra Catholic High School September 7, 2012 11am

On a May afternoon in 1943, an Army Air Forces bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean and disappeared, leaving only a spray of debris and a slick of oil, gasoline, and blood.  Then, on the ocean surface, a face appeared.  It was that of a young lieutenant, the plane’s bombardier, who was struggling to a life raft and pulling himself aboard.  So began one of the most extraordinary odyssey of the Second World War.

The lieutenant’s name was Louis Zamperini.  In boyhood, he’d been a cunning and incorrigible delinquent, breaking into houses, brawling, and fleeing his home to ride the rails.  As a teenager, he had channeled his defiance into running, discovering a prodigious talent that had carried him to the Berlin Olympics and within sight of the four-minute mile.  But when war had come, the athlete had become an airman, embarking on a journey that led to his doomed flight, a tiny raft, and a drift into the unknown.

Ahead of Zamperini lay thousands of miles of open ocean, leaping sharks, a foundering raft, thirst and starvation, enemy aircraft, and, beyond, a trial even greater.  Driven to the limits of endurance, Zamperini would answer desperation with ingenuity; suffering with hope, resolve, and humor; brutality with rebellion.  His fate, whether triumph or tragedy, would be suspended on the fraying wire of his will.

In her long-awaited new book, Laura Hillenbrand writes with the same rich and vivid narrative voice she displayed in Seabiscuit.  Telling an unforgettable story of a man’s journey into extremity, Unbroken is a testament to the resilience of the human mind, body, and spirit.

Nowhere to Run

An insane tale of WWII survival. Starring an Olympian and an ungodly number of sharks.

Unbroken, Laura Hillenbrand’s soon-to-be-blockbuster follow-up to her 2001 blockbuster, Seabiscuit, is a one-in-a-billion story saddled with the most generic title possible. It’s the platonic ideal of blandly uplifting nonfiction nomenclature. It could be about anything: Lou Gehrig, Robert Downey Jr., Gandhi’s salt march, the first paleontologist ever to discover a dinosaur egg, or classical sculptures that are not the Venus de Milo. It could be a Christian children’s book about rainbows. Even Seabiscuit, in retrospect, could have been called Unbroken. And the book’s subtitle, “A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption,” hardly helps, given that it describes 90 percent of the World War II stories ever written, at least from the “Greatest Generation” American perspective.

Once you hurdle that gooey mushball of a title, however, Unbroken turns out to be about one very specific man with an amazingly specific life story: Louis Zamperini, a track superstar from Southern California whose running career was cut short by a war experience that’s extreme even in the context of WWII.

Zamperini’s story seems designed to wrench from self-respecting critics all the blurby adjectives we normally try to avoid: It is amazing, unforgettable, gripping, harrowing, chilling, and inspiring. It sucked me in and swept me away. It kept me reading late into the night. I could not … (it really hurts me to type this) … put it … (must find the strength to resist) … down.  Continue reading