Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption by Laura HillenbrandI was cleaning up after the wife and I had dinner last night and there was a small amount of green beans left. There weren’t nearly enough for another serving to make them worth saving so I dumped them in the sink, but just as I was about to turn on the garbage disposal, I realized that to the POWs described in Unbroken those few green beans I was about to mulch would have been a feast they would have risked torture and beatings for. I was disgusted with myself for the rest of the night. You know the book you’re reading is hitting you hard when you feel that much shame for letting a tiny bit of food go to waste.
Louie Zamperini is one of those guys who definitely earned that Greatest Generation label. The son of Italian immigrant parents, Louie was a rebellious kid who was constantly into one form of mischief or another, but when he finally channeled his energy into running, he became a high school track star in California. Louie was so good that he made the 1936 Olympics in Berlin at the age of 19, and even though he didn’t medal, he ran one lap of a race so quickly that he electrified the crowd and even caught Hitler’s attention.
As a college runner, Louie held several national records and many thought that he’d be the man to eventually break the four minute mile. He was poised to do well in the 1940 Olympics, but then World War II cancelled the games. Louie left college and ended up in the air corps even though he was scared of planes. He became a bombardier and went to the Pacific after Pearl Harbor. Louie survived several missions, including one where their B-24 barely made it back with over 500 holes in it.
While on a search and rescue mission, Louie’s plane crashed in the ocean, and only he and two others survived. With few supplies on two tiny life rafts, they’d endure exposure, starvation, thirst and sharks.
However, after finally reaching an island and being captured by the Japanese, Louie’s hellish experience as a POW would make him miss the raft and the sharks. Starved, beaten, tortured and degraded, Louie also faces extra punishment at the hands of a brutally sadistic guard who singled him out. Louie and the other prisoners desperately try to hang on long enough for America to win the war and free them.
I didn’t care anything about race horses, but found Laura Hillenbrand’s Seabiscuit an incredibly interesting read. She’s surpassed that book here with this well researched story. Hillenbrand creates vivid descriptions of Louie’s childhood, the Berlin Olympics, the life of an air man in the Pacific, and a Japanese POW camp while also telling the stories of the people around Louie.
She also does a superior job of describing a phase of World War II that tends to get overlooked, Japanese war crimes against prisoners. The number of prisoners killed by the Japanese through starvation, beatings and forced labor are staggering, but Hillenbrand also shines a light on the Japanese policy of killing all POWs if that area was about to be invaded. Per her research, they were preparing to begin slaughtering prisoners in Japan in late August and September of 1945, but the dropping of the atomic bombs and the surrender of the emperor probably saved those POWs lives. If the war would have carried on or a conventional invasion done, then mostly likely those prisoners would have been killed.*
*(Do not take this as my personal feelings about whether nuclear weapons should have been used or not. I’m just relaying a part of the book here, and Hillenbrand makes no argument as to whether dropping the bombs was justified. She writes that many of the POWs believed that the bombings probably saved their lives and leaves it at that. And if you feel like trying to start a comment fight about it, I’m just going to delete it so don’t bother. I left my sword and shield at home today and don’t feel like battling trolls.)
Ultimately, while this is a book about people enduring incredible hardship and cruelty during war, its a hopeful book, not a depressing one. Great writing and the care that Hillenbrand took with the people and places make this compelling reading.
Louis S. Zamperini - Unbroken by author Laura Hillenbrand
Louis Zamperini, World War II hero and Olympian, dies
Zamperini competed in the Berlin Olympics and was set to compete again in the games in Tokyo, which were canceled when World War II broke out. A bombardier in the Army Air Corps, Zamperini was in a plane that went down, and when he arrived on shore in Japan 47 days later, he was taken as a prisoner of war and tortured for two years. Growing up in Torrance, California, Zamperini ran track at Torrance High School and discovered that he had a talent for long-distance running. In , Zamperini set the national high school mile record, and his time of 4 minutes and His track prowess also caught the attention of the University of Southern California, which he earned a scholarship to attend. The race ended in a dead heat between the two runners, and the finish was enough to qualify Zamperini for the Olympics in Berlin, while he was still a teenager.
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. Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Hillenbrand is herself a steely example of triumph over more than 23 years of debilitating illness. Talk about transcending obstacles. - The military told his parents he was dead, and an annual collegiate track competition named one of its races in his memory. But Zamperini was alive, and very much so.
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Unbroken is a biography of World War II hero Louis Zamperini , a former Olympic track star who survived a plane crash in the Pacific theater , spent 47 days drifting on a raft, and then survived more than two and a half years as a prisoner of war in three brutal Japanese prisoner-of-war camps. Unbroken has spent more than four years on The New York Times best seller list, including 14 weeks at number one. It is the 5th longest-running nonfiction best seller of all time. As a young boy, Louie Zamperini is a troublemaker in his hometown of Torrance, California. He steals food from neighbors and runs away. Pete, his older brother, pushes him to develop his love of running.
Louis Zamperini, an Olympic runner who as an airman during World War II crashed into the Pacific, was listed as dead and then spent 47 days adrift in a life raft before being captured by the Japanese and enduring a harsh imprisonment, died on Wednesday in Los Angeles. He was The story is to be retold in a film adaptation of the book directed by Angelina Jolie and scheduled to be released in December. Zamperini was in his early 20s and a track star at the University of Southern California when he enlisted in the Army Air Corps shortly after the United States entered the war in He was a bombardier in a B that was flying a rescue mission on May 27, , when his plane, named the Green Hornet, malfunctioned and fell into the sea. Sharing a life raft, Lieutenant Zamperini and two other crash survivors — the co-pilot, Second Lt. Russell Phillips, and the tail gunner, Sgt.