Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption is the account of Pacific prisoner of war (POW) Louis Zamperini as told to and researched by Laura Hillenbrand. The book follows Louie’s life from his birth and upbringing to his glorious career as an Olympic track star, to his time spent as a bombardier in WWII and as a Pacific POW, and through his long recovery back home in California.
Louis Silvie Zamperini, born in 1917, is the son of Anthony and Louise Zamperini. They were both Italian immigrants who settled in Torrance, California, to the distaste of neighbors who did not necessarily want an Italian family in their midst. Growing up, Louie suffered from pneumonia, which left his lungs compromised and his stature small. But as he grew into his teenage years, Louie became strong—and dangerous. Louie frequently stole and fought, and he had little ambition. His brother Pete, whom he idolized, begged the principal of their high school to allow Louie to join a sport to give him some focus. So Louie joined the track team and Pete coached him. Louie put all his effort into track and looked up to Glenn Cunningham, who (after a severe injury) was hailed as the greatest mile runner in America. Soon Louie began breaking records in races, and he took the title as the fastest high school miler in 1934 during the Southern California Track and Field Championship. Louie then set his sights on the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin.
Louie became the youngest distance runner to make the Olympic team, having qualified in a 5K trial race against some of the best in the sport. Louie was unseasoned, young, and twelve pounds heavier from having gorged himself on the trip to Europe. At the Games, he was no match for the Finnish runners; however, he put everything he had into the race and finished just shy of seventh place. He clocked in at 56 seconds for his last lap—a historic feat. As the Games in Germany came to an end, Louie could sense that something terrible was coming.
As Louie prepared for the 1940 Olympic Games, Japan and Germany began to exert power and control over other nations. The Olympic Games were cancelled, and Louie was drafted into the air corps in late 1941 to serve as a bombardier. Life in the armed forces was relatively quiet for Louie until December 1941: Louie was at the Pacific theatre when Pearl Harbor was bombed. Soon after, Japan seized many territories in the Pacific, and...
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