Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption

by Laura Hillenbrand
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What are the major events that happen in chapters 1-5?

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The book is divided into five parts. Chapters 1 through 5 comprise Part I. They span the years from Louis Zamperini's childhood, from his birth in 1917, until the United States enters World War II after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941.

Chapter 1 opens when Louie was...

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The book is divided into five parts. Chapters 1 through 5 comprise Part I. They span the years from Louis Zamperini's childhood, from his birth in 1917, until the United States enters World War II after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941.

Chapter 1 opens when Louie was 12 and saw a zeppelin over his California home. His fascination with the airship foreshadows his future vocation as a pilot during the war. This chapter chronicles his rebellious, troubled Depression-era childhood until he decides to straighten up.

In chapter 2, in high school, Louie starts running track and winning, like his older brother Pete.

He keeps running and winning until (chapter 3) he breaks the national high-school mile record at age 17. He sets his sights and starts training madly to qualify for the 1936 Olympic U.S. track team. He made it due to a last-minute scoring change.

In Berlin (chapter 4), in the surreal, politically charged Nazi-dominated atmosphere, Louie did not medal but achieved something unexpected. Thinking that participating would help him prepare for the 1940 Olympics, he did not expect to win. In the 5,000 meters he placed 8th with a superhuman effort on the last lap, and set a new US record. He shook Hitler's hand.

Chapter 5 tells of his life as a student and runner at the University of Southern California, setting more records and looking forward to 1940. When war broke out in Europe and Asia, the Olympics were canceled. Louie joined up but washed out of pilot school; however, he was soon drafted. He was completing his pilot training in Texas when Pearl Harbor was hit.

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Chapters 1-5 of Unbroken give the necessary background of Louis Zamperini before he entered the military.  In chapter 1 there are details of his childhood and family.  He was the second of four children in his Italian immigrant family, and by far the most unruly.  As a child, he constantly dared to do things which most kids would avoid, either for fear of punishment, fear of getting hurt or killed, or from a simple lack of creativity to come up with the kind of ideas Louis thought about all day.  He was a practical jokester and thief, among other things, and because he was small for his age, instead of fighting, he most often ran from his adversaries.

In chapter 2, his older brother Pete (Louis' exact opposite in kindness, behavior, respect for authority, and desire to succeed) decides to take Louis under his wing and hone his rebellion and propensity for running into something positive.  He forces Louis to join the track team at school, then undertakes the task of personally training him into success.

As Louis begins to feel the attention and positive praise he was always seeking with bad behavior, chapter 3 outlines his very rapid ascent into running success.  He makes up his mind that he will become a world class runner.  After breaking several high school and collegiate records, Louis qualifies for the Olympic trials, and then makes the team.

Chapter 4 follows Louis to the 1936 Olympics in Germany, and Louis' first taste of the Nazi's (which wasn't altogether terrible).  Though he does not medal in these Olympics, he does far better than anyone expected him to, given his age, inexperience, and short training.  He leaves with his heart set on the 1940 games in Tokyo.

In Chapter 5, the conclusion to Part I of the book, Louis returns to finish college at USC.  He continues to run and to train, but when he hears the news of the war, the United States' participation in it, and finally, the cancellation of the 1940 Olympics, he decides to join the Air Force.  This is where Part II of the book picks up.

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