Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption Summary
by Laura Hillenbrand

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

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption is a novel by Laura Hillenbrand, which details the life of Louis Zamperini.

  • The 1940 Olympic Games were canceled due to WWII. Louis, who had been training for the games, was drafted.
  • In 1943, Louis and his crew crashed in the Pacific. They were rescued by Japanese soldiers, who shipped them to a POW camp.
  • Louis remained in the POW camp for two years. When the war ended in 1945, he was taken home to the United States to recover.
  • In 1998, Louis returned to Japan to carry the Olympic torch.

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Summary

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 America officially entered the war. Louie and the other airmen were then called into duty, and Louie was sent on bomb raids. He manned his position with the Norden sight, a device that would assume the flight of the plane, calculate a target angle, and drop a bomb at the best moment. Louie flew with pilot Russell Allen Phillips, known as Phil by his fellow airmen. Phil, Louie, and the other members of their team made up crew No. 8 in the 372nd Bomb Squadron of the 307th Bomb Group, Seventh Air Force. They were given a B-24 plane, which they named Super Man. Their first mission came in December 1942—dismantle the Japanese base on Wake Atoll. The mission was successful.

As the training and missions continued, many men were lost, and Louie was dismayed by the disappearance and death of men whom he considered his friends. Airmen feared going out on the planes because the threats to their lives were many: enemy...

(The entire section is 2,169 words.)