Louie Zamperini was a juvenile delinquent who grew up in Torrence, California. He broke into houses, eluded the police, rode the rails, and, then he learned boxing as a way of defending himself. A bit later he channeled his excess energy, by becoming a runner. He was so good that he even participated in the 1936 Berlin games. A short time after (1940) , it was wartime and Louie was drafted. He had become an Air Corp man, assigned to a B-24 bomber that was prone to crashes. Crash it did on May 27, 1943, and for nearly 47 days, Zamperini and his pilot drifted nearly 2,000 miles on an ill-equipped raft in the shark filled waters of the Pacific ocean. The were eventually captured by Japanese sailors when they were spotted as they reached the Marshall Islands.
If that experience wasn't horrible enough, he and others who were captured by the Japanese, spent the next two years facing horrific tortures while housed at various POW camps. But, Louie Zamperini's was a survivor, despite the torture, beatings, humiliation, starvation, and disease. The guards were sadistic and relentless, and seemed to take pleasure in the torture they inflicted on the POWs. When they were finally released at the end of the war, he returned home to a family who was told he was dead.
For years following his release, Zamperini suffered nightmares and flashbacks. He used alcohol to excess to try and forget the past, and with the help of his wife Cynthia, and the Rev. Billy Graham, Louie, in 1949, eventually came to terms with what he was forced to endure. It appears that Zamperini's early life experiences may have actually prepared him to survive what he was forced to endure, and to remain "unbroken". Much of his post war years has been spent as an inspirational speaker with troubled youth. He is now 93 years old.
The author, Laura Hillenbrand, author of Seabiscuit, did an amazing job with this 500 pp book. The pages just about turned themselves, as once I started reading, I was hooked. The stories of what transpired at the POW camps were very disturbing, but they needed to be told. Read as an eBook, I found the photos a pleasant treat. A memorable tribute to a man who heroic man, who endured despite the odds. RECOMMENDATION: READ this BOOK.
RATING - 5/5 stars
(review copy and eBook)