Louis Zamperini dies at 97.

Louis Zamperini dies at 97.

I'm so sad, over the holiday weekend, one of my heroes died.

Mr. Zamperini, in his bomber jacket 
Sally Peterson for The Wall Street Journal

Yes, Louis Zamperini has died at 97, his family said he'd had pneumonia. I first learned about this amazing man when I read Laura Hillenbrand's biography of Louis, UNBROKEN, in 2010. It was the hardest book to read that I've ever seen. Why? Because of its beauty in recording and reporting Louis Zamperini's will to survive and to live  life to its fullest measure, in spite of and because of the horrendous, degrading and unspeakable tortures this man suffered because he was an American prisoner of war in Japan during WWII.  Laura Hillenbrand wrote a beautifully honest book about one man's struggles to overcome and to survive.

Thank you Louis, for living life,  for reclaiming your life and for being such an inspiration to us all.

Here's my original review of UNBROKEN, the book about Louis Zamperini here and I've pasted it in below.  This was written in December, 2010.

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

By Laura Hillenbrand

On June 23, 1943 three American soldiers had been drifting in the Pacific Ocean for twenty seven days. The rafts were deteriorating, their bodies were covered in salt sores, and they didn’t know it at the time, but there would be another twenty days of drifting ahead for them. Only two of the three would survive.  One of them was former Olympic runner Louis Zamperini whose life would never be the same. 

Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken is an amazing study in resilience, defiance and strength that takes you on the journey of one man’s lifetime. Zamperini was an incorrigible child, a natural runner, and a man who would not be broken. He survived unspeakable torture and deprivation at the hands of his Japanese captors only to find himself being tortured by his memories after returning home at the end of the war.

Being over taken with the reoccurring tortures that resided in his mind, Zamperini turned to alcohol. He reclaimed his life after hearing an inspiring speaker in a tent on a street corner in Los Angeles. That speaker was Billy Graham.  Graham taught him about total forgiveness. It was then and there that Louie was able to release the hatred and take hold of his own life and destiny.

Laura Hillenbrand, author of Seabiscuit, brought the story of depression era wonder horse to us all. Now she brings us the story of Louis Zamperini, who as of this writing is ninety-three years old and residing in Los Angeles.  Hillenbrand said that she came across an article about Louis Zamperini while doing research for Seabiscuit and set it aside.  I’m glad she went back to Zamperini’s story. In one of her countless interviews with Mr. Zamperini spanning seven years, he assured Hillenbrand that “I’ll be an easier subject than Seabiscuit, because I can talk.”   Although Unbroken is over 450 pages in length, but there’s never a dull or lagging moment, just the opposite. The story flows quickly and the suspense keeps you turning the pages. 

Zamperini’s struggle to reclaim his life is beautifully told by Hillenbrand. In Unbroken, Hillenbrand captures the spark of a man determined to survive what he had to and to come out the winner he’d always been.

Wall Street Journal photo found here.

You can read the NY TIMES article about Louis Zamperini here.
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