From Goodreads: On a May afternoon in 1943, an Army Air Forces bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean and disappeared, leaving only a spray of debris and a slick of oil, gasoline, and blood. Then, on the ocean surface, a face appeared. It was that of a young lieutenant, the plane’s bombardier, who was struggling to a life raft and pulling himself aboard. So began one of the most extraordinary odysseys of the Second World War. The lieutenant’s name is Louis Zamperini. (…)
Telling an unforgettable story of a man’s journey into extremity, Unbroken is a testament to the resilience of the human mind, body, and spirit.
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If you haven’t yet read this book, put it on your list. It is great. The life of Louis Zamperini is fascinating and awe-inspiring, and Laura Hillenbrand writes about it in a way that left me almost breathless.
As a child, Louis was a mischievous prankster. It wasn’t until his older brother got him into running that he stopped getting into trouble with everyone in Torrance, CA, where he grew up. Within very little time, he became one of the best college runners in the United States, setting records that would stand for many years. When it became clear that he wasn’t quite fast enough to qualify for the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, he quickly switched to a longer distance and within two months, won enough races to get his ticket to Germany.
Back in the States after the Olympics, he put himself to training for the 1940 Games. But then World War II began, and Louis more or less accidentally signed up for what is now the Air Force. He was assigned to a B24, which was an intimidating plane known for its quirks that often made it unreliable. During a rescue mission, the plane crashed, and only three people on board survived, Louis one of them. After breaking the record for longest survival on a life raft, he and Phil, the pilot of the B24, got washed onto the Marshall Islands, which are held by Japan.
The ordeal Louis and scoreless of other POWs endured in Japanese prison camps is incredible. Louis had the misfortune to be imprisoned by a sadistic man called the Bird, who had heard of Louis’ Olympic history and who made it his personal mission to break him.
“Dignity is as essential to human life as water, food, and oxygen. The stubborn retention of it, even in the face of extreme physical hardship, can hold a man’s soul in his body long past the point at which the body should have surrendered it. The loss of it can carry a man off as surely as thirst, hunger, exposure, and asphyxiation, and with greater cruelty.”
Had the war lasted only a few weeks longer, I doubt that Louis would have survived. When he returned home, he had to battle post-traumatic stress disorder and a physical injury that made a running career impossible. Thankfully, he was able to rally after some serious struggles and went on to lead a very inspiring life.
I am glad that I read this book. In Louis Zamperini, Hillenbrand has found a very worthy subject, and she has written a gripping account of his life. My summary does not do the book justice.
This is the first book I read for my TBR Pile Challenge, and I am off to a good start.