Friday, November 11, 2011

From Torrance to Hitler: Read a Veteran's World War II Story

War hero, Olympic track star and all
around rabble-rouser Louis Zamperini has
his story chronicled in the book Unbroken
(image via
Way back when, I stumbled on an article about a WWII veteran, and his story made such an impression that months later I went digging through the internet to find out the rest of his story.

Louis Zamperini grew up in Torrance, California back when it was a population of 1,200. The wild one of his family, by eight years old Louis was smoking, stealing glasses of wine, and just about anything else he could get his hands on. This required a habit of having to, in his words, "run like mad" so it's not that much of a surprise that in high school he ended up becoming a track star.

What did astound people was that it ended up taking him to the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, where not only did Zamperini compete, he stole a German flag off the Reich Chancellery (some habits die hard I suppose).

Zamperini got to compete at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin
In World War II, he joined the Army Air Corps, and it was on a routine mission that his plane crashed in the Pacific. He ended up a prisoner of war under such extreme circumstances of torture and humiliation that even by today's standards seem incomprehensible.

Zamperini recently made an
appearance at the Mount of Olives
Church in Mission Viejo
(image via OC Register)
I've only given you the basics here, but if you're interested in reading Zamperini's story, there are a couple of books that tell his story, one he wrote himself is called Devil At My Heels: A Heroic Olympian's Astonishing Story of Survival as a Japanese POW in World War II.

More recently, Laura Hillenbrand (who wrote Seabiscuit) wrote about his life in a book called Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption. Both are available at Amazon.

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