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The Story of Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
Eight years ago, an old man told me a story that took my breath away. His name was Louie Zamperini, and from the day I first spoke to him, his almost incomprehensibly dramatic life was my obsession.
It was a horse--the subject of my first book, Seabiscuit: An American Legend--who led me to Louie. As I researched the Depression-era racehorse, I kept coming across stories about Louie, a 1930s track star who endured an amazing odyssey in World War II. I knew only a little about him then, but I couldn’t shake him from my mind. After I finished Seabiscuit, I tracked Louie down, called him and asked about his life. For the next hour, he had me transfixed.
Growing up in California in the 1920s, Louie was a hellraiser, stealing everything edible that he could carry, staging elaborate pranks, getting in fistfights, and bedeviling the local police. But as a teenager, he emerged as one of the greatest runners America had ever seen, competing at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, where he put on a sensational performance, crossed paths with Hitler, and stole a German flag right off the Reich Chancellery. He was preparing for the 1940 Olympics, and closing in on the fabled four-minute mile, when World War II began. Louie joined the Army Air Corps, becoming a bombardier. Stationed on Oahu, he survived harrowing combat, including an epic air battle that ended when his plane crash-landed, some six hundred holes in its fuselage and half the crew seriously wounded.
On a May afternoon in 1943, Louie took off on a search mission for a lost plane. Somewhere over the Pacific, the engines on his bomber failed. The plane plummeted into the sea, leaving Louie and two other men stranded on a tiny raft. Drifting for weeks and thousands of miles, they endured starvation and desperate thirst, sharks that leapt aboard the raft, trying to drag them off, a machine-gun attack from a Japanese bomber, and a typhoon with waves some forty feet high. At last, they spotted an island. As they rowed toward it, unbeknownst to them, a Japanese military boat was lurking nearby. Louie’s journey had only just begun.
That first conversation with Louie was a pivot point in my life. Fascinated by his experiences, and the mystery of how a man could overcome so much, I began a seven-year journey through his story. I found it in diaries, letters and unpublished memoirs; in the memories of his family and friends, fellow Olympians, former American airmen and Japanese veterans; in forgotten papers in archives as far-flung as Oslo and Canberra. Along the way, there were staggering surprises, and Louie’s unlikely, inspiring story came alive for me. It is a tale of daring, defiance, persistence, ingenuity, and the ferocious will of a man who refused to be broken.
The culmination of my journey is my new book, Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption. I hope you are as spellbound by Louie’s life as I am.
I read this book after reading Twelve Years a Slave, and with both books I was left with an amazingly powerful sense that determined individuals can get through absolutely... Read morePublished 5 minutes ago by s.5
Having lived through those days and all my brothers were involved made it especially interesting. Very well written and readable.Published 13 minutes ago by Sylvia Thomas
Wonderful, wonderful book. I found it emotional, educating, and convicting. I would recommend to anyone.Published 1 hour ago by Lindsey
This is an incredible story. The book sags a bit in the middle (or maybe it was just me almost growing numb to the horrific and ever escalating atrocities at the POW camps), but... Read morePublished 1 hour ago by Clark
This is a stunning true story, masterfully told. Louis Zamperini’s life – as a runner, an airman, a POW, a survivor, and a believer -- is nearly unbelievable in its extremes, yet... Read morePublished 1 hour ago by David
Great book. Lots of lessons for us to learn. My first time reading hillenbrand. Was not disappointedPublished 2 hours ago by Elizabeth B. Stewart
The book held you captive from beginning to end. The loss of lives due to accidents and lack of good equipment was enlightening. Read morePublished 2 hours ago by Mary E. Smith
One of the best books I've read in a long time. I couldn't put it down, to the point that I bought the Kindle and the Audible versions so that I wouldn't have to! Read morePublished 2 hours ago by Chris O Jordheim