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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 I found it in diaries, letters and unpublished memoirs; in the memories of his family and friends, fellow Olympians, former American airmen and Japanese veterans; in forgotten papers in archives as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.
This book describes the horror of WWII in a way I have never heard before. Though my dad was not a POW, he did not want to discuss his war experiences. Read morePublished 22 minutes ago by Kindle Customer
Well written and hard to put down.
It's hard to grasp that there are evil people still today doing such inhumane treatment to other humans. God will repay evil for evil. Read more
This is without a doubt one of the most touching books I've ever read in my life. I haven't seen the movie and it isn't likely I will because I can't imagine a movie doing justice... Read morePublished 1 hour ago by jdb
I read about the first 100 pages and had to put it down. The writing style was the worst I've ever read. it was not engaging and it read like I was drinking from a fire hose. Read morePublished 1 hour ago by Jeanie B
I really am enjoying the level of detail that the author presents in this non-fiction book. I especially like how she puts all in a historical context.Published 1 hour ago by tonydaniello
A compelling and inspirational story. Hard to fathom enduring that much privation and suffering over such an extended period, and to continue to adapt as new obstacles and... Read morePublished 2 hours ago by Ex loco parentis
loved the story but the book is hard to get into and the writing seems more like a reporter telling you information instead of drawing you in.Published 2 hours ago by mel