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Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption Hardcover – November 16, 2010
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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.
From Publishers Weekly
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Top Customer Reviews
The story is that of Louie Zamperini - a track and field star of the 1930's, who participated in the Berlin olympics, was part of the US air force in WWII, was shot down over the ocean, was adrift in the Pacific for over a month, was held as a POW by the Japanese forces and finally made it back to his life and has had the courage to live it to its fullest.
Hillenbrand is a marvellous author. I was never tempted to read Seabiscuit and this was my first introduction to her work. She is one of a few authors who can write a non fiction story in the most gripping and vivid way imaginable. Instead of being flowery or overly embellished her prose relies squarely on research and on witness accounts and yet manages to never be dull. The swiftly moving story takes the reader from Zamperini's early beginnings, his swift rise to track star, the Berlin olympics and then to the World War. This is where the story really blooms. Hillenbrand settles in for the long haul here and we get to see the air force and the B24 bombers through the words of the men who actually flew them. The sequences where Zamperini and his friend Phil are adrift at sea are vivid and strangely beautifully described. The horrors that await them at the Japanese prison camps are not glossed over but neither does Hillenbrand wallow in the gore and violence as some authors may be tempted to do. There is always a strong sense of the respect the author holds for the men whose story she is being allowed to tell.Read more ›
Who is Louis Zamperini? He is a man who overcame all THAT only to be "rescued" by the wrong side -- the Japanese. He is the man who went from being a prisoner of starvation and sharks that actually leaped up and tried to snatch him out of the foundering raft to being a prisoner of Japanese guards who were every bit as predatory as the great white of the seas. He is the man who was beaten every day by a particular Japanese corporal named Mutsuhiro Watanabe, a.k.a. "the Bird." He is, in short, the Unbroken One -- the man who kept getting up, coming back, rebounding, and holding on to the tenuous thread that connected him with life and hope, past any duration that any of us could possibly imagine. And, as YOU can imagine, his story is compelling. In fact, in the capable hands of Laura Hillenbrand, author of SEABISCUIT, it reads like a thriller, a page-turner, a fictional product of a keenly talented mind -- proving once again that truth can trump fiction when it comes to stories and mankind's love of hearing them.
When you reach the end of this man's incredible journey, you will be awed by the scope of Hillenbrand's writing.Read more ›
In the first half of the book we get a detailed biography of Louis Zamperini- bad boy, then track and field star and Olympic contender. Possibly too detailed here, I admit. We then segue into WWI and Lt Zamperini's Air Corps career as a B-24 bombardier. Great stuff here, goes into fascinating detail about the B24 Liberator and the men who flew them in the Pacific. The last portion here is a harrowing tale of survival in the open seas, one of the best I have read.
Then, Louie Zamperini gets captured by the Japanese. Folks, watching Bridge on the River Kwai will not prepare you for the brutality and inhumanity of the horrors Laura Hillenbrand brings to life here. Now, this is a gripping adventure story, well told, one that is hard to put down. But I had to put this book down in a couple places here, the story was that brutally true.
A tale of unbelievable endurance, hardship and heroism. A real page turner, extremely well written and readable.
The subject of the book is Louis Zamperini, whose life would have been an interesting read even before the events during WWII. A relatively trouble child who stole everything in sight, he grows up to become one of the greatest track stars of his time, shattering the national high school record in the mile and becoming one of the youngest members of the U.S. Olympic team in 1936. Many felt that Zamperini would become the first person to break the four minute mile. With the onset of the war, he was drafted into the Army Air Force and became a bombardier assigned to the semi-unreliable B-24. After surviving a number of bombing missions against Japanese targets his plane goes down in the middle of the ocean while searching for another downed plane.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Laura Hillenbrand’s novel Unbroken is a story about Louis Zamperini, the son of two Italian immigrants. Read morePublished 4 hours ago by Jodi Gyurasics
I read a few pages of the book, was bored, saw the movie about 2 years later, then had to get the book. Read morePublished 4 hours ago by Nicole James
Everyone should read this book! I never realized that some of the Japanese POW camps were like Auschwitz and the concentration camps in Germany. Read morePublished 5 hours ago by Oregon Cowgirl
if this book doesn't get your attention in the fist chapter, I don't know what willPublished 1 day ago by eddy
Outstanding read and necessary history lesson for all to learn what the "Greatest Generation" was made of.Published 2 days ago by Tomb Guard #39
Amazing, gripping,, story of survival.. I found myself telling people snippets of the story all along as I was getting into it. You know the rest- It has been made into a movie! Read morePublished 2 days ago by Barbara Hartgerink
One of the best books I have ever read. Lara H. digs into facts and can place you right where the action is. She also wrote Sea biscuit. Another great book.Published 2 days ago by Charles Jones