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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 I found it in diaries, letters and unpublished memoirs; in the memories of his family and friends, fellow Olympians, former American airmen and Japanese veterans; in forgotten papers in archives as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.
Louis Zamperini's story is absolutely amazing and was an incredibly inspirational man.
Those men gave their all to protect our freedom, reading this will make one appreciate how much of a sacrifice that was.
This is a true story - author Laura Hillenbrand's research was impeccable - very well written - an excellent read!
Very interesting book and interesting life. I learned a lot. Glad I read it before e movie.Published 13 minutes ago by Judith A. Sparanese
What a great story of survival , indeed, it was!!! Such bravery, courage and will displayed by Louie Z. Read morePublished 15 minutes ago by pat jacklitch
Another great read from author, Laura Hillenbrand. A must read about the life an American hero of WWII. Read morePublished 28 minutes ago by Cathy Blackburn
Human spirit! How did someone go through so much and still survived? Look forward to see the movie and see how the story is presented!Published 38 minutes ago by Charlene C. Hsu
I love to read. After buying this book, I couldn't put it down. Can hardly wait for the movie. The high school here has made this book required reading. Amazing true storyPublished 39 minutes ago by Eric Hansen
This amazing true story of such horrific events--followed by the unimaginable: forgiveness--is a journey into American history that everyone should take. Read morePublished 46 minutes ago by jules
She never disappoints. She's one of my favorite authors because she's thorough, passionate, and can tell a great story.Published 52 minutes ago by Kimberly M Wilson
I did not know this was being made into a movie but with all the stuff this guy went through I can see what a great movie it must be. So very interesting and heartbreaking at timesPublished 1 hour ago by Phyllis Mahoney