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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 I found it in diaries, letters and unpublished memoirs; in the memories of his family and friends, fellow Olympians, former American airmen and Japanese veterans; in forgotten papers in archives as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 hesitated to read this book but am glad I chose to give it a try. Extremely well written and obviously well researched. I also learned a lot in the process. Read morePublished 7 hours ago by C. Ekman
That this is a true story is remarkable and that anyone could survive and not be a raving mad man is even more remarkable. Read morePublished 10 hours ago by David Watkins
Pacific Hell. Hillenbrand is in a class by herself. Patiently, she introduces her far from perfect hero so that reader and principal have some bonding before WWII. Read morePublished 13 hours ago by J. Rodeck
This book was great. I was riveted the entire novel. What an interesting story and an intriguing man. An excellent read and highly recommended.Published 13 hours ago by Spinclassdoctor
I thought it was a very good read. It was also a good story about a detailed example of grace.Published 17 hours ago by Furryturdy
Sometimes I begin to lose interest in a book when the author hasn't done adequate research or tries to fill pages with technical dribble. Read morePublished 19 hours ago by leskelley
One of the best books I've ever read, a must read for everyone!Published 19 hours ago by Sarah C. Brakefield
Amazing story. The movie didn't do justice to the true story. Highly recommendedPublished 21 hours ago by Amazon Customer