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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 I found it in diaries, letters and unpublished memoirs; in the memories of his family and friends, fellow Olympians, former American airmen and Japanese veterans; in forgotten papers in archives as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.
Fantastic book. I don't normally like history type books but this was fantastic. Really kept my attention.Published 15 minutes ago by Barbara
I don't read a lot of nonfiction. Nor do I read many books about World War II or wartime heroics in general. Read morePublished 16 minutes ago by J. Houston
I loved that Louie could forgive the monster who made his life so unbearable. It was hard to read about the beatings and food deprivation that our men suffered.Published 43 minutes ago by Lu Alfano
I could not stop reading. A bad true life story well told, it should be required reading in our schools.Published 1 hour ago by Donna Freeze
What the prisoners of war went through was truly horrendous. I feel like I know Louie personally. The book was so well written. A true tribute to an amazing man.Published 2 hours ago by Jeanette Rotondi
It was a book I did not want to put down. The things those men had to endure was unbelievable. I certainly did not know that all this went on. Read morePublished 2 hours ago by DEE
I thought this was a great book. It really makes you stop and think about your own life and how good you really have it.Published 3 hours ago by Daphne Siganowich
Amazing story of WWII POW experience. Heart wrenching. Makes you see life through their eyes. Hard to read certain passagesPublished 4 hours ago by kathrine thompson
Excellent book with a moving story. Far more visual than the movie. There are many messages packed in this history of an amazing hero. Read morePublished 4 hours ago by Gordon W. Director