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on February 13, 2012
I had read Unbroken first, then received Devil At My Heals as a gift on my IPAD. I decided to go ahead and read this version and was struck by how the first half of both books were basically identical, though more "first person experiences" with Devil than Unbroken. What became more striking with Devil is that the experience in war as a prisoner was really just prologue for his ultimate life's work which was his service to God. You do not get that sense with the Unbroken version. He never claimed to be a hero, claiming rather to be a survivor who got a lot of press. His tale of survival was amazing and his commitment to God after his post war trauma is equally admirable as his ability to survive the war. I would recommend the Devil version over the Unbroken version because it seemed more of a personal story as opposed to just a survival story.
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on April 4, 2016
Devil at My Heels reveals the remarkably candid autobiography of Louis Zamperini. Although reared in a loving family, Zamperini was a clever, streetwise delinquent. He escaped the streets of Torrance, California, unscathed during his youth for the love of ‘running.’ During his teen years, Zamperini’s older brother, Pete, cultivated his running skills. However, Zamperini learned accountability and leadership in sports.

Zamperini’s became so adept at running that he not only beat out other high school athletes, but older, seasoned athletes as well. In 1936, he competed in the Olympics in Germany; however, he came in eighth.

After the Olympics, he attended the University of Southern California where he set national collegiate records. But in 1941, he enlisted in the Army’s Air Corp, was appointed a Lieutenant, and stationed in the Pacific Islands.

In 1943, while scouting for a missing airplane, his plane crashed into the ocean with 11 crewmen on board. Three survived. Zamperini and two other men drifted in the Pacific Ocean for 47 days.

I believe Zamperini had developed his survival skills, not only from his streetwise adolescence, but his love of running. Sports had been the reversal from a tough-hardened, troublesome youth, you would believe incorrigible, to a resilient, dedicated, focused young man. While adrift at sea, Zamperini remained levelheaded, caring for his wounded friend, Phil, while the other man, Mac, panicked. Several times, Zamperini had to slap Mac during his hysterical outbursts. Mac gobbled down all the fortified chocolate, sabotaging the trio’s effort to have rations. Meanwhile, the Army listed Zamperini and crew as dead at sea.

Zamperini caught birds that perched on their raft, and fish and small sharks for them to eat. In the meantime, he used psychology to keep the men buoyant. He promised God he would serve him if he ever returned home alive.

The Japanese Navy rescued them on their forty-seventh day at sea, near the Solomon Islands. Only Zamperini and Phil survived. Mac had succumbed at sea two weeks prior.

Gaunt-like and weakened, Zamperini and Phil were separated once they reached their destination. As prisoners of war, the men, Australians and Americans, were sadistically beaten by their captors. One leader, in particular, Watanabe, singled out Zamperini, brutally beating him almost daily. Yet, a toughened Zamperini remained positive and motivated in the face of difficulties.

The war ended in August 1945. At that time, Zamperini was filled with hatred and rage. He wanted to wreak vengeance on Watanabe. Watanabe had escaped the camp before the POWs were freed.

Zamperini received a hero’s welcome when he finally returned to the United States. In 1946, after a two to three month courtship, he married Cynthia Applewhite, became financially adroit in real estate and then lost all of his money with a quick get rich swindler.

Like numerous veterans returning from the war, Zamperini developed an addiction. His alcohol dependency almost destroyed his marriage, because of his partying and drinking.

The couple lived in a small, cramped apartment with their infant daughter. He had forgotten his promise to God, dedicating his life to Him.

Cynthia began to attend tent revivals with Reverend Billy Graham. After the war, Zamperini no longer believed in church and had forbidden Cynthia to attend. Although a loving and dutiful wife, Cynthia decided to attend church without Zamperini’s permission. She began to coax him to attend too. The first time he attended, he walked out. The second time, Zamperini appeared, he became a member and was given a book with the Gospel of John.

Zamperini converted, devoted his life to God; he ceased partying and drinking, and prayed for strength to forgive his wartime captors.

Zamperini became a sought after speaker on the lecture circuit for the church, as well as other organizations, earning enough money to care for his family. Eventually, he returned to Japan as a guest speaker. After listening to Zamperini speak, several audience members became Christian disciples. He visited the prison where numerous known prison guards were detained. He forgave them. Watanabe was not amongst them. Later with Bob Simon from Sixty Minutes, he discovered Watanabe had lived in the mountains during the siege of Japan.

Zamperini had suffered nightmares, alcoholism, and almost the loss of his family from the war. He frequently dreamt of Watanabe. When Zamperini saw Watanabe face-to-face five years later, he forgave him.

Zamperini developed a camp for trouble youth in the Sierras Mountains of California.

This book concerns the author’s reckless prepubescent life, his transformation as an outstanding runner in high school, an Olympian in 1936, lieutenant promoted to Captain in the U. S. Army Air Corp, a POW in Japan, where fortitude enabled him to bear adversity with courage.

After the war, he addressed his downward spiral of alcoholism, becoming reformed, and devoted his life to Christ.

This is an outstanding book for families to realize how war deprives you of a complete person when your loved one returns home, and how love, fervent perseverance in prayer, understanding and psychological help is the breakthrough.

The book also reveals how Zamperini, pivoted from being a troubled youth to sports, which boosted his morale, built a relationship with peers, instilled confidence, leadership qualities, and the ability to be socially interactive.

I gave this book four stars.
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on April 17, 2015
Despite all the hoopla about the movie and the heralded book "Unbroken;" this book is by far more honest, riveting and soulful. Since I had already Read :Unbroken" and Seen the movie, I was reluctant to read Louie's personal account of his amazing life. I am so gratified I did. The book is fast-paced and a real page-turner. His exploits, sufferings and victories are both uplifting and heart wrenching. The movie and other book missed the point entirely- Louie's descent into his darkest hour of resentment, anger and- self pity over his treatment by his Japanese captors; and his recovery to complete forgiveness and fruitful living after his encounter with a young Billy Graham. What a great story!
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on July 9, 2015
After reading Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand and watching the movie by the same name, I just had to get a copy of Devil at My Heels and get 'the rest of the story' from Louie Zamperini himself. As many reviewers have already stated, Devil at My Heels shares many accounts similar to Unbroken. Of course Unbroken is a more professionally written book, from a third person perspective and is more descriptive and broader in scope. This book, Devil at My Heels is more of a personal, firsthand account of his life and is a great read on its own.

I like the fact that Louie shares insights of why he acted the way he did and what his motivations were. He let's the reader into his world and gives us a sense of what type of man he really is, the good, the bad, and ugly. Devil at My Heels does a great job of sharing details surrounding Louie's conversion and how it made a significant change in his life's motivations and goals after that fateful encounter with Billy Graham. Excellent book and great companion to the Unbroken movie and book.
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on March 20, 2016
My favorite book and my favorite movie! So inspiring, and makes me feel fortunate -- and a little guilty -- that I've had such an easy life. I believe his life was spared so many times because God had a special plan for him. But I don't mean to belittle the fact that his survival was mainly due to his own strength, courage, survival skills, athletic training, and sharp mind. I would never have survived half of what he went through. In the last several decades of his life, he helped and inspired so many people; it's just too bad that he had to suffer so much to get there. Even though he lived to the age of 97, I don't know how he fit it all in! I wish I could have had the privilege of meeting him in person.
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on July 21, 2012
I chose to read this auto biography by Louis Zamperini first, before I read Unbroken, the same story written by Laura Hildebrand. I am glad I read it. The author's own wartime situations made me understand my uncle's post WWII behavior, having also been a POW of the Japanese. It amazes me that Mr Zamperini even survived his multiple life-ordeals and was then, through his relationship with God, able to forgive so many and for so much. This book is an eye opener to the casual student of WWII and has become required reading in some high schools. It is also a reality check for those who think they have insurmountable circumstances...and a testament for those who have faith. I am donating my copy to my son's high school library and hope the kids wear it out from use.
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on February 6, 2015
This is an outstanding story of insurmountable events that were concquered by human spirit. The sheer will to survive. It's also the story of finding the only answer to solve Louis' Drinking, Womanizing, UNforgiveness, & Hatred for those who wronged him. Once Billy Graham appeared with a Godly message of forgiveness and surrender of one's own will to the creator, this allowed Louis to overcome circumstance that would otherwise not be solved without reaching for a higher power. I realize this is a hard pill to swallow for those who reject such notions. HOWEVER, DO NOT AVOID THIS BOOK BECAUSE OF THE LATER RELIGIOUS ASPECTS, AS IT WILL NOT DISAPPOINT YOU. * * * * UPDATE 4/25/15 * * * * tonight I finish the last 5 or 6 pages. This book is better than when I left the earlier review. It's surprisingly honest. I find myself absorbed with this book and hours pass by AND I AM NOT AN AVID READER TYPE. I also found myself looking forward to reading it during the course of the day, as if it were a treat for later that night. Can't say enough. As for religious aspects, not preaching and actually less than i thought there'd be, and what does exist is right to the point.
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on July 25, 2014
I had previously read the recent biography of Zamperini that has been made into a film by Angelina Jolie. It was excellent and DEVIL AT MY HEELS is just as good if not better... Obviously, the latter book is pretty much a re-write of this one with a good bit of background information and detail added, but this one is special because it's "straight from the horse's mouth," so to speak.

Louis Zamperini's story is nothing short of amazing. A tough street kid who finds himself through athletics, he becomes an Olympian, meets Hitler, serves heroically in the Pacific during WWII, miraculously survives a plane crash at sea and weeks in a life raft only to be captured by the Japanese. The brutal treatment he received in captivity (the rule rather than the exception from the Japanese, sadly) was tempered by acts of kindness from a few of his guards. Postwar, he marries the girl of his dreams but struggles with life until he finally comes to Jesus after hearing Billy Graham speak.

Zamperini's life continues well into his 90's and is nothing short of amazing. Read the book - YOU'LL be amazed as well.
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on April 9, 2013
I had to order this book after reading Laura Hillenbrand’s “Unbroken”. I needed to learn about Louis Zamperini by reading his own words. Readers should read them both.

Louis Zamperini’s story is one that proves heroes are ordinary people who react positively in extraordinary circumstances. These books should be a part of modern history classes around the globe.

The WWII Pacific Theatre is often secondary to the European. The Japanese were every bit, if often not more, cruel and sadistic to prisoners of war than the Nazis.

The next story I want to read is the one where WWII vets and/or their brothers, cousins, friends and neighbors found themselves in Japan during the Korean war trying to balance the reconstruction effort against the war atrocities committed there. My dad was one of them. He just finished reading both these books and has started talking about how difficult it was not to hate the Japanese after WWII and dreaded having received orders to be stationed there. Instead, he found the vast majority of the people he met, kind and grateful for the American efforts.

One of our neighbors would work in his garden in the hot sun and remove his shirt, revealing the bayonet scar that started near his shoulder and disappeared below his belt; a survivor of the Bataan Death March.

These people are heroes, inspirations for the ages. There are precious few of them left. How fortunate for us all that Louis Zamperini’s story has been recorded and shared.

Thank you to Mr. Zamperini for sharing such a personal story of survival, forgiveness, healing, and perseverance.
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on May 6, 2017
Amazing story that was also told in "Unbroken". This version, written by Louis himself goes in to more of his faith journey which was quite interesting and barely touched on in the story by Laura Hillenbrand. Liked both of the books! Amazing man who came out a winner after enduring many hardships during WW2. I was so taken with him and his story I went on Youtube and watched videos of him - needed to see what he looked like and had to say. What a man!
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