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Devil at My Heels: A WW II Hero's Epic Saga of Torment, Survival, and Forgiveness Hardcover – January 21, 2003

4.8 out of 5 stars 559 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Zamperini was an intractable troublemaker of a youth who became a champion runner, competing in the 1936 Olympics and shaking hands with Hitler and Goebbels. When war seemed inevitable, he joined the Army Air Corps and flew a number of combat missions in the Pacific as a B-24 bombardier. In May 1943, his plane crashed on a routine search mission, and Zamperini and two survivors floated on a raft for 47 days before being taken prisoner by the Japanese. He spent the rest of the war in prison camps undergoing terrible abuse, as did many prisoners in Japan. After the war, disaffected and rootless, he attended an early Billy Graham revival and found religion. He became an inspirational speaker, eventually returned to Japan to confront and forgive his captors, and spent the rest of his life spreading Christianity and supporting various Christian endeavors. His memoir will fit well in inspirational collections, but it is also a well-written addition to the growing body of World War II personal narratives. Zamperini's positive attitude, resilience, and narrative strength make this a reasonable purchase for many public libraries and military collections. [During the 1998 Winter Olympics in Japan, Zamperini's story and dramatic return to face his torturer was chronicled on CBS's 48 Hours.-Ed.]-Edwin B. Burgess, U.S. Army Combined Arms Research Lib., Fort Leavenworth, K.
--Edwin B. Burgess, U.S. Army Combined Arms Research Lib., Fort Leavenworth, KS
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Zamperini and Rensin devote three-quarters of the former's autobiography to his ups and downs before the influence of Billy Graham turned him around and he became a well-known inspirational speaker. A near delinquent in interwar Los Angeles, he nevertheless became a good enough runner to make the U.S. team for the 1936 Olympics. Later, serving in the Army Air Force in World War II, he survived six weeks adrift on a raft after his plane went down at sea and then, more than two years of particularly atrocious treatment as a prisoner of the Japanese. His postwar rehabilitation involved opportunities missed, money squandered, and sieges of alcoholism until Graham's counsel took hold (he also credits his wife, paying her generous tribute). His book not only retells the interesting life story of a generation now passing from the scene but also adds significantly to knowledge of each of the kinds of experience he underwent. It will find readers and please them. Roland Green
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 292 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow; 1 edition (January 21, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 006018860X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060188603
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (559 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #558,577 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
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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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
All of these television personalities who fancy themselves "survivors" for having undergone challenges of one kind or another on the various survival programs now popular might have a different perspective on survival if they read this book. Lou Zamperini is the "ultimate survivor."

To Zamperini, surviving meant starving and thirsting while confined to a life raft for 47 days. That ordeal included fighting off sharks while enemy planes shot at him. Surviving meant living with the tryanny, torture, and torment of his captors, including the threat of decapitation. It meant living through two cold winters as a prisoner of war, his body weight dropping to as low as 66 pound.

Zamperini was forced to survive in the rigid domain of despair, beyond the reach of help, or rest, or pity. Survival meantmeant living from day to day with the heart tearing itself between hope and fear, merely subsisting under a cloud of doom with no end in sight.

Yet, Zamperini was able to call upon the inner strength that had been nurtured in his days as an Olympic runner, and to endure.

Some of Zamperini's greatest challenges came after the war was over, the biggest one being overcoming the anger and hate he felt for this Japanese captors.
With God's help, "Lucky Louie" succeeded in every one of his challenges. It's a fascinating story, a story of real survival.
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Format: Hardcover
I hope that Louis Zamperini's story becomes required reading for our children one day. This man's amazing story of survival against all odds during WWII is truly miraculous. To describe Louie as merely "lucky" misses the mark somehow. He should have died many times over before and during the war, but through God's grace and Zamperini's formidable willpower he survived to tell his story. And what an incredible, page-turning saga it is! I couldn't put this book down and after reading it, I was a changed woman. I had a new respect for my grandfather, and the men of his generation who suffered unimaginable horrors on the battlefields of Europe and Japan during the 1940's.
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Format: Paperback
I had read Laura Hillenbrand's best seller, "Unbroken" just prior to reading this book. So I already knew much of Louis Zamperini's story and was quite familiar with the subject of this book. Nevertheless, since Zamperini is such a remarkable man and his story so compelling, I was still anxious to see how he, himself, would recount it. As I read his book, however, I couldn't help but contrast it with Hillenbrand's work and this review is the result.

In an earlier review, I gave "Unbroken" five stars. I did so even though I had a few misgivings. For one, I felt that the book wandered off the subject every now and then, presumably to broaden its scope. I also felt that it suffered from what I would call "over-kill," especially in describing the forty-seven days on the raft, the sharks, and the later brutality of the Japanese prison guards. After reading about Louie's time of the raft, for example, for what seemed to be an interminable number of pages, I almost felt that I had been reading on the raft myself for forty-seven days. And the later brutality was described so repetitiously and to such an extent that I came to believe that no one suffering such abuse, not even Louis Zamperini, could possibly have survived. The author had apparently compressed over two years of abuse into her book with no attempt to edit anything out. I also grew a little weary of constantly reading that Louis did this and Louis did that, and began to wonder if anyone else ever had an idea or did anything. Much better in the first person. And, finally, I was somewhat disappointed in the books ending. It somehow left something to be said, but there was no way of knowing what it might be.
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Format: Hardcover
In this exciting and epic book, author Louis Zamperini describes his life from a child through adulthood and the growth he experienced as a person during that time. Louis was a typical young child; full of mischief and adventure, and he always seemed to be getting into trouble for one thing or another, but thanks to his older brother Pete's love and encouragement, Louis' life began to change for the better.
Pete was an outstanding track and field athlete and he encouraged Louis to do the same. Soon, Louis was a world-class middle distance runner and held the national collegiate record for the mile run. He qualified for the 1936 Summer Olympics held in Berlin and placed eighth in his race. Even though he didn't win a medal, he still accomplished what the large majority of people never will.
A few years later, Louis joined the army as a navigator on a B-24 Liberator heavy bomber. Based in Hawaii, his crew participated in the bombing of Japanese-held territory as well as search and rescue missions. It was on one of these rescue missions that Louis' own plane became disabled and forced to crash. What happened next can only be described as a miracle, as Louis and another crewmember survived for forty seven days on a rubber raft, while eating small fish and even seabirds while collecting rainwater to drink.
After drifting for two thousand miles, Louis was finally picked up by the Japanese, where he was imprisoned on the Japanese-held island of Kwajalein. During his time in prison on Kwajalein and later in Japan itself, Louis was subjected to numerous beatings and very little food. One particular guard called "The Bird" was especially cruel.
The war finally ended in September, 1945, and slowly, Louis managed to return to civillian life.
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