Louis Zamperini

Several years ago I had the honor to meet Mr. louis Zamperini in person and shake his hand. I worked in his hometown and Mr. Zamperini was a hometown hero. The local airport was even named after him, Zamperini Field, otherwise known as Torrance Airport. Years before a movie was made about him, I had heard about his heroism and wanted to someday meet him. That day came unexpectedly when I took my family to see a World War II B-17G that had flown in to Zamperini Field for an airshow. When we arrived, Mr. Zamperini was there meeting with airshow guests. Right after we shook hands and took a photo he was whisked away by his assistant.

rs1Laura Hillenbrand’s recounting of Mr. Zamperini’s life in her book entitled Unbroken, which is also turned in to a motion picture, was nothing short of astonishing. What makes this story even more incredible is the painstaking time that Ms. Hillenbrand invested in to researching the information about Louis Zamperini that she portrayed in her book. The back of the book lists 405 references to articles, letters, interviews, and books that support the amazing life of this American hero.

Louis Zamperini was a wild child that was given the opportunity to use his talent for speed to channel his yoiuthful energies towards an ambitous goal- the Olympic games. Unfortuntately the start of World War II diverted his training and he joined the Army Air Corps. The plane Louis had boarded for a search and resecue mission had a mechanical malfunction and crashed into the ocean and he and two toehr air crew were the only on board to survive. Louis and the pilot miraculously lasted 46 days at sea with minimal rations and survival gear to start the ordeal, after which they landed in enemy territory where they were immediately taken hostage. What happens next can only be summarized by saying that Louis Zamperini underwent daily torture, malnutrition, freezing cold and sweltering heat in squalid living conditions, constant physical torture as well as psychological abuse at the hands of his captors. Honestly as I write this I don’t think that I would have lasted a month in these nightmare living conditions, but Louis Zamperini held on for more than two years and I believe that he would have kept holding on if the enemy hadn’t surrendered and he was sent home.

Louis had every right to be angry for everything that had happened to him because of the war and his brutal treatment at the hands of his captors. But the book comes to a close with Louis returning to Japan after the war to face his captors who were now in prison themselves. And at that moment, Louis realized that his heart had forgiven these men for what they had done to him, and I doing so, the conflict and pain that still raged in his heart even after the war was finally over.

Louis Zamperini’s life is a lesson about determination, redemption, resilience, and forgiveness. I am honored that I had the privilege to meet the real man before he passed. Louis Zamperini is a man for men and women of all ages to remember and model themselves after.

You Might Also Like

Stay connected

right_img1

right_img1

Midlife Magazine_3

Midlife Magazine_3