Olympic athlete and World War II veteran Louis Zamperini has recently died on July 2 of this year, leaving America without one of it’s biggest heroes.
You may not know anything about this man, but Louis’s life story is one to hear.
An unbelievable tale of courage and tenacity that shows we need more heroes like this man!
Zamperini sprung into a crazy lifestyle as a kid. He was the ultimate rebel, breaking every and any rule possible. “Zamp” began smoking at 5 by picking up a cigarette butt on the way to kindergarten, and drinking at 8 by snatching up the wine glasses on his family’s dining table. He would steal anything edible, and often stole entire pies from his local bakery in Torrence, California and throw the uneaten ones at passing cars!
His impish, reckless spirit made him into a troubled teenager who once ran away to San Diego, worrying his parents for days. Louis was a troublemaker, picking fights with anyone who looked at him wrong. Zamp once socked a girl in the face, another time beating a boy up so badly he was afraid he had killed him. All the while feeling frustrated and restless within himself – he had no ambitions or dreams and didn’t care about school or friends. Lucky for him, his brother, Pete, would be Louis’s saving grace.
Pete convinced Louis to join their high school’s track team, and that’s where Louis’s talent began to shine as a runner. He started setting unheard-of records that would send him straight to the Olympics. At the Olympic Games, he set a record as the fastest American athlete of his time in the 5,000 meter run. Zamperini, now a world-famous star, even met Hitler personally after his race. “Lucky Louis” planned to run for gold in the next Olympics.
But December 7, 1941 changed his entire world.
The Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, forcing Louis to enlist. He joined the Air Force and became a successful B-24 bomber. In one unbelievable mission, Louis’s plane barely made it back. Enemy fire had put 594 bullet holes through the whole plane – the ground crew couldn’t believe they had made it out alive!
In his final mission, the plane’s engines failed, crashing Zamperini and his crew into the Pacific Ocean. Louis and two other men miraculously survived, and barely scraped by on life rafts, dodging Japanese bullets, 12-foot attacking sharks, starvation, and thirst. One man died from starvation, while Louis and the other man, Al, survived for 47 days before washing up to a Japanese controlled island, where he would spend the remainder of the war as a POW.
He suffered unspeakable horrors, including beatings, psychological trauma, starvation, and almost dying multiple times. Once, the Japanese commander forced Louis’s fellow prisoners to punch him hard in the face or they would be punished as well. He was punched 220 times, one per soldier. His story of survival and how he remained unbroken and triumphant over his captors is awe inspiring!
Author of Seabiscuit, Laura Hillenbrand, jumped onto Louis’s brave story and began corresponding with him to gather details from his life. Strangely, Hillenbrand never met the 97-year-old war hero while writing the book, Unbroken, but believed that that helped her see Zamperini as a young man. This video shows when Louis and Laura finally meet after the book was published!
Just watch his meaningful story below:
SHARE this inspiring story with your friends and family – This man is a TRUE hero!