In late May of 1943, a B-24 carrying a 26 year old Louie Zamperini plummeted to the Pacific Ocean. For almost seven weeks Zamperini and the pilot managed to survive in a fragile raft. They navigated through shark infested waters for thousands of miles only to be captured by the Japanese. They were placed in a series of Japanese prison camps, the worst of them, and for the next two years, Zamperini experimented an inhuman amount of torture.
Unbroken, a story written by Laura Hillenbrand, the author of “Seabiscuit”, is a testimony to the courage and ingenuity of what they call the “Greatest Generation” of the United States. The book is narrated in a smart, sober and wise tone, allowing the story to unfold by itself.
From the 1936 Olympic Games to the fields of the most brutal World War II Prisoner of War camps in Japan, a world thousands of miles away from the racing circuits of her previous bestseller, Hillebrand introduces us to an exciting hero, Louie Zamperini, a maverick pilot that ran in the Olympic Games in Berlin. Zamperini is a witty, reformed juvenile offender that put his thieving skills to good use in the POW camps. Louie is a lover of life, whose will to live is cruelly put to the test after becoming a Bombardier in the air corps in 1941. The young Zamperini, a native of Torrance, California, was expected to be the first to run a mile in four minutes. After a surprising loss in the Olympic Games of 1936, Louie was expected to achieve the gold at the games in 1940. But the war ended those dreams, when his B-24 crashed into the Pacific. After a record 47 days adrift on a raft with his friend and pilot, Russell Allen Phillips, they were captured by the Japanese. Louie landed in one of the cruelest of all, under the control of Corporal Mutsuhiro Watanabe, a sadist who never killed his victims quickly, as his pleasure came from the slow, endless torment of them. After a beating, as Watanabe left Louie’s cell, Louie saw an expression of sexual ecstasy on the corporal’s face. Louie, with his unbreakable spirit, was Watanabe’s victim of choice. By end of the war, Louie was near death. When he was finally released in August 1945, an impoverished Louie thought he was free. But Louie was not free.
Back in the United States, he impulsively married, and tried to build a life, Louie remained in the clutches of his torturer. He was persecuted by nightmares, and would binge drink to forget, obsessed with feelings of revenge. The final part of Unbroken is the story of how, with the help of his wife, Louie found a way to real freedom and peace.