Unbroken by Laura Hildenbrand is the amazing story of the life of Louis Zamperini. He was a juvenile delinquent who became a high school and college track star with national records. He went to the Berlin Olympics in 1936 and was on his way to being the first man to run a sub-4 minute mile when WWII broke out. He flew on a bomber as the target man and did missions over the Japanese Empire surviving air battles that he should have died in. While on a search mission his plan crashed in the middle of the Pacific Ocean leaving him and two men stranded on rubber lifeboats. After surviving near starvation, shark attacks, and Japanese machine gun attacks the two remaining men were picked up by the Japanese and taken to Execution Island. After enduring humiliation and torture he was taken to POW camp. It’s hard to believe anyone could survive the cruel and dehumanizing torture by the Japanese. (Check the survival rates and life expectancy of POW’s in the Pacific theater verses any other front in any other war.) But Louis did survive and returned to America as war hero. However, the good times didn’t last long and he almost lost his new life to alcoholism.
Throughout his life Louis met many famous people such as Adolf Hitler, Fidel Castro, Frank Sinatra, and Ronald Reagan, but his life didn’t change until he met Jesus Christ. God saved Louis at a Billy Graham crusade in Los Angeles where Louis realized that life is more than just surviving and being a good person. Even the “best” person is a sinner in need of God’s grace and forgiveness. Louis received God’s forgiveness and then was able to forgive those who tortured him for so long. He traveled as a missionary and preacher of the gospel and even returned to Japan to share Christ with his former captors.
I liked the book by Laura Hildenbrand, but I also enjoyed Louis’ autobiography even more. It’s called Devil At My Heels and is a more personal view of his life. I really appreciated the final 20% of his autobiography because he spent a lot more time talking about his life after his conversion, which Hildenbrand did not cover nearly enough. If you have read Unbroken, and want to learn more about what he considered the most interesting and important part of his life, then buy or rent Louis Zamperini’s autobiography.