Academic journal article Military Review

UNBROKEN: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption

Academic journal article Military Review

UNBROKEN: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption

Article excerpt

UNBROKEN: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption, Laura Hillenbrand, Random House, New York, 2010, 473 pages, $27.00.

This biography takes off with a B-24 journey across the Pacific Ocean, but Lieutenant Louie Zamperini's story of survival begins when his plane, Green Hornet, with a crew of 1 1 crashes into the ocean, killing eight. The survivors drift at sea for 47 days: dodging strafing from a Japanese plane; hand-fighting sharks; and cheating starvation by wringing the neck of an albatross, consuming its raw flesh, and crafting the bird's bones into fishing hooks. Only two lieutenants survived the 2, 000-mile raft-journey to the Japanese-occupied Marshall Islands. After enduring their harrowing sea journey, Zamperini is moved to Japan where another, longer story of fortitude unfolds. The author describes the horrific life American POWs suffered at the hands of the Japanese captors; they lived in maggot-infested huts with stinging insects while being subjected to arbitrary torture that filled their days for the next two years, as guests of the Emperor.

Hillenbrand sets the stage for this tale by chronicling young Louie's developmental journey. We follow the Torrance Tornado's "childhood of artful dodging" and watch as he acquires the confidence of someone "clever, resourceful, and bold enough to escape any predicament," including what he thought was the humiliation of growingup as a poor Italian-American immigrant in California, striving to speak English, and endeavoring to fit in at school. Louie seemed destined for juvenile hall, or courtordered sterilization, but Louie's brother Pete refocused the Torrance Tornado's stubborn streak to track and field, leading him to the 1936 Berlin Olympics where his "blistering last lap" in the 5,000-meter race resulted in a handshake and praise from Adolf Hitler along with waves of speculation about the gold awaiting him in the scheduled 1 940 Olympics in Japan. …

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