Magazine article Army

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

Magazine article Army

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. 496 pages; black-and-white photographs; index; $27.

ARMY readers can now add 94-year-old Louis (Zamp) Zamperini to the list of heroic soldiers who served in the Pacific Theater of World War II. Zamperini, an Olympic runner who participated in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, joined the Army Air Corps in 1941. He was bombardier on a plane piloted by Russell Allen (Phil) Phillips that crashed into the Pacific in May 1943, with only three survivors. One of the survivors died during the weeks-long raft ride that carried them across 2,000 miles; they ultimately drifted to the Japanese-controlled Marshall Islands. Zamp and Phil survived the raft journey and the appalling acts of torture endured at various prisoner-of-war camps, now detailed in Laura Hillenbrand's Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption.

Unbroken will grip readers with its tense action - and later horrify with its cruel and despotic acts of torture. America wasn't ready for war, at least in the quality of its equipment, but after Pearl Harbor, the Army Air Forces had to make do with what they had until something better came along. Zamperini and Phillips served in a B-24, which Hillenbrand shows with her wealth of information as clearly not up to the task. Midway into the war, the trusty B-29s took over and took the war to the islands of Japan. By that time, Zamp and Phil were in different POW camps, suffering acts of brutality from their captors.

In defense of the Japanese, not all of them were torturers - Hillenbrand shows many acts of kindness committed by Japanese troops. It must also be noted that their culture embraced a different mind-set from that of American troops. Japanese soldiers believed they owed their lives to the emperor, and should they be defeated, they preferred to die on the field of battle than return in disgrace. …

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