Louis Zamperini Dies at 97
Louis Zamperini, the subject of Laura Hillenbrand’s bestseller Unbroken, died on July 2 at the age of 97.
At age 19, Zamperini participated in the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games as a long-distance runner. When WWII broke out, he joined the US Army Air Forces and served as a bombadier in the South Pacific. In April, 1943, his plane crashed in the Pacific, killing eight of the eleven crew members on board.
One of the three survivors, Francis McNamara, died after 37 days at sea. Fourteen days later, Zamperini and fellow survivor, Russel Allen, landed on the Marshall Islands and were immediately captured by Japanese forces. They remained in captivity, enduring severe mistreatment, until the war ended in August, 1945.
Zamperini went on to become an inspirational speaker and wrote two memoirs detailing his experiences, both titled Devil at My Heels. The first was published in 1956 and as of this writing, is still available. The second, published in 2003, was completely rewritten and contains a significant amount of new material.
In 2010, Seabiscuit author Laura Hillenbrand, published a biography of Zamperini called Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption. An international bestseller, copies of Unbroken signed by Zamperini still regularly appear on AbeBooks Bestselling Signed Books list. A movie based on the book, adapted by Joel and Ethan Coen and directed by Angelina Jolie, is set for release in late 2014.