Devil at My Heels: A WW II Hero's Epic Saga of Torment, Survival, and Forgiveness

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9780060188603: Devil at My Heels: A WW II Hero's Epic Saga of Torment, Survival, and Forgiveness

The bestselling autobiography of the legendary Louis Zamperini, hero of the blockbuster Unbroken

A modern classic by an American legend, Devil at My Heels is the riveting and deeply personal memoir by U.S. Olympian, World War II bombardier, and POW survivor Louis Zamperini. His inspiring story of courage, resilience, and faith has captivated readers and audiences of Unbroken, now a major motion picture directed by Angelina Jolie. In Devil at My Heels, his official autobiography (co-written with longtime collaborator David Rensin), Zamperini shares his own first-hand account of extraordinary journey—hailed as “one of the most incredible American lives of the past century” (People).

A youthful troublemaker, a world-class NCAA miler, a 1936 Olympian, a WWII bombardier: Louis Zamperini had a fuller life than most. But on May 27, 1943, it all changed in an instant when his B-24 crashed into the Pacific Ocean, leaving Louis and two other survivors drifting on a raft for forty-seven days and two thousand miles, waiting in vain to be rescued. And the worst was yet to come when they finally reached land, only to be captured by the Japanese. Louis spent the next two years as a prisoner of war—tortured and humiliated, routinely beaten, starved and forced into slave labor—while the Army Air Corps declared him dead and sent official condolences to his family. On his return home, memories of the war haunted him nearly destroyed his marriage until a spiritual rebirth transformed him and led him to dedicate the rest of his long and happy life to helping at-risk youth. Told in Zamperini’s own voice, Devil at My Heels is an unforgettable memoir from one of the greatest of the “Greatest Generation,” a living document about the brutality of war, the tenacity of the human spirit, and the power of faith.

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From the Back Cover:

A juvenile delinquent, a world-class NCAA miler, a 1936 Olympian, a World War II bombardier: Louis Zamperini had a life fuller than most when it changed in an instant. On May 27, 1943, his B-24 crashed into the Pacific Ocean. Louis and two other survivors found a raft amid the flaming wreckage and waited for rescue. Instead, they drifted two thousand miles for forty-seven days. Their only food: two shark livers and three raw albatross. Their only water: sporadic rainfall. Their only companions: hope and faith -- and the ever-present sharks.

On the forty-seventh day, mere skeletons close to death, Zamperini and pilot Russell Phillips finally spotted land -- and were captured by the Japanese. Thus began more than two years of torture and humiliation as prisoners of war.

Zamperini was threatened with beheading, subjected to medical experiments, routinely beaten, hidden in a secret interrogation facility, starved and forced into slave labor, and was the constant victim of a brutal prison guard nicknamed the Bird -- a man so vicious that the other guards feared him and called him a psychopath. Meanwhile, the Army Air Corps declared Zamperini dead and President Roosevelt sent official condolences to his family, who never gave up hope that he was alive.

Somehow Zamperini survived and he returned home a hero. The celebration was short-lived. He plunged into drinking and brawling and the depths of rage and despair. Nightly, the Bird's face leered at him in his dreams. It would take years, but with the love of his wife and the power of faith, he was able to stop the nightmares and the drinking.

A stirring memoir from one of the greatest of the "Greatest Generation," Devil at My Heels is a living document about the brutality of war, the tenacity of the human spirit, and the power of forgiveness.

About the Author:

A son of Italian immigrants, Louis Zamperini (1917-2014) was a U.S. Olympic runner, World War II bombardier, and POW survivor. After the war, he returned to the United States to found the Victory Boys Camp for at-risk youth and became an inspirational speaker. Zamperini's story was told in his 2003 autobiography Devil at My Heels, as well as in Laura Hillenbrand's 2010 biography Unbroken.



David Rensin worked closely with Louis Zamperini for many years and cowrote Devil at My Heels, as well as fifteen other books, including five New York Times bestsellers.

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