Louis Zamperini. Do you recognize the name? I think everyone should know him and his story...
Now, Louie didn't win any medals but the description of his track days and his memories of the Olympics are carefully written about in his book "Devil At My Heels" which is his book, co-written by David Rensin. Laura Hillenbrand, in her research for her book "Seabiscuit" kept coming across Louis Zamperini's name during her research for "Seabiscuit". She called him up and after speaking to him for a few minutes, she knew she had her subject for her next book... The book that she wrote about him "Unbroken" was named the best nonfiction book of 2010 by Time magazine.
You see, Louie's story of his track days and the Olympics in Berlin in 1936 are interesting but what makes him a hero is what happened to him during World War II. He crashed in the South Pacific and was adrift at sea with two other men on two tiny rafts. Two of the men survived, after enduring starvation, shark attacks, Japanese strafing from overhead planes, and severe storms at sea. Louie lost half of his body weight, a young man who had been an Olympic runner... He was "rescued" by the Japanese and then spent the next two years in POW camps and was tortured and singled out due to his Olympic fame. One of the guards nicknamed "The Bird" was brutal to him and Louis refused to give in...that is where the "Unbroken" title comes from, the book that Laura Hillenbrand wrote.
After the war, Louie returned home but he could never get over the ordeal that he had endured and became an alcoholic and was spiralling downward. Luckily, he had married a beautiful young woman by the name of Cynthia Applewhite. She had heard of a young preacher from North Carolina by the name of Billy Graham and she encouraged Louie to go and listen to him. Louie did attend one of the revivals in California and completely turned his life around. He actually went back to Japan and FORGAVE his former captors. (He was not able to meet with "The Bird" but you have to read "Unbroken" to find out what happened!)
After I first read the book, "Devil At My Heels", I was so moved by it that I wrote a letter to the publisher and asked them to please let Louie Zamperini know how much I loved his story and to please convey that to him. Imagine my surprise and delight when I received a letter from Mr. Zamperini himself! He actually sent me a note to tell me that Laura Hillenbrand was writing a book about him. Due to her illness (she has chronic fatigue syndrome) it took seven years for her to finish it. I would suggest reading "Devil At My Heels" first and then, read "Unbroken". The second book goes into such detail about his Louie, his family, his very good friends and his war buddies, which you will already know from the first book! "Unbroken" is not an easy book to read, but my feeling is if those men could endure what happened to them, then surely I can READ about it.
The last correspondence that I received was from John Naber. John is also a former Olympian who is a good friend of Louie's and is now helping Louie with all the letters and calls that he receives. www.louiezamperini.com
"What counts in the long run, is not what you read; it is what you sift through in your own mind; it is the ideas and impressions that are aroused in you by your reading". Eleanor Roosevelt
I really can't say why the story of this man's life struck such a chord with me. I can only give you this quote from his beloved brother, "I never met anybody who didn't love Louie". Read his story and see if you don't agree....