Louis Zamperini: Top 10 Cool Facts

In today’s post, I’d like to share 10 cool facts about Louis Zamperini.

Picture this for a moment. You are an Olympian, and everyone loves you. Suddenly in the blink of an eye, you are stuck on a small raft, alone in the Pacific Ocean with two of your comrades.

Would you go nuts? Can you even imagine this possibility? I don’t wish it upon you or anyone else.

Well, it happened to a man by the name of Louis Zamperini. And it is depicted in a movie about his survival at sea, and as a Prisoner of War.

Louis Zamperini: Top 10 Cool Facts

I scoured the internet to find 10 amazing facts about this amazing man and war hero. I hope you enjoy reading about him as much as I enjoyed learning about him.

# 1: Birth & Death

Louis Zamperini was born in 1917 in Olean, New York. He passed away at the age of 97 in 2014 in Los Angeles, California.

# 2: An Olympic Participant

Louis was a star runner in school and decided to try out for the Olympics. Accepted, he traveled with the United States Olympic team to the 1936 games in Berlin, Germany.

While he finished 8th, he showed great spirit in the last leg of the 5,000-meter race and a certain German citizen requested a meeting with Louis where that citizen told him “You are the boy with the fast finish.” That citizen was Adolf Hitler.

louis zamperini

# 3: Bombardier

When World War 2 broke out, Louis enlisted in the United States Army Air Corps and was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant and made a Bombardier on a B-24.

bombardier or bomb aimer is the crew member of a bomber aircraft responsible for the targeting of aerial bombs. “Bomb aimer” was the preferred term in the military forces of the Commonwealth, while “bombardier” (from the French word for “bomb thrower” and similar in meaning to “grenadier”) was the equivalent position in the United States Armed Forces. ~ Wikipedia

# 4: Criminal at A Young Age

Born to Italian immigrants, Louis and his family moved to California. The family spoke little English and other kids would bully young Louis.

Louis was smoking, drinking, and stealing before he was 10-years old. The majority of people close to him assumed he would be in prison at a young age. It was his brother Pete who enticed him into running track in high school. This put crime on the backburner and Louis put 110% into running.

# 5: Alone in The Pacific

I mentioned he was a Bombardier. On one search run, his plane was damaged badly and Louis had to crash into the wide open Pacific Ocean. He floated with two fellow crew members (1 died) for 47-days until they saw an island that they used anything they could grab to paddle to.

The island he paddled to was occupied by Japanese forces. Louis was captured by Japanese soldiers who were ecstatic they had caught a U.S. Army officer.

# 6: Jesse Owens

Mr. Zamperini had a lot of inspiration in Berlin during the Olympics. After all, his roommate was the great 4-time Gold Medal winner, Jesse Owens.

# 7: Ocean Survival

The men caught albatross they ate and used for fish bait. They had to defend themselves against sharks. They managed through storms, and it is amazing two of the three men lived through this nightmare.

# 8: Tortured by One of The Worst

While a Prisoner of War, Louis was tortured by a top Japanese officer listed on Douglas MacArthur’s list of most wanted war criminals. Known as The Bird, Mutsuhiro Watanabe had a special disliking for Zamperini.

Watanabe’s punishments were especially cruel because they were psychological and emotional, not just physical. In addition to horrendous beatings, he’d destroy photographs of POW’s family members and force them to watch as he burned their letters from home, often the only personal belongings these tortured men had.

Sometimes midway between beatings he’d stop and apologize to the prisoner, only to then beat the man into unconsciousness. Other times, he’d wake them in the middle of the night and bring them to his room to feed them sweets, discuss literature, or sing. This kept the men constantly on edge and wore down their nerves as they never knew what would set him off and send him into another violent rage. ~ Allthatsinteresting.com

# 9: The Reverend Billy Graham

When Louis was finally released from prison camp, he went through severe PTSD and became an alcoholic. It was a meeting with the Reverend Billy Graham that brought Louis to see a whole new light in a God who loves and forgives.

# 10: The Book & Movie

Louis Zamperini’s war experiences and life story were converted into a best-selling book and blockbuster movie named “Unbroken.” If you have not read that book or watched the movie before, I highly recommend it.

Unbroken is a 2014 American biographical war drama film produced and directed by Angelina Jolie and written by the Coen brothers, Richard LaGravenese, and William Nicholson. It is based on the 2010 non-fiction book by Laura Hillenbrand, Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption. The film stars Jack O’Connell as American Olympian and Army officer Louis “Louie” Zamperini and Miyavi as Imperial Japanese Army (IJA) corporal Mutsuhiro Watanabe. Zamperini survived in a raft for 47 days after his bomber ditched in the ocean during the Second World War, before being captured by the Japanese and being sent to a series of prisoner of war camps. ~ Wikipedia

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, Louis Zamperini was an Olympian and war hero. I consider him an important part of American history. His actions, his character, an will to live are qualities all Americans should aim to portray. I highly recommend you watch the movie, read the book, and learn what you can about this great man. You will be utterly amazed!

You can order a copy of his book on Amazon by clicking on this link, or the image you see below.

Laura Hillenbrand

Other posts you may enjoy:

  1. Top 20 WW2 Books of All Time
  2. The Prisoner of War Medal: 10 Cool Facts
  3. Veteran Burial Benefits: What You Should Know
  4. The Top 20 Army Airborne Soldiers of All Time
  5. The Top 20 Military Mistakes of World War 2
chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)
Publisher, Part-Time-Commander.com
Email: mrchuckholmes@gmail.com

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