At 19 in 1936, Louie Zamperini “was the youngest distance runner ever to make the [U. S. Olympic] team” (27). The 1940 Olympics were cancelled because WWII had begun (44). Zamperini was drafted and became a bombardier (45). May 27, 1943, his plane went down in the Pacific ocean. Of the eleven man crew, only three rose to the surface after the plane crashed. In the debris from the crash two of the life rafts had surfaced. The three men, including Zamperini, would drift for 47 days over 2,000 miles on a current in the Pacific Ocean, washing ashore on the Japanese occupied Marshall Islands. Sharks constantly circling the life rafts. One of the men died on the raft, starved and exhausted. The two survivors, Zamperini and the pilot, Russell Allen Phillips, became prisoners of war. They were beaten, enslaved, degraded, starved, tortured, and eventually subjected to a deranged madman named Mutsuhiro Watanabe, nicknamed “the Bird.”
Somehow Zamperini survived the war, and though at the time they might not have called it Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, coming home he had it with a vengeance. He met a beautiful girl, and after two weeks had convinced her to marry him. Haunted by nightmares of the vicious cruelty of the Bird, Zamerpini was a drunken disaster. Having a nightmare of the Bird using his belt as a whip and lashing his temple with its buckle, Zamperini attacked the bird and began to throttle him. He woke to find himself on top of his wife with his hands around her throat. He was strangling his pregnant wife. Soon after the baby was born, she decided to file for divorce and left him (367).
Then in September of 1949 Billy Graham arrived in Los Angeles (369–70). As Zamperini was making plans to find his way back to Japan to murder the Bird, his wife returned to LA to arrange the divorce. She went to the Graham crusade and believed the gospel (371). She talked Zamperini into going to the crusade the next night, and when Graham gave the invitation, Zamperini marched out furious. Why did he go back the next night? The nightmares and exhaustion caused him to relent under his wife’s coaxing, and at the end of the second night Zamperini trusted Christ. He poured out his alcohol, threw away the girlie magazines and cigarettes, and never had another nightmare about the Bird (376).
He began to minister by sharing his testimony (377). He traveled to Sugamo Prison in Japan, where the war criminals who had abused him were now imprisoned. He forgave them (379). Back in California, he opened the Victory Boys Camp for troubled young men. He has carried the Olympic torch at the opening of five Olympic Games (383).
You won’t regret reading Unbroken.