Sunday, September 11, 2011
Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption
Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand is the story of Louie Zamperini, U.S. track and field star and a participant in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, who hoped to run in the 1940 Olympics. The war, however, put an end to dreams of the 1940 Olympics, and eventually, Louie found himself a bombardier in the Army Air Corps.
In May, 1943, Louie was part of a mission searching for a missing plane when the engines failed, and his own plane went down in the Pacific Ocean. Only three men survived the crash, and Louie and his two companions spent a record-breaking 47 days adrift, threatened by a lack of fresh water, a lack of food, and circled by sharks. The story of the survival of Louie and the pilot, "Phil" Philips (the third man did not survive) is remarkable enough, but not the end of this tale of courage and endurance.
Louie and Phil were captured by the Japanese. The Japanese POW camps were notorious for the cruelty, and Louie and Phil were separated and sent to different camps. From interviews with Louie, Phillips, and other Japanese prisoners, Hillenbrand is able to depict the hell in which these men found themselves. The Japanese did not abide by the Geneva Conventions, and the camps were a place where minds, emotions, and bodies of many prisoners were broken beyond repair.
The perseverance, the tenacity of these men is inspiring. The camps in which Louie was held were harrowing for their brutality and cruelty.
Even after surviving the camps, many men were unable to return to civilian life without great trauma. Those who survived the Japanese camps had a much, much higher rate of suicide than those held in German camps. On his return after the war, Louie tries to deal with his nightmares with alcohol. Just when he is about to lose everything, he manages to pull himself out and redeem his life--once again.
Unbroken is a great read and a great testament to the endurance of the human spirit..
Nonfiction. Biographical. 2010. 496 pages.