Louis Zamperini, Olympian and War Hero, Dies At 97

a-zamperinia3a6586a9ca20ad8986cdc.L._V196083372_SX200_This Independence Day will be celebrated without one of America’s most remarkably heroes. Louis Zamperini passed away this week at the age of 97. The subject of the upcoming film “Unbroken” (directed by Angelina Jolie), Zamperini had an incredible life as an Olympic track and field star who went on to survive a harrowing two years as a prisoner of the Japanese in World War II.

The son of Italian immigrants, Zamperini received a scholarship to USC on a track and field scholarship. At just 19, he ran for the United States in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. While he placed 8th, his final lap in the 5,000 meter race was an astonishing 56 seconds. Watching the run, Adolph Hitler asked for a personal meeting with him. Zamperini would later fight in World War II when he became a bombardier and his plane crashed in the Pacific Ocean while looking for a downed B-25. Eight out of 11 men were killed and Zamperini and another man drifted for 47 days on a small rubber raft in shark-infested waters.

He was captured by the Japanese after he reached the Marshall Islands and tortured savagely for two years.

When he returned to the United States, he suffered from post traumatic disorder. However, he would later returned to Japan to carry the Olympic torch at the Nagano Games. After becoming a born-again Christian, Zamperini set out to forgive those who tortured him. In 1950, he went to Sugamo Prison in Tokyo to meet and hug some of the war criminals from this POW camp.

Mutsuhiro_WatanabeAt age 81, Zamperini — a five-time Olympic torch-bearer — ran a leg in the torch relay for the Winter Olympics in Nagano. He used the trip to try to meet with his most brutal tormentor during the war, Mutsuhiro (“The Bird”) Watanabe. Watanabe is an absolute monster who was never prosecuted as a war criminal. He refused to meet with Zamperini and later gave an interview where he refused to apologize to him, stating “I wasn’t given military orders. Because of my own personal feelings, I treated the prisoners strictly as enemies of Japan.”

In May, Zamperini was selected to be grand marshal of the 2015 Rose Parade on New Year’s Day in Pasadena, California.

On this Independence Day, Zamperini’s extraordinary life is a reminder of those who gave up so much to maintain this Republic.

Source: LA Times

74 thoughts on “Louis Zamperini, Olympian and War Hero, Dies At 97”

  1. For those of you who are interested in concepts that emerge from the amygdala ( lizard brain ) : see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amygdala
    One concept is tribalism. Part of tribalism is identity with one’s tribe and fear/hate of strangers.

    Many who live in America say “My side tortures.” “My side is exceptional” “Support our troops” These statements are based on identifying with the tribe “America”. This is a logical fallacy because one cannot reasonably form a tribe out of 300+ million people. The range of philosophies in such a group is staggering. Feeling responsible or feeling proud of what America does fails at two levels….
    #1 “America” cannot do anything. Only individuals ( or perhaps small groups ) can do things. One group from America may do something and another group from America opposes it. So it does not mean anything reasonable to say ” America tortures ” or “America is exceptional”. It is a form of jingoism.
    #2 If an individual ( American citizen ) does or thinks something , it is not reasonable to suggest America is a clone of that person. Nor is it reasonable to hold that person responsible for “something that America does or thinks”.

    ( This applies to other countries and other imaginary groups as well…. such as blacks ,whites , hispanics , liberals , conservatives, Democrats , Republicans, etc. )

    I understand the impulse to say
    “Our Broncos lost the SuperBowl”
    “Our troops are the best”
    “Liberals are idiots”
    “We tortured and killed people”
    “The Japanese would have used the atomic bomb”

    The problem is that in each case individuals are grouped together who have no substantial relationship or responsibility to each other. Using such shortcuts makes the amygdala happy … at the same time it makes accurate , reasoned discourse difficult.

    If you read this far … thank you for attending to my speech.

    Gus in Denver #AmygdalaFantasies

  2. Nick,
    I am glad that you finally agree with me. (The use of “every time” might be somewhat hyperbolic, but many times for sure.) 🙂

  3. Raff, it’s amazing how some people can speak out of the nether regions on their anatomy, it must be a talent.

  4. No need to do your homework assignment, I KNOW I don’t say it “every time” or even close to “every time.” That was a ludicrous accusation. I still don’t get the filibuster comment but like I said, as long as it’s clear in your head.

  5. Nick,
    You know why I gave the filibuster numbers. It was in response to your claim about never conceding being a progressive motto. Please remember that I do not have to answer your question the way you want them answered, dude. I think you may want to go back and add up your use of “haters” in your responses.

  6. raff, Firstly, I know WTF you are talking about filibustering on this thread, but apparently it’s clear in your mind. I do not call people haters “every time” I disagree. That’s a false accusation on its face.

    I’ll go back to the original question which you refused to answer. If you see no difference between the torture suffered by Louis than what KSM experienced, I realize we are done talking. I thought I could get you off that inane point. But, you are dug in, dude. Keep digging.

  7. Why Nick, you are so kind. We are not talking about degrees of murder. We are talking about torture. Why is it that every time you disagree with someone that person or persons are haters. Which side has filibustered over 400 times? So who is never conceding?
    Nick, here is a link to a Guardian article that discusses the people who died in CIA prisons or in the control of the CIA or Army. The DOJ didn’t prosecute, but a military autopsy ruled the death a homicide:
    “Al-Jamadi died in 2003 at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. A military autopsy declared al-Jamadi’s death a homicide.

    At Abu Ghraib prison, instead of turning al-Jamadi over to the Army, CIA officers took him to a shower stall. They put a sandbag over his head, cuffed his hands behind his back and chained his arms to a barred window. When he leaned forward, his arms stretched painfully behind and above his back.
    Within an hour, he was dead.” http://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/aug/31/us-cia-detainee-prison-deaths

  8. I have heard the claim Bush killed prisoners via torture. I would be interested in an unbiased source on that. I need to remind people I believe torture is wrong. I just don’t get all nuts about it.

  9. rafflaw’s favorite breakfast is a waffle. He always starts the days waffling. I would love to interview him under oath. He would not waffle or pontificate. rafflaw does make me remember the 60’s when I was a moral relativist. I wised up. There are degrees to virtually everything. You would think an attorney would understand that basic concept. They are often called “degrees” in the actual statute. First DEGREE Homicide, Second DEGREE Burglary, Third DEGREE Sexual Assault. He simply hates Bush and is willing to diminish himself in showing that. “Never give and inch, never concede an obvious point,” that’s the progressive motto. You just saw it on full display here.

  10. Bron,
    There are no degrees to torture. It is illegal and immoral and we did it to a lot more than a handful. We waterboarded KSM 183 times alone. We tortured many others in various ways. It is funny how you call the ones we waterboarded or tortured psychopathic maniacs. Shouldn’t we also call the people who ordered the torture psychopathic maniacs? But you would have to put Bush and Cheney and company into the same category as The Bird, wouldn’t you?
    Bron, this isn’t nuance. You just don’t want to admit that your country tortured many people and some people many times. We waterboarded prisoners in Vietnam so we are not new to this crime of torture.

  11. Rafflaw:

    Operating on human beings while they are awake with no pain killer, cutting the heads off of Chinese civilians, slave labor and many other atrocities are not morally equivalent. I am not in favor of the US torturing our enemies and think that is morally wrong as well but what we did to a handful of psychopathic maniacs comes no where near the moral repugnance of our past and current enemies.

    Abortion is morally repugnant but aborting an embryo at six weeks is a hell of lot different than cutting apart full term child.

    Liberals are so into nuance, I am surprised you don’t see the difference.

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