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.
At 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