Tuesday, March 13, 2012

"Unbroken"

I recently finished listening to a book that was so uplifting and inspiring that I just have to blog about it. It's called Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption and it's written by Laura Hillenbrand, author of Seabiscuit. Unbroken is the true story of Louie Zamperini, a runner who competed in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, Germany. 

Louie joined the United States Air Force and fought as a bombardier in World War II. Louie's B-24 bomber crashed in the South Pacific in May of 1943 and Louis and two other men were stranded in the ocean for seven weeks. Amazingly, Louie and one of the other men survived 47 days in the ocean (the other man died), but their ordeal wasn't even close to over, as they were captured by the Japanese and taken to an internment camp. Louie experienced vicious, brutal abuse as a prisoner of war and his experiences were so heinous that the fact that he survived the two years he was interred is truly a testament to #1) God and #2) Louie's unbreakable spirit.

After the war Louie came home and was haunted by what he went through as a POW and he experienced severe PTSD. He turned to alcohol and it wasn't long before he was a raging alcoholic. He was consumed with hatred and bitterness, especially for the sadistic way that one Japanese guard, Mutsuhiro Watanabe, treated him. He vowed to go back to Japan, find Watanabe and kill him. [At this point in the book I was so sad that Louie was in such a dark place and complete downward spiral, especially after surviving so much.] 
Louie and his older brother, Pete
Picture of Louie and when he was first reunited with his parents and siblings after returning home from Japan
Louie and his wife, Cynthia
Louie's wife,  Cynthia, encouraged him to let go of some of his anger and said she was going to divorce him unless he changed. She took him to one of Billy Graham's revivals. At first Louie bristled at the thought of God/forgiveness, but when Louie remembered a promise he'd made to God when stranded was in the ocean. [Louie had told God that if He would save him he would devote his life to serving Him.] God truly worked a miracle in Louie's heart because when he remembered this promise the anger and hatred evaporated from his heart. Louie's faith in God made what had been impossible for him possible, as his conversion took away his post-war nightmares, cured him of alcoholism and enabled him to forgive and even love his former enemies. Even Watanabe

Louie made a trip back to Japan in 1950 to visit some of the Japanese guards and officers who were incarcerated for their war crimes. When Louie saw them, he literally ran to them, embracing them, forgiving them completely. That is remarkable, considering what they'd done to him.

Louie is 95 and still alive! Living in to your 90's is an amazing feat for anyone, but especially for Louie, considering all of the things he's been through in his life. The health repercussions that the Pacific POWs experienced had effects that would last them the rest of their lives. One of the facts I learned is that 37% of Pacific POWs died in POW camps, as opposed to only 1% of the POWs that were held in other European POW camps. (I know all POWs were treated horribly, but the Japanese were especially vicious.)

This is just a brief summary of Unbroken, and there are so many wonderful parts that I haven't touched on. I know true stories and/or war stories sometimes get a bad rap for being "boring," or not as exciting as fiction, but I highly recommend this book. I seriously can't say enough good things about it! It just goes to show that if you have an unbreakable spirit you can triumph over anything.
(I love this picture of Louie carrying the Olympic torch in the 1998 Olympics in Nagano, Japan. Very symbolic that Japan is where Louie was honored to be a torchbearer!)

[Update: Louie died on July 2, 2014, at the age of 97.]

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hi Heather,

Hate in your heart will consume you, for sure. What a testament to forgiveness.

Great post.

Kathy

Tina said...

It sounds like an awesome book Heather. You have great taste.

Love,

Tina

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