Kathleen Hagen's Reviews > Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
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Feb 27, 2011

bookshelves: 2011-audio-books, 2011-nonfiction
Read in February, 2011

Unbroken: a World War II story of survival, resilience and Redemption, by Laura Hillenbrand, Narrated by Edward Herrmann, produced by Random House Audio, downloaded from audible.com.

This is the story of Louis Zamperini. His boyhood was one of juvenile delinquency-he could steal anything-and did, he got into all kinds of trouble as a youth. Then he discovered track and became the fastest runner around with very few races under his belt. His brother, Matt, made him practice hard all the time. With this training he got all the way to the Olympics his first time out, and expected to win a title for himself in four years. He was known for his speed world-wide after the Olympics, but when the U.S. joined WW II, he joined the air force and became a bombadier, responsible for releasing bombs from the planes. Hillenbrand takes us through the risks and thrills of flying over the Pacific and bombing Japanese outposts. A fact unknown to me was that more people were killed in drilling exercises getting ready for such bombing raids, than were actually killed in the raids themselves. Everything went well for Louis and his team until the day that the bomber crashed into the ocean and sank. Louis, the captain, and one other man, survived. They put two life rafts together, and they managed to survive on the sea for 47 days, facing constant sun which burned off their skin and start dissolving the rubber on the rafts, constant thirst, constant hunger, and constant threat from the sharks that followed the rafts and waited for the men to fall off so they could be killed. At one point, they saw a plane and waved desperately at it, only to have it turn out to be a Japanese plane which tried repeatedly to blow them away. But Louis and the captain survived this 47-day ordeal only to be captured by the Japanese and placed in horrible conditions in prison camp. A psychopathic commandant took a particular dislike to Louis and beat and tortured him every day. When the Americans finally liberated the camp in 1945, it took Louis many years to deal with the horror of the camp and that commandant. But then he met Billy Graham, sought redemption and forgiveness of his enemies, and became an inspiration to teenagers at risk, as he had been also. This is a fascinating book about endurance when someone is trying to psychologically break and destroy you, and when you’ve already undergone more horrors than most people will ever face.
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