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

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
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Jul 03, 14

bookshelves: csaf-reading-list, 2012, fitness-sports, germany, japan, finland, hawaiiana, military, aviation, nonfiction, ocean-seashore, other-usa, van-noy-book-club, biography, favorites, death
Recommended for: fans of nonfiction
Read from November 04 to 09, 2012, read count: 1

This is such a compelling read. As an Air Force officer and navigator, I read the pages from Part II on with my heart in my throat. Even with all of the technological equipment and GPS satellites available to aircrew today, I understand the fear of being lost or in an emergency situation over large expanses of water. I am in awe of their navigational abilities, not to mention their flexibility in repairing, flying and keeping a shot-up airplane together long enough to get safely on the ground.

I just took a water survival refresher course, and I must say that I wished that I'd read this book first. It would certainly have lent a more somber and serious tone to a routine event (that occurred in a community pool, not far from a water aerobics class.) As it was, we laughed at the silliness of having a lazy river and fake dinosaur figurines nearby. Still, we completed every task presented to us and we experienced enough discomfort and difficulty in trying to accomplish the initial stages (with gallons of water sprayed on us as we attempted to put the canopy up) that we realized that if we were to ever experience this kind of event first-hand, it would truly suck. As I read this book, however, I am grateful for the opportunity to refresh my knowledge and practice the live-saving techniques. I love that our search and rescue capability is so advanced and capable of saving downed aircrew, but being able to care for myself and my crew during those critical initial stages is extremely important.

The story of Louie's life is very humorous in places, but tinged with enough loss and regret that it didn't feel like an embellished tale. His time in Oahu brings back memories of our life there, and I remember looking at the historic buildings on Hickam, still scarred from the Japanese attack, the bullet holes preserved as a way to honor those who were killed. His carefree carousing and merriment prior to his fateful crash makes me think of the old black and white movies that tell of America's entry into World War II.

I sat at my kitchen table this morning reading the end of Part IV. I was laughing, I was crying, I was completely overcome by emotion. I wanted to sit there and read the book until I finished it, but I forced myself to close the book and get ready for work. Even then, when I reopened the book to continue reading, I caught a glimpse of the picture on p. 330 (view spoiler) and I just about broke into tears. That is the power of this book.

Now that I've finished the book, a small part of me wishes I'd just stopped at Part IV. Part V covers the post-war years and his difficulties with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), his trouble with alcoholism and nightmares, and the way that Billy Graham helped him find peace in his faith. The epilogue sums up the six decades of his life in about eighteen pages. It's a bit abrupt and really has a different tone from the rest of the book.

But overall, the story is truly remarkable and I enjoyed perusing the internet to find out more about this inspiring nonagenarian, truly a member of The Greatest Generation. I saw a few interviews with him here and here, here. (There seems to be innumerable videos of him on the web.) Laura Hillenbrand's website for the book, along with her NPR interview also provide additional information.

2 July 2014 update: Louie Zamperini passed away today. He will always remain a hero in my heart. Rest in peace, Louie.

interesting quotes:

"In 1943 in the Pacific Ocean Areas theater in which Phil's crew served, for every plane lost in combat, some six planes were lost in accidents. Over time, combat took a greater toll, but combat losses never overtook noncombat losses." (p. 80)

"At night, navigators sometimes resorted to following the stars, guiding their crews over the Pacific by means not so different from those used by ancient Polynesian mariners." (p. 83)

"Though Phil was constantly wondering how long this would go on, it had not yet occurred to him that he might die. The same was true for Louie. Though they both knew that they were in an extremely serious situation, both had the ability to warn fear away from their thoughts, focusing instead on how to survive and reassuring themselves that things would work out." (p. 147)

“Dignity is as essential to human life as water, food, and oxygen. The stubborn retention of it, even in the face of extreme physical hardship, can hold a man's soul in his body long past the point at which the body should have surrendered it." (p. 183)

"According to captives, there were two characteristics common to nearly all Ofuna guards. One was marked stupidity. The other was murderous sadism." (p. 194)

"As dangerous as these acts were, for the POWs, they were transformative. In risking their necks to sabotage the enemy, the men were no longer passive captives. They were soldiers again." (p. 243)

"The POWs were soon blissfully enveloped in Red Cross nurses, some of whom cried at the sight of them. Perhaps the women weren't all beautiful, but to Ken Marvin, they looked like goddesses." (p. 320)



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Quotes Dolly Liked

Laura Hillenbrand
“Dignity is as essential to human life as water, food, and oxygen. The stubborn retention of it, even in the face of extreme physical hardship, can hold a man's soul in his body long past the point at which the body should have surrendered it.”
Laura Hillenbrand, Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption


Reading Progress

11/04/2012 page 51
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Comments (showing 1-5 of 5) (5 new)

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Jason Dolly, here's what a good review can do: I read what you wrote, and, during lunch, walked over to the base library and checked this out for the long weekend. I remember those water survival refreshers...room temp water, no waves, no oil slick or surface fires.


Jason Also like that trick with the html 'view spoiler.'


Dolly Thanks, Jason. My abilities with HTML code have improved since I joined Goodreads, and I think the site has added a lot of updates and upgrades that helps us humble users.

Such a good story...I can't wait to read the last part. I think Veteran's Day is a very appropriate time to read this. I just watched DTRA's Marine Corps Birthday celebration and the speeches mentioned a lot of the battlefields of WWII - it really brought the story's message home to me.


Jason Great book. Thanks for recommending.


Dolly Glad you liked it!


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