LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
I had never heard the names of Louis Zamperini and Russel Allen Phillips until my pastor gave me a book, “Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption,” by author Laura Hillenbrand, who wrote, “Seabiscuit: An American Legend” a few years ago.
But as I delved into the 473 pages of the book, I was stirred and inspired.
The book tells the story of Zamperini, an Olympic runner who competed in the 1936 Berlin summer games. Like many Americans of his generation, Zamperini joined the U.S. Army Air Forces as a bombardier on a B-24 Liberator bomber, where he met Phillips, his pilot.
They were on a rescue mission in April 1942 when the plane went down, killing eight of the 11 crewmen aboard save Zamperini, Phillips and a gunner, Francis McNamara.
The crash was the beginning of a 47-day odyssey in which the men floated in the vast South Pacific Ocean waiting to be rescued. McNamara eventually died somewhere around the 30th day, leaving Zamperini and Phillips.
The duo eventually reached the Marshall Islands, where they were quickly captured by the Japanese and taken to separate POW camps, where they remained for the remainder of World War II.
From there, the book focuses more on Zamperini and his life as a POW. For more than two years, he was subjected to brutal beatings and starvation by his captors.
His story is inspiring, and Hillenbrand’s writing style is such that it was hard to put the book down.
In those pages, I read of Zamperini giving his life to a God, who allowed him to forgive his tormentors and spent many years preaching about the power of forgiveness.
I was saddened to hear that the 97-year-old Zamperini passed away July 2 from after weeks of suffering from pneumonia.
I’m thankful for the sacrifices of people such as Zamperini and Phillips, who took up the call to arms in defense of our great nation.