Seabiscuit author Laura Hillenbrand follows world class runner, Louis Zamperinie's travails as a WWII prisoner.
With UNBROKEN, author Laura Hillenbrand moves in a totally different direction from her best-selling blockbuster SEABISCUIT. This time Hillenbrand follows another runner, Louis Zamperini, who was closing in on the four-minute mile before WWII interrupted his quest.
Prior to being introduced to track by his brother Pete, Louie was a trouble-maker and a thief. He once climbed a church tower, tied the bell to a rope which he strung to a nearby tree, and rang it all day.
Louie Zamperini became a bombardier in the Army Airforce before his plane was forced to ditch in the ocean. He then spent forty-six days with two other airmen on a raft, fighting off sharks and subsisting on rainwater, seabirds and the occasional fish. Little did he know that this was only the beginning of his travails. When they finally touched land, he became a prisoner in a number of Japanese POW camps and he met his tormenter, Mutsuhiro Watanabe whom the prisoners called “The Bird.” Watanabe had heard of Louie’s Olympic achievements and singled him out as an object of hatred.
It’s not so much Louie’s trials and tribulations that make this book so instructive. Louie’s plane, a B-24, was on a rescue mission when it crashed in the ocean. We learn that for every one airman rescued from an ocean crash, seven potential rescuers also disappeared. Apparently the B-24 was a flying coffin. We also learn that one out of four POWs suffered from post traumatic shock after the war.
We follow Louie home after the war, see him get married and watch him succumb to problems with alcohol. He has terrible flashbacks and The Bird frequents his dreams almost every night. This is where Hillenbrand adds a little suspense to her book. As many as 900 former guards were put to death after the war, but Watanabe disappeared, and we want to know if he got what he deserved. Louie determines to save himself by tracking Watanabe down, but finds his salvation in an unlikely place.
In a time of 9.8 percent unemployment some Americans feel sorry for themselves and blame the government for their predicament, but they just might feel a bit squeamish about their whining after reading Hillenbrand’s book and the hell on earth Louie Zamperini and the other POWs went through.
Dave Schwinghammer's published novel, SOLDIER'S GAP, is available at Amazon. com, used andnew.