There are countless accounts of American heroism in World War Two; Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand, took on special meaning when its subject, Louis “Louie” Zamperini, died on July 2, 2014, just this past Wednesday.
Unbroken tells the incredible true story of Zamperini’s life as an Olympian, a bombardier, and prisoner of war survivor. A first-generation immigrant, Zamperini grew up in California, developing into an exceptional runner who made history at 19 as the youngest American ever to qualify for the 5000 meters. Three years later, Zamperini enlisted in the air force and was stationed in the Pacific as a bombardier. His own plane went down while conducting a rescue mission. He lived on the non-provisioned raft for 47 days, until he was picked up by the Japanese and interned as a prisoner of war.
Like most non-fiction writers, Hillenbrand faces the challenge of writing suspense into a story that a single Google search could find the ending to. Luckily for the reader, she handles this task with aplomb, crafting an emotional and well-researched narrative of courage, sacrifice, and survival. As one of America’s most celebrated wars, almost everyone who fought in WWII was a hero—thanks to Hillenbrand’s exceptional work, Zamperini will continue to be celebrated as one for a long time to come.