I’ve lived in Long Beach pretty much all my life, and have lots of friends who’ve lived in Torrance. I’ve passed by Zamperini Field numerous times without stopping to wonder who it was named after. Well, now I know.
Louie Zamperini was a world-class runner on the way to breaking the barrier of the four-minute mile when, suddenly, his country needed him. He heeded the call and joined the Army’s Air Corps as a bombardier. I just finished reading Catch-22, and I’m glad that I got to read a little of it before reading Unbroken because it helped me to create a backdrop of absurdity for what I was about to read.
Zamperini crashed in the middle of the ocean, survived on rainwater and fish for over a month, and was then captured and tortured by the Japanese.
My parents are Korean, and many people of their generation dislike the Japanese, a propensity passed down to them by their parents before them. I’d always known it was because of the Japanese occupation of Korea, but I’d never learned about the brutality of that occupation. After reading this book, I can understand a little better why my parents have such an aversion to the sound of the Japanese language. What happened in those death camps was inhuman at the basest level.
It makes me really sad and ashamed to know that POWs in American prisons are treated with similar cruelty and lack of dignity (Abu Ghraib, I’m looking at you). Maybe they’re not being starved, but we do know that they’re being humiliated. I get that some of them might have done awful things, but most of them were just following orders. Nothing gives us the right to torture them, no matter what they’ve done to us. This is the one time I’m going to have to disagree with Jack Bauer.
Anyway, Zamperini’s story is nothing short of amazing. The fact that he was able to survive so many different hardships is boggling. Hillenbrand’s writing is strong, precise, and honest, which I really appreciate. I appreciate that she didn’t try to gloss over his struggle with alcoholism after coming home, as well as his conversion to Christianity later in life. She told the story of the real Louie Zamperini without pulling any punches.
He’s still alive, by the way. He’ll probably outlive us all. Louie Zamperini is a survivor if ever there was one.