A World War II Story of Survival,
Resilience, and Redemption
Survival shows/books, great stories (fiction or nonfiction), history, and things related to God: anyone who knows me knows these are my favorite things to learn about. I enjoy learning about survival because I am curious about how man would fare without much of modern technology. Great stories have a beautiful way of transporting me into other people’s lives to experience the world through their eyes and to feel, on some level, their joy, confusion, frustration, anger, sadness, etc. History is profitable in teaching me the roles (good or bad) that mankind has played throughout time as well as many other extraordinary things. Most of all, I love learning about God and how to correctly understand reality as He sees it. Unbroken, written by Laura Hillenbrand, is an incredible, true story about Louis Zamperini and his struggle to survive through one of the most horrific experiences anyone can imagine. It contains all of the aforementioned things that I think make a great story so engaging.
Louie Zamperini, born January 26, 1917, was a wild child who began smoking cigarettes at five and drinking at eight. Despite being a very intelligent boy, Louie chose a life of thievery, fighting and outright rebellion. Hoping to saving him from complete ruin his older brother, Pete, advised Louie to take a hobby: running. Louie fell in love with competitive running, going on to be successful in high school, college, and even making the 1936 summer Olympic Games. After that he was highly favored to be one of the top runners in the 1940 summer games, but with the outbreak of World War II all hopes of that were shattered as the Olympics were canceled. After many illnesses, Louie lost his ability to run the way he had before, took up acting, and was drafted into the Army Air Corps.
Louie’s story of survival begins in the Pacific Ocean and ends in Japan as a POW. This story will have you on the edge of your seat, mouth hanging open, and heart pounding in amazement that any man could endure so much pain and suffering and live to tell about it. Many suffered far less during WWII and did not make it out alive, but the real beauty of this story isn’t only in seeing the human body and mind survive such horrendous abuse but also seeing how God uses these events in Louie’s life to lead him to his greatest need: Christ. You will stand amazed at the hardness of Louie’s heart being melted away in a moment’s time by our sovereign God. A life that could have been spent angry and afraid is changed into a life filled with forgiveness and a desire to serve Christ all his days. On some level you will feel Louie’s anger, sadness, bitterness and suffering, but by the end you will weep as you see God change all of that. I hope this story will inspire you above all to love God because he is supremely worthy of all our love, and to love your enemies, remembering, as we do that, that we were enemies of God once: “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life” (Romans 5:8-10). For me, this book has been tremendously inspiring and convicting. The night before finishing this book I spent some time in prayer weeping and thanking God for this story. I was reminded that God is the great healer of broken and wounded hearts and he will see us through every dark storm we encounter. With high hopes of enticing you to read this book, I have included a part of the preface of Unbroken:
“All he could see, in every direction, was water. It was late June 1943. Somewhere on the endless expanse of the Pacific Ocean, Army Air Force bombardier and Olympic runner Louie Zamperini lay across a small raft, drifting westward. Slumped alongside him was a sergent, one of his plane’s gunners. On a separate raft, tethered to the first, lay another crewman, a gash zigzagging across his forehead. Their bodies, burned by the sun and stained yellow from the raft dye, had withered down to skeletons. Sharks glided in lazy loops around them, dragging their backs along the rafts, waiting.
The men had been adrift for twenty-seven days. Borne by an equatorial current, they had floated at least one thousand miles, deep into Japanese-controlled waters. The rafts were beginning to deteriorate into jelly, and gave off a sour, burning odor. The men’s bodies were pocketed with salt sours, and their lips were so swollen that they pressed into their nostrils and chins. They spent their days with their eyes fixed on the sky, singing “White Christmas,” muttering about food. No one was even looking for them anymore. They were alone on sixty-four million square miles of ocean.”
May we never forget all the men in World War I and II whose stories will never be told.
Due to some of the content in this book, I will warn you ahead of time that there is some cursing and also some graphic description of life as a POW. All of this is done in keeping with the historical reality of this time in history and Louie’s experiences as a POW.