Louis Zamperini was an Olympic athlete who subsequently became a Christian missionary and was a World War II American prisoner of war survivor. Louis Zamperini struggled as a child growing up in a non-English speaking home in the United States of America. However, he overcame the challenges and ridicule from his peers by concentrating on running. His enthusiasm for running encouraged him to join the school track team. Louis Zamperini was an accomplished long-distance runner who competed in the 1936 Summer Olympics and had planned to compete in the 1940 Olympic Games as well. However, as World War II broke out, the games were canceled, and he enlisted in the US Army Air Corps. He was in a plane that crashed into the Pacific Ocean, and despite his survival, the Japanese forces took him as a prisoner of war. After the war ended two years later, Louis Zamperini was liberated. He began his profession as a Christian evangelist after returning to the United States. His life has inspired many people, and his narrative has been the subject of numerous books, documentaries, and feature films.
Childhood and Adolescence
Louis Zamperini was born in Olean, New York, on January 26, 1917. Anthony Zamperini, his father, and Louise Dossi, his mother, were both Italian. He was the second kid of the marriage. Pete Zamperini was Louis’ oldest brother, and Sylvia and Virginia Zamperini were his sisters.
Louis Zamperini and his family migrated to California in 1919. He was a student at Torrance High School. His family didn’t speak English, and his inability to communicate in it made him a target for bullying at school. As a result, his father began to teach him boxing as a kind of self-defense.
Louis Zamperini joined the school track team on his brother’s advice, and by the conclusion of his freshman year, he had placed fifth in the All City division for tiny kids. This motivated him to quit his bad habits and pursue his dream of becoming an athlete.
In 1940, he graduated from the University of Southern California with a bachelor’s degree.
Career of Louis Zamperini
He learned to run from his brother and competed in his first cross country event in 1932. Louis Zamperini went on to win several races and become unbeatable over the next three years. He ran the mile in 4.21.2 seconds during the preliminary rounds of the California State Championships in 1934, breaking the global interscholastic record. That year, he won the California State Meet championships. He received a scholarship to the University of Southern California as a result of his triumph.
In 1936, he attempted to qualify for the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, and he decided to run the 5000 meters long distance event, which he eventually qualified for. He is still the 5000 meter race’s youngest American qualifier. He did, however, place seventh in the competition. Despite this, he completed his final loop in 56 seconds, which attracted Nazi leader Adolf Hitler’s attention.
Of He enrolled at the University of Southern California after returning to the United States. In 1938, he broke the national collegiate mile mark with a time of 4.08 seconds. This record stood for fifteen years, earning him the moniker ‘Torrance Tornado.’
After the 1940 Olympics were canceled owing to the outbreak of World War II, Louis Zamperini enlisted as a lieutenant in the United States Army Air Corps. He served on the B-24 Liberator as a bombardier and was stationed on the Pacific island of Funafuti. While flying over the Pacific Ocean in May 1943, Louis Zamperini’s plane suffered a mechanical failure and crashed into the water. He and two other men survived the crash and were stuck on a raft for 47 days. One of the three people died, but Louis Zamperini and the other survivor, pilot Russell Allen Philips, made it to the coast, which was enemy territory in Japan. They were taken as prisoners and tortured shortly after.
He was subjected to terrible psychological and physical abuse while being held captive. He was held captive for about two years, during which time the US military reported him dead. He was liberated and returned to the United States when World War II ended in 1945.
Upon his return to the United States, he went through a difficult period in his life, plagued by dreams of his time as a prisoner of war. As a result, he became an alcoholic. Louis Zamperini attended an evangelic crusade in 1949 at the request of his wife, when he recommitted himself to Christ and forgave his tormentors. He began his career as a Christian evangelist after some time. He believed in the power of forgiveness, and it is said that he met with numerous of the guards during his time in captivity to tell them that he had forgiven them. In 1950, he also visited the Sugamo jail in Japan for same purpose.
Louis Zamperini ran a leg in the Winter Olympics Torch relay in Japan in 1998. Even in his 90s, he is known to have attended USC football games.
Louis Zamperini had published two novels based on his personal experiences. Helen Itria co-wrote the first book, ‘Devil at My Heels: The Story of Louis Zamperini,’ which was released in 1956. The second book, titled ‘Devil at My Heels: A World War II Hero’s Epic Saga of Torment, Survival, and Forgiveness,’ was co-written with David Rensin and is an updated version of the first. In 2003, this book was released.
Personal History and Legacy
In 1946, Louis Zamperini married Cynthia Applewhite. Cissy was their daughter, and Luke was their son.
Louis Zamperini died of pneumonia in his Los Angeles home in 2014. At the time, he was 97 years old.
Louis Zamperini Net Worth
In 2010, Louis Zamperini collaborated with author Laura Hillenbrand on a book called ‘Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption,’ which was published in 2010. This best-selling book received numerous honors and accolades. ‘Unbroken,’ a feature film based on the novel, was released in 2014.