Captain (Sep.) Louis Zamperini was an Olympic distance runner, inspirational speaker and an Airman during World War II.
He was a bombardier in a B-24 that was flying a reconnaissance mission on May 27th, 1943, when his plane malfunctioned and fell into the Pacific Ocean. He and surviving crew members drifted for 47 days on a raft; constantly fighting off hunger, first, heat, storms and shark attacks. Upon reaching land, Zamperini was captured by Japanese Navy forces and spent nearly two years enduring torture as a prisoner of war (POW).
Despite being declared missing at sea and later, “killed in action,” he returned home to a hero’s welcome in 1945. Zamperini was a recipient of the Purple Heart, the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Prisoner of War medal. He went on to become an inspirational speaker, and in 1988, at the age of 81, ran a leg in the Olympic Torch relay for the Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan, not far from the POW camp where he had been held.
Zamperini is the subject of the bestselling book, “Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption,” by Laura Hillenbrand. A #1 New York Times best-seller, it’s also being made into a movie, directed by Angelina Jolie and is scheduled for a December 2014 release.
He passed away on July 2nd, 2014.