“Unbroken” by Laura Hillenbrand is the story of Louis Zamperini, a 1936 Olympic runner who was drafted into WW2, survived nearly 50 days at sea after a downed plane and then 2 years in the most brutal of Japanese POW camps. It was one of the most powerful, unbelievable stories of human survival I’ve ever read. It will be a long time before I can shake the images Hillenbrand spelled out. First, the miracle of surviving at sea for 50 days — just he and another man, Russel Allen Phillips. Another man, Frances McNamara, died of starvation on the raft. Then, to finally reach land and be captured by the Japanese.
I never knew the torture, the pure evil, that existed in POW camps. They seemed just as bad as any concentration camp, full of inhumane guards that starved, beat and tortured the soldiers.
The other thing I found amazing was the fact that 70% of WW2 troops were killed in plane crashes on the way over. Because planes were still somewhat new and not very reliable, they constantly went down. It was almost certain that, as a young man, you would be dead before the war’s end if you went overseas.
The experience of enduring the POW camps is one that could not be bore by anyone without a strong mind and an extraordinary will to live. It’s clear Louis had that and reading beating after beating, one starving day after another, never knowing if they would survive the end of the war, it’s hard to understand how he had the will to live. I truly cannot sum up the emotion that settled on me as I read this book and surely “unbroken” is the only title that could fit this story.
Lastly, what struck me was the role that Billy Graham paid in Louie’s life after the war. God did a miracle in his life through Billy Graham, almost literally pulling him from the depths of alcoholism, terror and flashbacks. It was like God said, hey you, you are mine. And Louis listened and let go and he lived. In fact, he is STILL alive today and is in his 90s. As usual, I was given a dose of reality — one that reminded me of the good life I have and the sacrifices so many have made to keep it that way.