The Saving of Louis Zamperini

The Saving of Louis Zamperini

Louis Zamperini was a troubled youth who became a star athlete, competing in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. He was on pace to become the first man to break the 4 minute mile when World War II intervened.

On a mission over the Pacific Ocean, Zamperini’s plane went down. He and a fellow crewman survived 47 days on a life raft before being captured by the Japanese and placed in a POW camp.

Zamperini’s story is told in a remarkable biography by Laura Hillenbrand called Unbroken: A World Ward II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption. I highly recommend it.

Hillenbrand’s biography ends following Zamperini’s release at the end of the war. But Louis’ remarkable story continued.

An article at by Clayton Kraby tells Zamperini’s story following his release from the Japanese POW camp and return home. Zamperini struggled with depression, alcoholism, and a seething hatred for those who had made his life as a POW a living hell, including one particularly cruel and sadistic solder Zamperini came to refer to as “The Bird.” Kraby writes,

Filled with anger, anxiety, and hatred, Zamperini found solace in alcohol and in concocting plans to return to Japan to murder The Bird. This was the only way Louis felt he could finally be free of him.

As he continued to withdraw into depression and alcoholism, he would also lash out unpredictably. Louis was on the verge of losing his family. “I got married, I had a little girl and I continued to drink and continued to party, and my wife refused to go with me,” Louis said. “Pretty soon I found myself fading away, to the point where I realized that I was in serious need of help.”

That help came in the form of his wife taking him to the Billy Graham Crusade in Los Angeles. During those meetings Zamperini found Christ, and the redemption that would save him from his own destruction and allow him to forgive those who had so badly mistreated him.

It’s an amazing story of how God can take the most malevolent situations of life and redeem them, using them to tell His story of mercy and grace for us all. Please read the whole story.

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