On a May afternoon in 1943, an Army Air Forces bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean and disappeared, leaving only a spray of debris and a slick of oil, gasoline, and blood. Then, on the ocean surface, a face appeared. It was that of a young lieutenant, the plane's bombardier, who was struggling to a life raft. So began one of the most extraordinary odysseys of the Second World War.
The lieutenant's name was Louis Zamperini. In boyhood, he'd been a cunning and incorrigible delinquent. As a teenager, he had channeled his defiance into running, discovering a prodigious talent that had carried him to the Berlin Olympics. But when war had come, the athlete had become an airman, embarking on a journey that led to his doomed flight, a tiny raft, and a drift into the unknown.
Ahead of Zamperini lay thousands of miles of open ocean, leaping sharks, a foundering raft, thirst and starvation, enemy aircraft, and, beyond, a trial even greater. His fate, whether triumph or tragedy, would be suspended on the fraying wire of his will. Unbroken is a testament to the resilience of the human mind, body, and spirit.
|Publisher:||Random House Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.10(h) x 1.30(d)|
About the Author
Laura Hillenbrand is the author of the #1 New York Times bestseller Seabiscuit: An American Legend, which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, won the Book Sense Book of the Year Award and the William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award, landed on more than fifteen best-of-the-year lists, and inspired the film Seabiscuit, which was nominated for seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture. Hillenbrand’s New Yorker article, “A Sudden Illness,” won the 2004 National Magazine Award, and she is a two-time winner of the Eclipse Award, the highest journalistic honor in Thoroughbred racing. She and actor Gary Sinise are the co-founders of Operation International Children, a charity that provides school supplies to children through American troops. She lives in Washington, D.C.
Read an Excerpt
Chapter One The One-Boy Insurgency
Excerpted from "Unbroken (Movie Tie-in Edition)"
Copyright © 2014 Laura Hillenbrand.
Excerpted by permission of Random House Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
1 The One-Boy Insurgency 3
2 Run Like Mad 20
3 The Torrance Tornado 30
4 Plundering Germany 44
5 Into War 60
6 The Flying Coffin 79
7 "This Is It, Boys" 201
8 "Only the Laundry Knew How Scared I Was" 121
9 Five Hundred and Ninety-four Holes 142
10 The Stinking Six 165
11 "Nobody's Going to Live Through This" 180
12 Downed 195
13 Missing at Sea 204
14 Thirst 220
15 Sharks and Bullets 240
16 Singing in the Clouds 252
17 Typhoon 267
18 A Dead Body Breathing 281
19 Two Hundred Silent Men 298
20 Farting for Hirohito 316
21 Belief 336
22 Plots Afoot 349
23 Monster 365
24 Hunted 380
25 B-29 395
26 Madness 413
27 Falling Down 432
28 Enslaved 441
29 Two Hundred and Twenty Punches 458
30 The Boiling City 470
31 The Naked Stampede 481
32 Cascades of Pink Peaches 493
33 Mother's Day 509
34 The Shimmering Girl 531
35 Coming Undone 550
36 The Body on the Mountain 564
37 Twisted Ropes 577
38 A Beckoning Whistle 586
39 Daybreak 601
What People are Saying About This
“Unbroken is too much book to hope for: a hell ride of a story in the grip of the one writer who can handle it. Killing sharks with his bare hands...outracing Olympic runners...outwitting one of the most notorious fiends to stalk Japan's POW camps – when it comes to courage, humanity, and impossible adventure, few will ever match "the boy terror of Torrance," and few but the author of Seabicuit could tell his tale with such humanity and dexterity. Laura Hillenbrand has given us a new national treasure.”
Christopher McDougall, author of Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Super Athletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen
Reading Group Guide
Reader’s Guide: Unbroken: A WWII Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption, by Laura Hillenbrand
1. Louie’s experiences are singular: None of us is going to be in a plane crash, strafed by a bomber, attacked by sharks, cast away on a raft, or held as a POW. And yet the word most often used to describe him is “inspiring.” What does Louie’s experience demonstrate that makes him so inspirational to people who will never endure what he did? What are the lessons that his life offers to all of us?
2. Is Louie a hero? How do you define heroism?
3. In Louie’s boyhood, he was severely bullied, then became a delinquent and hellraiser. In these experiences, did he already display attributes that would help him survive his wartime ordeal? Did he also show weaknesses or tendencies that foreshadowed the struggles he would face postwar?
4. Did Louie’s athletic career help prepare him for what he would face in war?
5. Louie was especially close to his brother Pete, who devoted himself to him. If Pete hadn’t been there, what would have become of Louie? Does Pete deserve credit for shaping Louie into a man who could endure and survive his Odyssean ordeal?
6. Hillenbrand explores the extraordinary risks faced by America’s WWII airmen: 54,000 men killed in combat, 36,000 killed in noncombat aircraft accidents, and a stunning 15,000 men killed in stateside training—at times, an average of 19 per day. Men faced a 50% chance of being killed during combat tours of only 30-40 missions. Were you aware of the dangers faced by airmen in the Pacific war? What facts and stories were most surprising to you?
7. What are your feelings about Mac? Do you feel sympathy for him? Anger? If you endured the trauma of a plane crash, and were placed in a situation that you knew very few men survived, might you have reacted as he did? In the end, did he redeem himself?
8. When Louie, Phil and Mac were on the raft, a key factor in their survival was optimism. All three men were young and able-bodied, veterans of the same training, experiencing the same hardships and traumas, yet Louie and Phil remained optimistic while Mac was hopeless, seemingly doomed by his pessimism. Why are some people hopeful, and others not? How important is attitude and mindset in determining one’s ability to overcome hardship?
9. What did you find most remarkable about the things Louie and Phil did to survive on the raft?
10. Over 47 days on the raft, the men lost half their body weight, and were rendered mere skeletons. Yet they refused to consider cannibalism, which had not been uncommon among castaways before them. Would you, in the same situation, ever consider cannibalism? If it could ensure that two men survived, when otherwise all three would almost certainly perish, would it be a moral decision?
11. Louie believed he was the beneficiary of several miracles, among them his escape from the wreckage of his plane, the fact that he and the other men were not hit with bullets when their rafts were strafed, and the appearance of the singers in the clouds. What is your interpretation of those experiences?
12. The POWs took enormous risks to carry out thefts, sabotage, and other acts of defiance. Men would risk their lives to steal items as trivial as pencil boxes. What benefit did they derive from defiance that was worth risking death, or severe beatings?
13. In the 1930s and 1940s, Germany and Japan carried out what are arguably the worst acts of mass atrocity in history. What leads individuals, and even whole societies, to descend to such a level? What motivated the notoriously sadistic POW camp guards in Japan, particularly the Bird? Do we all carry the capacity for cruelty?
14. After the war, Louie would say that of all the horrors he witnessed and experienced in the war, the death of the little duck, Gaga, was the worst. Why was this event especially wrenching for him and the other POWs?
15. Louie, Frank Tinker, and William Harris planned to escape from Ofuna, walk across Japan, steal a boat and make a run for China. It was an attempt that very likely would have ended in their deaths. Was it foolish, or did it offer a psychological benefit that was worth the enormous risk?
16. Louie joined a plot to kill the Bird. Was he justified in doing so? Would it have been a moral act? Do you think Louie could have found peace after the war, had he killed the Bird?
17. Unbroken reveals that, under the “kill-all order,” the Japanese planned to murder all POWs, a plan that was never carried out because of the dropping of the atomic bombs. The book also explores the lengths to which the Japanese were prepared to go to avoid surrender. How did the book make you feel about America’s use of the atomic bomb on Japan?
18. “Anger is a justifiable and understandable reaction to being wronged, and as the soul’s first effort to reassert its worth and power, it may initially be healing,” Laura Hillenbrand wrote in an article for Guideposts magazine. “But in time, anger becomes corrosive. To live in bitterness is to be chained to the person who wounded you, your emotions and actions arising not independently, but in reaction to your abuser. Louie became so obsessed with vengeance that his life was consumed by the quest for it. In bitterness, he was as much a captive as he’d been when barbed wire had surrounded him.” Do you agree?
19. Many of us struggle to forgive those who have wronged us, but forgiveness is often so difficult to find. What makes it so hard to let resentment go?
20. “What the Bird took from Louie was his dignity; what he left behind was a pervasive sense of helplessness and worthlessness,” Hillenbrand continued in her Guideposts article. “As I researched Louie’s life, interviewing his fellow POWs and studying their memoirs and diaries, I discovered that this loss of dignity was nearly ubiquitous, leaving the men feeling defenseless and frightened in a world that had become menacing. The postwar nightmares, flashbacks, alcoholism and anxiety that were endemic among them spoke of souls in desperate fear. Watching these men struggle to overcome their trauma, I came to believe that a loss of self-worth is central to the experience of being victimized, and may be what makes its pain particularly devastating.” Do you agree?
21. Hillenbrand wrote that among the former POWs she interviewed, forgiveness became possible once the POW had found a way to restore his sense of dignity. Was this what Billy Graham gave to Louie? If so, what was it about that experience, and that sermon, gave Louie back his self-worth?
22. Do Louie Zamperini’s wartime and postwar experiences give you a different perspective on a loved one who was, or is, a veteran?
23. Why has most WWII literature focused on the European war, with so little attention paid to the Pacific war?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I couldn't tear myself away from this long book once I started! Louis Zamperini was an average little boy until he became a teenager. It was then that he learned to run. He went to the Berlin Olympics to represent the USA. But this isn't what this book is about. It's raw, exciting and gripping, about salvation, survival, fighting inner and outer demons, suffering horrific pain. The trouble began when he was called into service, like so many young American men, to fight the Japanese. His greatest feat was his survival of an Air force plane crash in the Pacific during WWII, then somehow surviving being a prisoner of war, the torture, starvation, beatings. As painful as it was to read the POW camp accounts, the remarkable, miraculous thing is that Zamperini and the others managed to persevere and survive. The book continued after this horrific experience to detail the after effects fighting the inner demons to get back to a place of peace. This is an excellent story, an excellent account, excellent writing and an excellent lesson. I big time recommend!
I have just finished an advanced copy of Unbroken, the true story of Louis Zamperini and realized I have read the next New York Times Bestseller and looked up to see if it had already been optioned for a movie, because that is what I saw when I was reading it; an Oscar Award film playing from the pages of an incredible but absolutely true story. Ms. Hillenbrand is the award winning, #1 New York times Bestselling Author of Seabiscuit and it took seven years to research and write this book. The cover sheet in the advance reader copy a publishing executive writes to readers that she is humbled to write about this book, the author and its subject. I was certainly humbled to read it. Ms. Hillenbrand very successfully brings Louie's life, from his mischievous childhood, through his Olympic experiences, and the extremes of his military service to the reader with such detail as to be physically palpable. My father served in the Navy in the Pacific and I have always been partial to the history of that theater of World War II so I was drawn by the book jacket to read this. Being from the East coast, I had not heard of Mr. Zamperini, so I have completely consumed by this incredible journey of a book and the life of the man. It carried me through every emotion and I found myself laughing out loud, reaching for tissues, and holding my breath in suspense. Sometimes I was afraid to turn a page and then at the same time afraid not to. From cover to cover, I could not put it down. As we have just past the 65th anniversary of the end of World War II and come close to the end of 2010 with Veterans Day, I would like to thank Mr. Zamperini for his service and sacrifice (along with my father and those who suffered and gave their lives for our country) and sincere and heartfelt appreciation to Laura Hillenbrand for bringing his story to all and especially to those of us descended from the greatest generation. Don't miss this book. Seabiscuit was a wonderful book. This one is even better !
On June 23, 1943 three American soldiers had been drifting in the Pacific Ocean for twenty seven days. The rafts were deteriorating, their bodies were covered in salt sores, and they didn't know it at the time, but there would be another twenty days of drifting ahead for them. Only two of the three would survive. One of them was former Olympic runner Louis Zamperini whose life would never be the same. Laura Hillenbrand's Unbroken is an amazing study in resilience, defiance and strength that takes you on the journey of one man's lifetime. Zamperini was an incorrigible child, a natural runner, and a man who would not be broken. He survived unspeakable torture and deprivation at the hands of his Japanese captors only to find himself being tortured by his memories after returning home at the end of the war. Being over taken with the reoccurring tortures that resided in his mind, Zamperini turned to alcohol. He reclaimed his life after hearing an inspiring speaker in a tent on a street corner in Los Angeles. That speaker was Billy Graham. Graham taught him about total forgiveness. It was then and there that Louie was able to release the hatred and take hold of his own life and destiny. Laura Hillenbrand, author of Seabiscuit, brought the story of depression era wonder horse to us all. Now she brings us the story of Louis Zamperini, who as of this writing is ninety-three years old and residing in Los Angeles. Hillenbrand said that she came across an article about Louis Zamperini while doing research for Seabiscuit and set it aside. I'm glad she went back to Zamperini's story. In one of her countless interviews with Mr. Zamperini spanning seven years, he assured Hillenbrand that "I'll be an easier subject than Seabiscuit, because I can talk." Although Unbroken is over 450 pages in length, but there's never a dull or lagging moment, just the opposite. The story flows quickly and the suspense keeps you turning the pages. Zamperini's struggle to reclaim his life is beautifully told by Hillenbrand. In Unbroken, Hillenbrand captures the spark of a man determined to survive what he had to and to come out the winner he'd always been. I received this book as an advance readers copy upon my request to the publisher. I like it so much, I'll be at the brick and mortar book store Tuesday to buy a copy to add to my own library.
I am proud to say this man is a member of my family and I grew up hearing his story. This book is a beautiful tribute!
As difficult and complex as this story is, it's easy to read. And don't be stopped because it's a WWII story. It's not so much about combat as all sides of human nature.
"Unbroken" by Laura Hillenbrand (Website | Facebook)is the amazing non-fiction story of Loius Zamperini (Website| Wikipedia) and American athlete, World War II Air Corp bombardier who survived a crash and interment in a Japanese POW camp. The book is divided into five parts: Part I - where we meet the juvenile delinquent Louis Zamperini and his family. Always getting in trouble for breaking & entering, fighting and stealing, Louis finally finds his calling on the track and becomes a prodigy in short distance running. Part II - After a commanding performance in the Berlin Olympics, Louis' dreams of a medal get tarnished with the events leading to World War II. The athlete becomes an airman. Louis' crew mates and buddies train for bombing missions on their B-24 and even have several successful runs. Feeling lucky to be alive they rejoice everyday until they are forced to go on a rescue mission (the plane they were given was not air worthy) and crash into the Pacific. Part III - Adrift at sea Louie', Phil and Mac survive and astounding 47 fighting sharks, hunger, thirst, heat and cold. They drift 2,000 miles only to become POWs. Part IV - The survives are sent to the dreadful island of Kwajalein, known as "Execution Island" and unexpectedly sent to Yokohama, a POW camp. Louie meets his share of sadistic POW guards, disease, starvation and slave labor. However the stubborn man lives through the ordeal to the end of the war, all the way home. Part V - Louie's home, but the war leaves its scars, both physical and emotional. Epilogue - What happened to the those mentioned in the story. A wrap up. Acknowledgment- well worth reading. The author tells of her research, interviews and more. Notes - Certainly worth a glance. "Unbroken" by Laura Hillenbrand is a gripping, well written and diligently researched book. It is hard to decide what's more amazing, Louis Zamperini's story or Ms. Hillenbrand's telling of it. OK, Mr. Zamperini wins - but by a small margin. The story is amazing, but the prose is brilliant. Ms. Hillenbrand uses a straightforward narrative without testing the reader's knowledge of the English language. Each sentence is plain, clear and understandable, which to me only shows that it was labored on rigorously. The account is so descriptive one can almost feel themselves floating in the shark infest waters for a 1,000 miles with Zamperini and his friends. But "Unbroken" is not only the story of Zamperini, but also of World War II from the vantage point a POW who was uncertain when the sun rose, whether he'll get to see it set again. The confusi0n which the men felt during their time as POWs only expatiated after the war, when they realized the political games being played by the world's leader at their expense. For more book reviews please visit ManOfLaBook dot com
I loved this book! I am a 24 year old female and am not usually drawn to war stories in particular, but this is an amazing story and it was so well written. Laura did an tremendous job researching to create this book and it shows not only in the finite details of the stories, but in the documentations in the back of the book. I cannot phathem how someone thought this would only be for war buffs or how it was depressing. It was reality! I am now intrigued to read more war books but I am also convinced any book written by Laura would be a recommended read.
I tore through this book and found myself staying up late and paying far too much attention to the book instead of getting sleep. Hillenbrand is an excellent writer; her chapters end in a way that I found I couldn't tear myself away and I kept saying to myself "one more chapter." Great work; this book is exhaustingly well researched and written. What an amazing man, and an amazing book. Bravo!
Reviewed by Hana Gabrielle Packard Unbroken is the biography of an incredible man, Louie Zamperini. Hard to imagine anyone living through the tortured existence that Zamperini endured of unfathomable circumstances and unimaginable physical and emotional pain. The author had 75 different interviews with Louie Zamperini. It's an unsettling account of man's inhumanity to man but also of hope and heart that shines through in Hillenbrand's exquisite writing. Zamperini lived his life well from pre World War One through and beyond World War two and he continues in good health today at the age of 94. This is a truly worthwhile read. It's a masterpiece!
"Unbroken" is a wonderful book, studiously researched and evocatively written. Props to Laura for an excellent, wide-ranging, outside-looking-in retelling of Louie's life. Given her illness, Laura is herself heroic. Many congratulations to her on her book's success. For those also interested in the first person version, please seek out Louie's autobiography, "Devil at My Heels: A WWII Hero's Epic Saga of Torment, Survival, and Forgiveness," published in 2003. (A very different version was originally written in 1957, but is long out of print and missing much. The current softcover has the same title, but a different subtitle.) Full disclosure: I helped Louie write "Devil at My Heels" after his late wife, Cynthia Applewhite -- a long-time friend -- called me to suggest that I watch Louie's story on "48 Hours." She said the call was "accidental," but knowing Cynthia, I suspect she was up to something. I watched. I called her immediately and asked about Louie doing a book. He'd simultaneously been contacted by an agent. Cynthia put us all together. I knew of Louie, of course, but actually working with him for two years -- and remaining friends ever since -- has immeasurably enhanced my life, then and now. Taken together these two books tell an unforgettable story.
A beautifully written and captivating story. It took me a while to adjust to the nature of the writing because she has a unique style, but it is very descriptive and definitely takes you into a new world where you are completely invested in the characters. It is highly emotional and evocative and I would recommend it to anyone.
Loved this book. Could hardly put it down. Makes a person appreciate (even more) what our Vets have gone through for us.
This book is extremely well written; I purchased the audio version and the narration by Edward Herrmann was perfect. I wish all books were so well narrated. The author researched this story very well and her writing is straight forward and clear---there is not one wasted word in this book. I wish I could say the same for all authors! This non-fiction account had me with the first sentence and then I could not stop listening. I am old enough remember that war. I had 2 uncles in the Pacific: one was killed and one was badly wounded. I have never been happy (as I am sure no one is) about using the A-Bomb. This story reminded me why we felt it was necessary to do so.
What an incredible story. Well worth reading.
I am so proud to be an American, and this book showcases why. I must admit that I was becoming overrun with anger at the attrocities that our brave POWs had to endure, but the forgiveness showcased at the end truly is the climax of the story.
This is an amazing true story and as I read it on my Nook I could not put it down. Louis was brought to the brink of deaf more than once during the war & somehow managed to receive an incredible inner strengh that would not let him die. More than once I was on the edge of my seat reading till late at night cause I wanted to know what was going happened next. Stories of these brave men should be taught in school what an amazing story of survival.
This book was captivating; I read it from cover to cover in two days, and when I wasn't reading it I was thinking about it. I found the entire book intriguing. Hillenbrand did an amazing job; the way the book is written only adds to this unbelievable true story. Reading it near the anniversary of Pearl Harbor only added to the weight of the story; this unforgettable reminder of the thousands of lives that were lost during World War II is, in my opinion, a must-read.
Only in America could this story have been lived. Only America could have produced a Louis Zamperini. I cheered him as Ms. Hillenbrand described his races. I cheered him when she wrote about his military career in the Pacific. I was aghast at his conditions during his imprisonment. I again cheered with Louie when the B-29's made their first appearance over his prison camp. This book captivated me until the very end. This book is about the life, redemption and forgiveness in the life of an outstanding American hero. I wish I could shake his hand and tell him thank you, face to face.
Sitting on my couch with heat and food when i want, you can't but feel thankful while reading this story of survival and human spirit. This was not just a great WWII story but a trial of the human soul. There are many stories like this but none written better.
Hands down, best book ive ever read!
A read captivating and intense . As the son of a WWII veteran , it was rarely discussed in my home growing up and when it was , it came with teary eyes and cracking voice that never completed the thought,only small pieces of thoses memories emerged.Now I understand the why . After this reading , two haunting questions. How would I have preformed and where do we find such men ?
Just finished reading this book. It was a book that I couldn't put down. I typically do not read war stories but came across this book and I would recommend it especially if you are not a history buff and are looking for an inspiring story. I heard of the POW's and some of what they had to endure but this book took you there to that time in history and you get lost in the story!!!
Slow at first, then couldnt put it down. What an amazing book. Zamp and all other military Thank You. Dont second guess getting this nook. Buy it! God Bless America!
I enjoyed every page of this book. It is one of the best books I have ever read. I highly recommend it. You won't be disappointed.
An amazing story of strong and brave men in horrorific situations. I did not enjoy the authors style, it was eposodic,repedative and choppy.