|Born||26 Jan 1917|
|Died||2 Jul 2014|
Contributor: C. Peter Chen
ww2dbaseLouis Silvie Zamperini was born in 1917 in Olean, New York, United States to Anthony Zamperini and Louise Dossi. In 1919, his family moved to Torrance, California, United States. His older brother Peter introduced him to running track when he was attending Torrance High School; Zamperini would later note that this sport got him out of trouble during this time when he was known for getting into physical fights with fellow students. In 1934, he set a world interscholastic record for the mile run at 4 minutes and 21.2 seconds during the preliminary meet to the California state championships. He entered the University of Southern California with a scholarship for track. In 1936, he became member of the United States Olympic team, becoming the youngest American qualifier in the event of 5,000-meter run. During the Olympic games in Berlin, Germany, he met Adolf Hitler, who was impressed with Zamperini's speed. In 1938, he set a national collegiate mile record at 4 minutes and 8 seconds, despite shin injuries during that race.
ww2dbaseIn Sep 1941, months before the start of the Pacific War, Zamperini enlited in the United States Army Air Forces. With the rank of second lieutenant, he served with 372nd Bombardment Squadron, 307th Bombardment Group, US 7th Air Force as a bombardier on B-24 Liberator bombers based on Funafuti, Ellice Islands. During a mission in May 1943, while on a search and rescue mission in the Pacific Ocean, the B-24 bomber "The Green Hornet" developed mechanical trouble and crashed 850 miles west of Oahu, US Territory of Hawaii, killing 8 of the 11 crew members. Zamperini, Russell Phillips, and Francis McNamara survived the crash, but McNamara would die after 33 days on the sea. Zamperini and Phillips reached land in the Marshall Islands after 46 days at sea. In captivity in the Marshall Islands and then at the Ofuna Prisoner of War Camp in Kamakura, Japan, Zamperini suffered various forms of mistreatment. He met the aviator Gregory "Pappy" Boyington while at Ofuna. He was declared as missing in action and later killed in action as the Japanese shared no information regarding his status during the war.
ww2dbaseAfter his liberation after the end of the war, Zamperini married Cynthia Applewhite in 1946. He suffered severe post traumatic stress disorder, developed alcoholism, and for some time was obsessed with hunting down and killing Mutsuhiro Watanabe, the guard who had beaten him severely during captivity. He later found comfort in religion (in which preacher Billy Graham played a major role) and became a inspirational speaker; in that new role, one of his favorite topics was forgiveness, as he had done with the Japanese guards who had abused him during the war. He ran the torch relay in the United States for the 1984 Summer Olympics and in Japan for the 1998 Winter Olympics. During the latter, he attempted to meet Watanabe, but he was not successful. In Mar 2005, he visited the Olympic Stadium in Berlin, Germany. He resided in Los Angeles, California, United States until his passing in Jul 2014.
Laura Hillenbrand, Unbroken
Last Major Revision: Sep 2014
Louis Zamperini Interactive Map
Louis Zamperini Timeline
|26 Jan 1917||Louis Zamperini was born in Olean, New York, United States.|
|27 May 1943||While on a search and rescue mission in the Pacific Ocean, the B-24 bomber "The Green Hornet" developed mechanical trouble and crashed 850 miles west of Oahu, US Territory of Hawaii, killing 8 of the 11 crew members. Louis Zamperini, Russell Phillips, and Francis McNamara survived the crash.|
|13 Jul 1943||On the 47th day of drifting at sea in teh Pacific Ocean, Louis Zamperini and Russell Phillips were found and captured by the Japanese Navy in the Marshall Islands.|
|7 Dec 1946||The Torrance Municipal Airport in Torrance, California, United States was renamed Zamperini Field in honor of Louis Zamperini.|
|10 May 2008||Louis Zamperini was awarded the Ellis Island Medal of Honor by the National Ethnic Coalition of Organizations.|
|24 Apr 2011||Louis Zamperini was awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Azusa Pacific University of Azusa, California, United States.|
|20 May 2011||Louis Zamperini delivered the graduation speech at Bryant University in Smithfield, Rhode Island, United States.|
|21 May 2011||Louis Zamperini was awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Bryant University of Smithfield, Rhode Island, United States.|
|22 May 2011||Louis Zamperini threw out the ceremonial first pitch at the Red Sox and Cubs professional baseball game at Fenway Park, Boston, Massachusetts, United States.|
|7 Jun 2012||Louis Zamperini was the guest to the American television program "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno".|
|2 Jul 2014||Louis Zamperini passed away at his home from pneumonia in Los Angeles, California, United States.|
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