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 and pulling himself aboard. 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, breaking into houses, brawling, and fleeing his home to ride the rails. As a teenager, he had channeled his defiance into running, discovering a prodigious talent that had carried him to the Berlin Olympics and within sight of the four-minute mile. 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. Driven to the limits of endurance, Zamperini would answer desperation with ingenuity; suffering with hope, resolve, and humor; brutality with rebellion. His fate, whether triumph or tragedy, would be suspended on the fraying wire of his will.
In her long-awaited new book, Laura Hillenbrand writes with the same rich and vivid narrative voice she displayed in Seabiscuit. Telling an unforgettable story of a man’s journey into extremity, Unbroken is a testament to the resilience of the human mind, body, and spirit.
I loved this book, it was beautifully written, extremely well researched, and provided just enough historical context to create a vivid picture of Zamperini and his comrades environment. This book delves into many aspects of WWII history that I feel are overlooked in U. S. History, we don’t really think of the Pacific theatre when we think about WWII. We think of the Holocaust, Hitler, and Europe. This, for many, introduces a whole new interpretation of WWII.
Personally, I know a bit about the Pacific theatre, I have learned more since I have lived and worked in HI, but my interests have always taken my back to the European theatre. After reading this, and discussing it with a few people, I have come to the conclusion that we don’t talk about the Pacific, and our interactions with Japan, because it’s culture is so extremely different from America. As a historian, the Holocaust interests me because I want to know how humans can resort to such discrimination and unfeelingness. As I read about the Japanese culture during WWII, I could easily see the similarities between it and the Nazi’s, but there was one fundamental difference that I personally cannot grasp (not that I can grasp that of the Nazi’s either, but it’s a little easier to see how people can get there). Unlike the Nazi’s who were determined to rid the world of several select groups of peoples, Japan saw anyone who wasn’t Japanese as inferior. This lead to exterminations of mass numbers of Koreans, Chinese, and Allied POW’s. Hillenbrand did a spectacular job illustrating this, while still refraining from pointing an accusatory finger at all of Japan and the Japanese today.
The story of Zamperini is truly incredible. But I appreciated how Hillenbrand also highlighted the plight of his comrades, many who underwent the same or worse treatment, and many whose stories have been overshadowed by Zamperini’s fame as an Olympian. This book brought so many things to the forefront of what soldiers go through; the trials of life in war, the incredible resilience of the human mind and body, and the repercussions of such treatment. I thought the chapter where she talks about the aftermath of the POW’s lives with physiological issues, PTSD (which no one really knew about back then), and how soldiers tried to cope (often copious amounts of drinking) was really enlightening.
Overall, it was a great read. I learned a lot about the Japanese view of the war, and general life in the early 20th century. I am really looking foreword to seeing how the movie turns out, comes out Christmas day!
Also, make sure you enter my giveaway!