He Survived Torture And Still Chose Forgiveness
Louis Zamperini became an overnight celebrity in 2010 when critically acclaimed author Laura Hillenbrand published a book about him, “Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption.”
A runner who competed in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, his athletic career was cut short by World War II. In 1943, his plane crashed into the Pacific Ocean, and he floated for 47 days on a raft, surviving shark attacks, a typhoon and an attack from a Japanese bomber.
Captured by the Japanese, Zamperini spent more than two years in a series of prison camps, where he remained defiant in the face of horrible abuse. Liberated at war’s end, he returned home a deeply haunted man.
Then one night in 1949, his wife persuaded him to go hear a young evangelist named Billy Graham preach in Los Angeles, and he committed his life to Christ.
Later, he returned to Japan, met with most of his captors and forgave them. When he found out that his chief tormentor, a prison guard called “the Bird,” had killed himself, the only emotion he felt was compassion.
Although Zamperini’s story of survival captured the imagination, his tale of redemption and forgiveness appealed to the heart.
Hillenbrand called him “the grandest, most buoyant, most generous soul I ever knew.” When he died in 2014, at the age of 97, the statement she posted on her Facebook page said, in part: “His story is a lesson in the potential that lies within all of us to summon strength amid suffering, love in the face of cruelty, joy from sorrow. Of the myriad gifts he has left us, the greatest is the lesson of forgiveness.”