Earlier this month Louis Zamperini, on his 96th birthday, visited Atlanta to share some of his remarkable stories.
You think Forrest Gump had an interesting life? Here are a few of the highlights of Louis (Louie) Zamperini’s life:
- set a world interscholastic record in 1934 for the mile, clocking in at 00:04:21.2
- competed in the 1936 U.S. Olympics team in the 5000 meters, at 19 the youngest U.S. qualifier ever in that event
- caught the attention of Adolf Hitler, who insisted on a personal meeting
- climbed a flagpole during the 1936 Olympic games and stole the personal flag of Hitler
- set a national collegiate mile record in 1938 which held for fifteen years
- while in the Army survived a plane crash and drifted in the ocean for 47 days dodging bullets and fending off sharks
- drifted to land on day 47 only to become a prisoner of war for over two years
Zamperini eventually returned home to a hero’s welcome but his problems were far from over. He married, became an alcoholic, and suffered severe post traumatic stress disorder before the term had ever been used. After an ultimatum from his wife, he agreed to attend a Billy Graham crusade where he became a Christian. His nightmares and his drinking ceased and he began a new career as an inspirational speaker. One of his favorite themes is “forgiveness,” and he has visited many of the guards from his POW days to let them know that he has forgiven them. (source: wikipedia.com)
Louie’s epic life is the subject of the best-selling book Unbroken, and a Hollywood movie directed by Angelina Jolie is in the works.
Here’s to an epic life.