Louis Zamperini, in Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand: From incorrigible teenager, to 1936 Olympic runner, to B-24 bombardier, to Japanese POW, to a 1949 Billy Graham Crusade in Los Angeles, to redeemed!

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R-L: Louie running in 1936 Olympics in Berlin; B-24 over water, Louie was a bombardier and sat in the nose; Billy Graham headlines for 1949 LA Crusade; Billy and Louie in 1949; [below] Louie Zamperini in recent picture.


Fans of all ages came out by the hundreds to meet World War II hero and former Olympian Louis Zamperini at the Billy Graham Library June 10, 2011. The subject of Laura Hillenbrand's bestselling book, Unbroken, Zamperini accepted Christ at the 1949 Los Angeles Billy Graham Crusade.

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  • Louie Zamperini was born into a devout Roman Catholic home.

  • He grew up as an incorrigible child and teenager

  • His brother, Pete encouraged him to start running.

  • By 1936, Louie was able to make the US Olympic team and made the trip to Berlin.

  • After December 7, 1941, he enlisted and became a B-24 bombardier in the Pacific.

  • Ironically while on a rescue flight over the ocean, Louie's plane lost two engines and crashed nose first in the water.

  • Louie, Phil, the pilot, and one other crew member were able to get on life rafts.

  • For 44 days they subsisted on meager water and rations stored in the rafts, rain water, and fish, and birds they were able to catch.

  • Finally, Louie was "rescued" by a Japanese navy boat.

  • He ended in a succession of Japanese prisoner of war [POW] camps.

  • After over two years of brutal treatment in POW camps, the Allies liberated POWs after first providing B-29 supply drops into the camps.

  • Louie was able to return to the states.

  • Everybody wanted to congratulate the Olympic runner and POW survivor and there was always plenty of alcohol to drink.

  • Louie married Cynthia Applewite and they had a child.

  • However, Louie started having nightmares about the "Bird", an especially sadistic and vicious Japanese prison guard.

  • With increasing alcoholism and nightmares about the Bird, he was unable to hold a steady job.

  • In 1949, Billy Graham brought a Crusade to Los Angeles.

    Cynthia Zamperini

  • Cynthia attended and gave her heart to the Lord.

  • She began begging Louie to attend a Crusade service with her.

  • For a long time he resisted going with Cynthia.

  • Then he went a couple times and the second night, he too, gave his heart to the Lord.

  • He was delivered from nightmares about Bird, his alcoholism, and his smoking.

  • Louie began a ministry, telling everyone who would listen how God had delivered him and replaced the nightmares with forgiveness.

  • He eventually returned to Japan and had a meeting with the POW guards. He offered his forgiveness to all the guards who had brutalized him during the war.

  • By then, the Allies had granted most war criminals amnesty.

G. Edwin Lint, BS, ThB, MA, -- Editor

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