Louis Zamperini

How Louis Survived His Own Mortality


Louis Zamperini was born on January 26, 1917 in Olean, New York. Louis grew up in Torrance, California. He ran track at Torrance High School and was good at long distance running. In 1934, he set the national high school record, his time was 4 minutes and 21.2 seconds that would stand for 20 years. Louis got a scholarship to the University of Southern California for track and field.


Louis was an Olympic athlete at track and field and competed in the 1936 games. When World War II came, the 1940 games were canceled. Louis enlisted into the Army Air Corps as a bombardier on the B-24 Liberator. Later in life he became a motivational speaker.
Unbroken - Featurette: "Run Like Mad: The 1936 Olympics" (HD)


In 1934, he set the national high school mile record, his time was 4 minutes and 21.2 seconds that would stand for 20 years. In 1938, Louis broke a college record for the mile his time was 4:08.3 this record stood for fifteen years. He qualified for the 1936 Olympics in Berlin he came in eighth, his last lap was 54 seconds. Louis graduated from USC in 1940, this would be another shot for him to get a gold medal in the 1940's Olympics but World War II happened.


Louis had three types of conflicts character vs. character, character vs. nature and the hardest was character vs. self. His character vs. character was himself vs. Mutsuhiro Watanabe nicknamed "the Bird". His character vs. nature was himself vs. the sea. His character vs. self was himself vs. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) this was the hardest obstacle he overcame.


Louis Zamperini and his crew mate survived a plane crash in the ocean on a raft for 47 days, the longest anyone survived at sea. They survived by drinking rainwater, catching fish and birds that landed on their raft. After they survived the boat ride they washed ashore in Japanese territory. Louis had to survive a POW camp and a prison guard Mutsuhiro Watanabe nicknamed "the Bird". The Bird would single out Louis for cruel treatment, the only way he could survive was to not have his spirit broken and he survived the POW camp for two years. Louis was released after the war. His biggest obstacle he faced and not prepared for was Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). He overcame this obstacle by having faith, forgiveness and hope. He forgot that he made a deal with God on the lifeboat, and he believed that God helped him. The same day while he was sleeping he did not have one nightmare. After he had faith he realized he needed forgiveness. So he went to Japan even though he vowed to never return. He forgave his former prison guards in jail who were facing war crimes. The Bird was never persecuted and denied Louis's request. Louis decided to write to Mutsuhiro Watanabe a letter of how his cruel treatment affected him and offering forgiveness. Louis wrote, "Love replaced the hate I had for you". That through it all he had hope he said. That with hope you can achieve a lot, according to Psychology Today. He learned that he had to overcome his (PTSD) before he overcomes his experiences in war and he did conquer his greatest obstacle his own mortality.


“I think the hardest thing in life is to forgive. Hate is self destructive. If you hate somebody, you're not hurting the person you hate, you're hurting yourself. It's a healing, actually, it's a real healing...forgiveness.”

Louis Zamperini

“I'd made it this far and refused to give up because all my life I had always finished the race.”

Louis Zamperini

“One moment of pain is worth a lifetime of glory.”

Louis Zamperini


These quotes support the theme of his life that when you feel like you are going to fail at something turn to your faith. Do not forget the promises you made. Let nothing break your spirit and don't break for anything because it is all worth a life time of glory. At the end you must remember to forgive the people who hurt you or your hate will hurt you.

Additional Interesting Information

1. Louis was a troublemaker as a kid and picking fights with other kids. He was a smoker by age 5, a drinker by 8 and as a teenager he was hopping rides on trains to Mexico and getting in all sorts of trouble. Family members were convinced prison was his future.

2. He met Adolph Hitler and shook his hand, years later he realized he shook hands with the worst tyrant ever known.

3. Louis Zamperini died at the age of 97, July 2, 2014.

Other Reliable Sources

Works Cited

Bio.com. A&E Networks Television. Web. 15 Mar. 2016. “Louis Zamperini Biography”

"Louis Zamperini Quotes." Louis Zamperini Quotes (Author of Devil at My Heels). Web. 16 Mar. 2016.

"Overcoming Obstacles: How Louis Zamperini Remained 'Unbroken' - K12 - Learning Liftoff - Free Parenting, Education, and Homeschooling Resources." K12 Learning Liftoff Free Parenting Education and Homeschooling Resources. 09 Jan. 2015. Web. 15 Mar. 2016.

"Unbroken - Featurette: "Run Like Mad: The 1936 Olympics" (HD)." YouTube. YouTube. Web. 18 Mar. 2016.

"Conservative Blog Japan." Unbroken. Web. 18 Mar. 2016.

"Unbroken vs. True Story of Louis Zamperini and Mutsuhiro Watanabe." HistoryvsHollywood.com. Web. 18 Mar. 2016.

"Unbroken: Louis Zamperini and 10 Other Crazy Stories of Survival." — Unbroken: Louis Zamperini and 10 Other Crazy... Web. 18 Mar. 2016.

"Pete Zamperini Quotes." . QuotesGram. Web. 18 Mar. 2016.