Louis Zamperini

"Louie" a Prisoner of War

How did Louis Zamperini's strongwilled, unrelenting dignity and inclination to be stubborn influence his life?

Louis "Louie" Zamperini was shaped as a person by many factors. As he aged in the city of Torrance in the early 1920s, Zamperini faced bullying oppression because he was Italian. So much so, his neighbors petitioned the city council to keep them out. After muttering an Italian curse word, Louie became a class oddity. Louie made a point to never say ow, or cry; His dignity and pride always out ran his physical abilities, even at their peak.


"You could beat him to death," said Sylvia, (his sister) "and he wouldn't say "ouch" or cry" (Hillenbrand, 9)


Because of his strong, persisting attitude, Louis began to study fighting like an art. He used this same perseverance with every task or problem that came his way. Something happened, Louie would find away through it or around it.


Later, he began to lash out and became a miscreant. His eldest brother, Pete, after an incident resulting in him being banned from sports (that he originally was unphased by), convinced the principal to ameliorate the ban and began pushing Louie towards sports. This is were his persistence truly began to flourish. Louie's inflexible desire to be popular and win his meets continued ushering him to work hard. This led him to the olympics.


In 1934, Zamperini set the national high school mile record, and his time of 4 minutes and 21.2 seconds.


The 1940 olympics got cancelled, so Louie joined the Air Corps. That same drive that led him to his running success then led him and his team to become one of the more advanced. Louis felt the weight of his fellow airmen dying, but his unwillingness to collapse under grief forced him to continue on. Louie then is in a crash, killing most of his crew and leaving him with two other men on a small raft. With the conditions as extreme as they were, many would have buckled under the hot, blistering sun and the grim position they were in. Not limited to fighting sharks, evading the fire of Japanese airmen, and dodging dehydration, the sinking of the raft, and hunger, Louie fought viciously against the elements. His stubborn optimism and should kept his will to live as vivacious as ever, however one of his fellow men died along the 47 days lost at sea.


Louis said once, "I'd made it this far and refused to give up because all my life I had always finished the race."


After being rescued by a Japanese naval ship, Zamperini and Phil, his fellow airman, are imprisoned as POWs or prisoners of war. In the POW camps, Louis is abused, beaten, given minimal food in disgusting, unimaginable living conditions, with every calculated move of the cruel officers being to break his dignity. Despite all of it, Louis strives to keep his mind sharp and intelligent. He communicates when he can with fellow prisoners and rides on stubborn optimism and refusal to be defeated.


"Dignity is as essential to human life as water..." (Hillenbrand, 183)

Hillenbrand, Laura. Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption. New York: Random House, 2010. Print.

"Louis Zamperini Quotes." Louis Zamperini Quotes (Author of Devil at My Heels). N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Feb. 2016.