Louis Zamperini, 97, passed away after a life filled with extraordinary achievement, resilience, and moral character. He first acquired fame at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, where he represented the United States. Although he did not win any medals, he wowed crowds by finishing the final lap in a mile-long race in only 56 seconds.
In September of 1941, he enlisted in the Army and served on the flight crew of a B-24 bomber. That plane crashed in the middle of the Pacific Ocean in 1943. Zamperini was along three survivors who spent 47 days on a raft, living off raw fish and captured albatrosses while fighting off continuous shark attacks.
Zamperini and his comrades eventually landed in the Marshall Islands, where they were promptly captured by the Japanese. The Japanese sent Zamperini to a brutal prisoner of war camp where he was tortured by the notorious war criminal Mutsuhiro Watanabe.
Zamperini survived captivity and returned to the United States after the surrender of Japan.
But this was not the end of his involvement with Japan. Zamperini would have every reason to hate his captors and loathe all things Japanese for the rest of his life. But, instead, he forgave them. He even forgave Watanabe and tried to express this in person.
In 1998, Zamperini attended the Winter Olympics in Nagano, which was close to the prison where he was held for two years. He wanted to meet the elderly Watanabe, but he refused.
That was okay, because Zamperini had already ceased to carry the burden of hating Watanabe.
Surrounded by a loving family, Louis Zamperini passed away last Wednesday. His story inspired them and millions of other people across the world. It is the subject of Unbroken, a biography by Laura Hillenbrand. Angelina Jolie is currently turning it into a movie which is scheduled for release at the end of this year.
(Photo: Universal Pictures)
-via I Own the World