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Unbroken : a World War II story of survival,…

Unbroken : a World War II story of survival, resilience, and redemption (2010)

by Laura Hillenbrand

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
5,503383790 (4.46)405
  1. 50
    Ghost Soldiers by Hampton Sides (phm)
    phm: Nonfiction but reads like fiction and tells of a heroic plot by US Rangers to rescue Allied soldiers from a Japanese POW camp.
  2. 20
    The Long Walk: The True Story of a Trek to Freedom by Slavomir Rawicz (clif_hiker)
  3. 20
    Tears in the Darkness: The Story of the Bataan Death March and Its Aftermath by Michael Norman (TooBusyReading)
    TooBusyReading: Another remarkable story about survival during WWII, about what humans can do to one another.
  4. 10
    The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown (terran)
    terran: Both books deal with participants in the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin and with personal stories of individuals growing up in that time period. Both are incredible true stories that read like fiction.
  5. 10
    We die alone by David Howarth (srdr)
    srdr: Jan Baalsrud's incredible survival and escape from Nazi-occupied arctic Norway.
  6. 10
    Flyboys: A True Story of Courage by James Bradley (whymaggiemay)
    whymaggiemay: both examine prisoners of the Pacific islands
  7. 00
    A Train in Winter: An Extraordinary Story of Women, Friendship, and Resistance in Occupied France by Caroline Moorehead (srdr)
    srdr: A well-told story with similar themes…WW II survival, friendship under difficult conditions.
  8. 00
    Frozen in Time: An Epic Story of Survival and a Modern Quest for Lost Heroes of World War II by Mitchell Zuckoff (srdr)
    srdr: A gripping, non-fiction story of a WW II airplane crash on Greenland.
  9. 00
    Road to Valor: A True Story of WWII Italy, the Nazis, and the Cyclist Who Inspired a Nation by Aili McConnon (sboyte)
    sboyte: Athletes and their experiences in the second World War.
  10. 00
    Once Upon a Town by Bob Greene (cransell)
    cransell: An uplifting true story about World War II. Perhaps a good read after the harsh experiences in Unbroken.
  11. 00
    What It Is Like to Go to War by Karl Marlantes (TooBusyReading)
    TooBusyReading: Based on the author's experiences, starting with the Vietnam war. Gave me lots of insight into war and warriors.
  12. 00
    Devil at My Heels: A Heroic Olympian's Astonishing Story of Survival as a Japanese POW in World War II by Louis Zamperini (Stbalbach)
    Stbalbach: Louis Zamperini's autobiography published in 2003, with intro by John McCain.
  13. 00
    The Forgotten 500: The Untold Story of the Men Who Risked All for the Greatest Rescue Mission of World War II by Gregory A. Freeman (HistoryNutToo)

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» See also 405 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 383 (next | show all)
Once in a while you come upon a story so incredible it just has to be told. This is the case with the story of Louis Zamperini's life, and Laura Hillenbrand does a magnificent job of telling it. Any one of the events of Louis' life would make a good tale, but for all of these to have happened to one man is simply amazing.

The first impressions Louis made were not good ones. He was overly mischievous from a young age, stealing any kind of food he could carry, getting in fights, playing pranks, smoking, and even drinking alcohol before he was 10. Had he continued on that path, we may never had heard about him. But his older brother Pete seemed to have a positive influence on him. Pete was a track star at Torrence High school (Torrence CA), and soon Louis turned all of his mischievous energy into the positive energy of training for track and field. Louis was a high school sensation, setting a national high school record in the mile run that would stand for decades. He was inching ever closer to the 4-minute mile, a feat that had up until then not been achieved.

After high school, Louis continued training. He had his sights set on the Olympics, and made the team in the 5000 meter race. The 1936 Olympics were held in Berlin, and Louis was able to meet Adolph Hitler and steal a Nazi flag. Although he did not earn a medal, he was confident he could do better in the 1940 games scheduled to be held in Tokyo, Japan. However, war broke out and the Olympics were cancelled.

Louis enlisted in the Army Air corps and was assigned the duties of bombardier on a B24 bomber. Louis survived several daring missions, most notably one in which his plane was riddled with some 600 bullet holes and saw more than half the crew seriously wounded. He was on the crew of a search and recue mission, looking for survivors of another B24, when on of his plane's engines went out and crashed into the Pacific ocean. One of only three to survive the crash, he made his way to the life raft safely.

Louis, along with pilot Alan Phillips (known as Phil), were the only two to survive the ordeal on the raft. Stranded without provisions of food and water, they remained on board the raft for 47 days and drifted nearly 2000 miles. They also survived the sharks constantly around their raft, some so aggressive as to try and jump aboard to get at the men. They also survived strafing by a Japanese plane and a typhoon with 40 foot waves. Finally, an island came into view and Louis and Phil thought their ordeal was over. Unfortunately the island was occupied by Japanese forces, and both men were taken prisoner.

Louis was sent to several Japanese prison camps, first on some of the Pacific islands and then on the Japanese mainland. He was able to survive for over two years of some of the most brutal conditions and harshest treatment known to man. Malnourished, denied medical attention for dysentery and beri-beri, and subjected to savage beatings on a near daily basis, Louis had the strength to persevere. After rescue and subsequent stay in an Army hospital, Louis was finally reunited with his family, who had never given up hope that he was alive.

Louis' journey was not yet over. He had nightmares from his wartime ordeals, mostly of the severe beatings he received from a particular Japanese guard known as the Bird. We now know this to be PTSD, but at the time the Army had no treatment available. Louis turned to alcohol and soon became a full fledged alcoholic. With the help of his wife and family, and a new found faith in God, Louis was able to survive his alcoholism, just as he survived all the other obstacles life had thrown at him.

Meticulously researched, Laura Hillenbrand tells the story of Louis Zamperini's life in a way that is flowing and easy to read. Relying on journals, letters, unpublished memoirs, and hundreds of interviews, this is an example of truth being stranger than fiction. Taking a full 7 years to finish, Ms. Hillenbrand had to overcome some her own medical issues in order to bring us this incredible story. She is also responsible for the story of the race horse "Seabiscuit." Through it all, Louis was able to keep his sense of humor, and referring to Hillenbrand's previous novel, he told her that he would be an easier subject because "I can talk." ( )
  NPJacobsen | Jun 6, 2015 |
Laura is an amazing story teller. ( )
  chenlow | May 30, 2015 |
I recently read Bruce Springsteen's graphic novel, Outlaw Pete and if anyone personifies that wild baby boy it's Louis Zamperini. Louis was a hyper-active child and somewhat of a delinquent who often reeked havoc in his neighborhood. Eventually, he found that running was a way to release his energy and succeeded in making the US Olympic team and competed at the Berlin Olympics. Like so many other young men in the 1940's, his life and ambitions were interrupted by World War II. As an airman and stationed in Honolulu, Louis had a few firefights under his belt when he was assigned to board the worst possible and questionably airworthy Green Hornet to search for a missing B-24 headed to Canton. What occurred on this fateful flight defined the remainder of his life. Back at home, he was haunted by the man, his nemesis, who tried to break his spirit and will to live but at his lowest point a surprising event changed his life.
I read and loved Hillenbrand's Seabiscuit a few years ago and Unbroken is just as fabulous. ( )
  Carmenere | May 22, 2015 |
There's not much I can say about this book that hasn't been said already. This the story of Louis Zamperini. From a humble background he became a world-famous sprinter, then when WW2 came around he joined up like every other young man of his generation. While flying as a crewman on a bomber over the Pacific his plane crashed and then his great adventure began. Stranded for many days on a raft, then captured and tortured by the Japanese, he struggled to survive until the end of the war. A great story of perseverance. The subject matter is not pleasant to read, but this was a very good book. ( )
  Karlstar | May 12, 2015 |
Great book that showed the strength of the human spirit. Much better than the movie. Glad I read the book first. ( )
  NHNick | May 9, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 383 (next | show all)
The ideal way to read “Unbroken” would be with absolutely no knowledge of how Mr. Zamperini’s life unfolded. Ms. Hillenbrand has written her book so breathlessly, and with such tight focus, that she makes it difficult to guess what will happen to him from one moment to the next, let alone how long he was able to survive under extreme duress...So “Unbroken” is a celebration of gargantuan fortitude, that of both Ms. Hillenbrand (whose prose shatters any hint of her debilitating fatigue) and Mr. Zamperini’s. It manages to be as exultant as “Seabiscuit” as it tells a much more harrowing, less heart-warming story.


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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Laura Hillenbrandprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Herrmann, EdwardNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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What stays with you latest and deepest? of curious panics,
Of hard-fought engagements or sieges tremendous what
deepest remains?

--Walt Whitman, "The Wound-Dresser"
For the wounded and the lost.
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All he could see, in every direction, was water.
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Book description
This book is an eye-opening and awe-inspiring tale told about the horror of war and the challenges that some of the men had to endure. Featuring Louis Zamperini, this book describes some of the terror he had to experience as a POW to the Japanese in WWII.
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On a May afternoon in 1943, an Army Air Forces bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean and disappeared, leaving only a spray of debris and a slick of oil, gasoline, and blood. Then, on the ocean surface, a face appeared--Lt. Louis Zamperini. Captured by the Japanese and driven to the limits of endurance, Zamperini would answer desperation with ingenuity; suffering with hope, resolve, and humor.… (more)

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