My rating: 5 of 5 stars (if I could give it 6 I would!)
Genre: Non-fiction; biography
Source: Personal copy
Sensitive reader: graphic descriptions of war, bombing, prisoner of war treatment and conditions.
The Greatest Generation: This title has become synonymous with the generation of Americans who served our country during World War II. Among them was Louis (Louie) Zamperini.
Louie was an Olympian and after coming up short in the Berlin Games of 1936 – he’d set his sight on the 1940 games and was training to be the first man ever to clock running the mile in under four minutes. But his dreams were interrupted with the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
Louie was stationed in Hawaii with the Army Air Forces when he and an assembled rag-tag crew (which included his pilot, Allen Phillips) were ordered to fly a mission in an unreliable B-24 plane, “Green Hornet” as a rescue mission for another missing crew.
What happens to Louie and his fellow service men after they boarded their plane is terrifying, horrific, heroic, and how legends are made. And the results of their ill-fated mission are just the beginning of Louie’s story.
Laura Hillenbrand has written an epic story that follows Louie through his being lost at sea for 47 days, his years as a Japanese POW, his inhumane and brutal treatment at the hands of psychopathic prison guards, his liberation and his difficult return home.
Her narrative is transfixing – I often found myself “white knuckling” the binding of the book as I read the more anxiety filled scenes of bombings and shark infested waters. As a reader, there is an intimacy with Louie, his friends, his crew, his fellow POWs, that as the story unfolds and you learn their fates, it is mixed with utter jubilation and heaving sobs.
I am in awe of Louie and the thousands of men and women who had the fortitude and endurance to survive such atrocities. And I am humbled by those who suffered similar carnage, but didn’t survive. It is amazing that any human being was able to endure the brutality that was inflicted on Louie and his comrades.
Thank you Louie for your spirit, your optimism, your example and for carrying on (he is still going at 94!).
Thank you Laura for telling his story in such a spellbinding, but reverent and respectful way.
And thank you to all those who served and died for our country during World War II. You truly are the Greatest Generation.
(For an equally inspiring book, I recommend The Hiding Place by Corie ten Boom)
I recommend the following video clip; I also highly recommend going to www. louiezamperini.com and viewing the Louie Zamperini Olympic tribute from the 1998 Nagano Olympics