Some books just have a buzz about them. I was renovating a historical home – a long and arduous project with a lot of time to listen to audio books. I had seen in the media reviews for a new book by one of my favorite authors, Laura Hillenbrand, who had written “Seabiscuit: An American Legend.” Her new book was called “Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption.” Several friends started talking up “Unbroken” – and then friends of friends. Like I said, it had a buzz. So I got a copy of the audio book to listen to as I worked on the house.
I was mesmerized.
“Unbroken” tells the compelling and suspenseful story of Louis Zamperini, an American Olympic athlete whose World War Two bomber plane crashed into the Pacific, killing everyone but Louis, the pilot, and one of the gunners. The three men drifted in a lifeboat across the ocean with no way of calling for help. The gunner eventually died of starvation, but Zamperini and the pilot drifted for 47 days. They survived on sea birds that landed on their rafts, an occasional fish they could snag, and rainwater.
They were finally picked up by a Japanese patrol boat near the Marshall Islands. Both men had lost half their body weight by this time. Zamperini was transported to a series of POW camps. When it was discovered that he had been an Olympic athlete he was sent to a prison camp on Tokyo Bay. It was there that he was singled out for torture by a prison guard, Corporal Mutsuhior Watanabe, nicknamed ‘The Bird.” This sadistic guard beat Zamperini every day, often using a leather belt with a heavy brass buckle.
Angelina Jolie directed the movie “Unbroken,” which tells this harrowing story and how Zamperini survived the war. But what the movie doesn’t tell is what happened to Zamperini after he returned home.
That amazing story is told in the moving documentary by Billy Graham Films, “Louis Zamperini – Captured by Grace.”
After the war, Zamperini returned to the States and tries to get on with his life. He marries Cynthia Applewhite from Miami and begins living what he hoped would be a normal American life. But his hatred for Watanabe burned within him. He is unable to forgive the man who tortured him relentlessly. This led to nightmares, which would not relent.
To ease the emotional pain, he began drinking heavily. Soon he was addicted to alcohol and there was no relief in sight. In his anger, he started lashing out against his wife. Finally, Cynthia had all she could take and threatened divorce.
A caring neighbor saw what was happening in the Zamperini household and invited Cynthia to attend a rally being held by a young evangelist named Billy Graham. Her heart was touched that night and she returned to tell Louis she would not go through with the divorce because she had accepted Jesus as her Savior. She invited Louis to go with her to see Billy Graham.
Tune in to see how this moving story comes to its dramatic conclusion in “Louis Zamperini – Captured by Grace.” Filled with fascinating historical footage, touching family photos, and Louis’ moving storytelling, this is a film that will reach your heart.
Dr. Craig von Buseck is Managing Editor of Inspiration.org.
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