Ambassador of Reconciliation
10/12/14 at 02:54 AM 3 Comments

Book Review: Unbroken

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americangreatness.org

Few books I have ever read depict the depths of human depravity, the strength of the human spirit, and the surpassing grace of God more powerfully than Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption. For good reason, the book has been on the New York Times Bestseller List for more than three years; readers are riveted by the gripping tale and, like me, want to urge others to read it.

Author Laura Hillenbrand, who also wrote Seabiscuit: An American Legend, spent seven years meticulously researching the life and times of the legendary hero of her book, Louis Zamperini. Louie was a hell-raiser as a child, but as a teenager he channeled his energy into running and became a world-class track star, making it to the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin while still in his teens.

Zamperini enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Forces in 1941 and became a bombardier in the Pacific. Hillenbrand graphically describes the harrowing missions flown by the Pacific airmen. The casualty rate was astronomical, even greater in accidents than in combat. In 1943, Louie and ten other men were sent out on a notoriously unreliable B-24 bomber to look for a lost plane and its crew. The B-24 went down in the Pacific, leaving only Louie and two other survivors on rubber rafts with little food or water.

Day after day and night after night, the men endured agonizing thirst and hunger, blistering heat and numbing cold, terrifying attacks from the ever-present sharks, strafing by a Japanese war plane, and the utter loneliness of being an infinitesimal speck in an immense, unforgiving ocean. One of the men died after 33 days at sea. Louie and the other man drifted for 47 days, covering a distance of 2,000 miles and finally landing in the Marshall Islands, where they were captured by the Japanese. What came next made them long to be back on the raft.

The cruelty that Louie and other POWs faced at the hands of their Japanese captors was even worse than the brutality of nature. Unspeakable horrors were inflicted on them, and Louie was singled out for extra torment because of his celebrity status and his courageous defiance. He remained steadfast through two years of barbaric treatment, until Japan surrendered to the Allies and the POWs were released.

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Louie Zamperini and Billy Graham, 1949

Finally Louie was liberated, but he was not really free. The war followed him home. He suffered from what we now recognize as PTSD, experiencing nightmares, flashbacks, alcoholism, and a thirst for revenge. Then he came to Christ through the young evangelist Billy Graham, and he was truly set free. The nightmares ceased, and he was miraculously able to forgive his tormentors. As Hillenbrand put it simply, for Louie Zamperini, the war was over. He became an ambassador for Christ—appealing to people to be reconciled to God and modeling God’s forgiveness by forgiving his captors, in some cases even in person.

Louis Zamperini just passed away in July, at the age of 97. His life will come to the big screen in the movie adaptation of Unbroken, set to release on Christmas Day. Director Angelina Jolie reportedly will not include Zamperini’s conversion in the film. Go see the movie if you like; undoubtedly it will be an exciting movie. But please read the book or you will miss the most exciting part of the story—the liberation and transformation of a man by the cross of Jesus Christ.

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