It’s not every day a war hero of World War II visits WMU’s campus, especially one with an incredible story.
Louis Zamperini, a prisoner-of-war survivor, a war hero, an Olympic runner, and carrier of the 1998 Olympic flame, will speak in the Bernhard Center’s North Ballroom this Tuesday. The event will take place at 6 p.m. and free tickets are available at Lee Honors College.
A book by Lauren Hillenbrand, Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption, was written about Zamperini’s life during World War II. As a bombardier, Hillenbrand writes of the terrible accident involving Zamperini and his crew.
“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,” wrote Hillenbrand.
Serving in the Pacific Theater, Zamperini was always in danger due to uncertain technology of WWII bomber planes.
“The bombers of the time had technical problems and limited navigation abilities, and as a result, Zamperini was at high risk even when he wasn’t in combat,” according to NPR’s website.
Stranded for days in the Pacific Ocean after his plane crashed, Zamperini and his crew made it through.
“They did all manner of things to survive. For hydration, Louis made rain catchers out of air-pump cases. For food they caught birds. Louis snagged fish with a hook made from his lieutenant’s pin, and once with a fish hook tied to his finger,” according to NPR.
Zamperini and his crew were eventually rescued, but not by the allies.
“After 47 days, Zamperini and his crew made landfall, and were picked up by a Japanese boat,” according to NPR.
Although saved, they became prisoners of war.
“Their only food: a ball of rice thrown onto a filthy floor,” according to NPR. “Zamperini and his men were also subjected to much physical brutality.”
After returning home, Zamperini endured emotional distress, but learned how to deal with his horrifying experiences in those prisoner-of-war camps.
He now shares his coping mechanisms with people everywhere.
According to a press release by WMU, “Today, at 95 years old, he travels around the world, speaking on how to deal with stress, the meaning of Olympism and the importance of his faith.”
For more information, contact Lee Honors College at 269-387-3230.