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Unbroken — book review of a lost B-24 and an outstanding person’s survival

10 September 2012

Unbroken — book review of a lost B-24 and an outstanding person’s survival

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand jacket by

Unbroken: a World War II story of survival, resilience, and redemption by Laura Hillenbrand jacket design by Joe Montgomery

Laura Hillenbrand has written the biography of an extraordinary man — one who nearly broke the 4 minute mile barrier in track— and survivor of a 2000 mile ordeal adrift on a raft with two other B-24 Liberator crewman as a prelude to a 24+ month term in hell as a Japanese POW. His name is Louis “Louie” Zamperini and his story is told smoothly in a style that is graceful and rich in detail. Segues make sense and are used like a spice, to enhance the story without being overwhelming. Zamparini’s story is also one of a man who had to persevere and overcome after his liberation.

The biography is rich in detail that is presented without bias — mentioned are things, both good and bad without bias or political correctness, without shocking delivery. Her writing is superior and artful without wordiness yet efficiently describing complex events.

Some of the WW II events illustrated are:

  • Zamparini’s 4 minute mile by 1940 — dream deferred — in 1954 Roger Bannister was the first to run a mile in less than four minutes — Louie Zamperini was within seconds as early at 1938 (16 years prior)
  • Zamparini’s experiences with athletes on the USA Olympic Track team in 1936, including with Jessie Owens
  • The numbers of lost aircraft and crew during transport, they are staggering and much more than combat casualties
  • Chances of rescue when lost in the Pacific Ocean were less than slim and why the B-24 did not behave well during a water landing
  • Accuracy of bombing and aerial gunnery were actually high and, for some missions, the Liberator was employed as a glide bomber
  • The raid on Nauru and ability of B-24 to absorb combat damage is well told — as is the fact of another Liberator crew’s returning with a tail so damaged it flopped
  • Japan’s counter raid on Fanafuti illustrated that night bombing forays by the Japanese forces could be equally devastating
  • Japanese POW survival stats after the war are somber to read
  • Athletes lost in WW II — an encapsulation which poignantly notes the waste of war

This is a nonfiction story and not meant as a reference book, so references are rarely given — but I believe what is written by Hillenbrand due to her detailed footnotes, explanations facts within their context and excellent index.

Unbroken: a World War II story of survival, resilience, and redemption by Laura Hillenbrand, ISBN 978-4000-6416-8, 473 pp.

My deep thanks to my friend Marty for the loan of this book 🙂

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