Thursday, December 3, 2020

Unbroken-Survival Resilience and Redemption- A Book Review


A World War II Story

of Survival, Resilience,  

and Redemption


   Laura Hillenbrand

Reviewed by

   Geoffrey W. Sutton

Unbroken is the true story of Olympian Louis Zamperini who survived the crash of his plane in the Pacific Ocean and endured severe abuse at the club wielding hands of his captors.

Hillenbrand provides key elements of Louis biography. He was in trouble with the law as a youth but became a track star in High School. Eventually, he was chosen to be on the 1936 US Olympic Team, which competed in Berlin. A few years later, Louie enlisted in the military.

Zamperini became an airman. On a mission in 1943, his plane crashed in the Pacific. He and two other men floated on a raft for 47 days punctuated by severe thirst and starvation, sharks aboard the raft, Japanese machine-gun fire, and even a typhoon. 

They were captured by Japanese and sent to a POW camp where they were severely tormented until he was near death by the time the war ended. His particular ordeal was the extreme pain and anguish inflicted by a man called "The Bird."

Sadly, Louis Zamperini was only physically liberated. He would now have to endure psychological torture now known as PTSD. Hellish dreams destroyed his nights. He was filled with rage, hatred, and thoughts of revenge. And he drank too much. 

Louis Zamperini's life was transformed in a classic conversion story. He found peace, let go of his anger, and lost motivation to seek revenge. Instead, he returned to the nation that tortured him in 1950. Naturally, he thought about the one man most responsible for the extreme brutality and haunting post-war suffering. The arch tormentor, The Bird, was not there. It was at this time that Louis felt a sense of compassion and realised he had forgiven his enemy.

I recommend this book for several reasons. Hillenbrand is an excellent writer who documents her research in copious end-of-book notes. My parents survived World War II in London so I am used to learning about death and destruction as well as miraculous survivors, but Louis' story overwhelms me with respect for this man's life-- his courage, bravery, and resilience are extreme. And the story of forgiveness and redemption inspire even now as I write this review.

As a psychologist, I am well acquainted with soldiers and civilians who have struggled with PTSD. I have studied forgiveness and religious conversions. The story of Louis Zamperini offers a case study that rings true and offers hope that others may also experience post-traumatic growth and a transformed life.

Unbroken on AMAZON

To read more about Forgiveness, see FORGIVENESS and RECONCILIATION

Key Words: World War II, POW, Survival, Resilience, PTSD, Post-Traumatic Growth, Forgiveness, Reconciliation, Spiritual Conversion


Hillenbrand, L. (2010). Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption. New York: Random House.

Unbroken has been made into a movie (2014) directed by Angelina Jolie. Here is a link to the YouTube trailer.

Here is a link to Zamperini's story of conversion.

At age 81, Louis Zamperini carried the Olympic Torch.

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