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Let's ride. This is Lee Habib, and this is Our American Stories, the show where America is the star and the American people. And we love our listeners' stories. Send them to OurAmericanStories.com.
That's OurAmericanStories.com. They're some of our favorites. Our next story was made into a 2014 motion picture, directed by Angelina Jolie, based on the 2010 nonfiction book by Laura Hillenbrand, Unbroken, a World War II story of survival, resilience, and redemption. While some of the most remarkable parts of Zamperini's story were left out of the film, you will be hearing them told now by the man himself. We'd like to thank the folks at Vision Video for giving us access to the footage you're about to hear.
Check out their selection of 1,900 video titles of uplifting, family-friendly videos at VisionVideo.com. Let's take a listen. My name is Louis Zamperini. I was born January 26, 1917, in Olean, New York. I moved to California for my health.
I had pneumonia. And so ever since I was two years old, I lived in Torrance, California, just south of LA, about 20 miles. And I'm afraid I was in constant conflict with the Torrance police. I was a rascal, and I think it all started with the, I couldn't speak English, and the other kids were teasing me.
They wanted to hear me swear in Italian. You know, these were your bullies, they call them today. And so my dad got me some weights and a punching bag, and I started getting in shape. And so then after a few months, I started fighting back. And when I started fighting back, they stopped teasing me.
But in the meantime, I continued with my errant ways, and I had been dissipating. I started smoking when I was five. And during that time, it was prohibition. But everybody made beer, wine, and other things, and we knew who made it. And when they were at the movies on Saturday night, we would hijack the stuff.
And even if they knew we took it, they couldn't turn us in to the police, or they'd go to jail. And so that was my life as a teenager, until my brother got me out on the track at what they call an inter-class track meet. And the pains of exhaustion, that's the worst. And that was it, no more running. So a week later, we were having our first bull meet with Narbonne, Narbonne High School, and everybody insisted I represent the school in this race. The same 660-yard run, and they finally talked me into it. The first two runners from Narbonne had finished, and the third man was ahead of me about 50 yards ago. And I wasn't about to pass him, you know, until the students, a thousand students from my high school, started screaming, come on Louie.
Well, those were beautiful words to me, because I had no idea that anyone at all knew my name, and here a thousand students are hollering, come on Louie, and that tasted pretty good. And I just got up a little adrenaline, I suppose, and I finally nipped this guy at the table about six inches, and came in third. So after that, I thought about that recognition. That was important to me, and I think it's important to all athletes.
The thing that inspires you and creates a desire to go ahead and become a champion is recognition. And so that night, I had to make a decision, and that was no doubt the first wise decision of my life. I decided to go all out to become a runner. Now, considering my life, you'd think that was an impossibility.
And my family thought it was an impossibility, my brother thought, but I made up my mind, and I became a fanatic trainer. No more dessert, I ran everywhere, no hitchhiking, ran down to and back four miles to the most of them back. I'd run like 12 miles on a Saturday. I'd hit the mountain, run around lakes, jump, and that's how I liked it. I was not getting tired anymore and fatigued, and I enjoyed mainly not running around the track, but running in the wilderness.
And jumping over streams, I can remember on a number of occasions chasing deer down a hill, just for the fun of it. And so all that running, and in those days there were no stopwatches around, so I had no idea how fast I was running, didn't even care. I just started enjoying running, and finally at the end of summer, the first running race was Far West AU, cross country at UCLA, two miles, about 101 runners. When the race was over, I won by a quarter of a mile, or over a quarter, and I couldn't believe it.
I said, no, I'm sure I cut a corner, I wouldn't take credit for winning. And the officials said, no, all the challenges were in, you passed every checkpoint. And they said, by the way, you broke all three records, Class A, Class B, and Class C, and you ran the two miles in 957, which was comparable to college running when I was a sophomore in high school.
So that did it. I knew that hard work was the answer, and from then on I never lost a race for three and a half years. The second best 5,000 meter runner in America was coming to California to run, to draw a big crowd and so forth, and my brother said, I want you to train, you've got two weeks, I want you to run against this guy. We had no hopes of the Olympics, just run against him to see how close you can get to a fellow who's going to make the Olympic team, and that would have been a victory in itself. And I caught him at the table about two inches, so I knew that I could beat him, the second best runner in America, and this gave me the possibility of making the team. Now I didn't think about the team at that time, until the next day when I got a call from the newspaper that the Olympic committee had called Torrance to tell him that I qualified for the Olympic tryouts at Random Island, New York.
And again, it wasn't important to win, I made the team. And so I'm on this ship now with all these great athletes, and they were all my heroes, you know, I'm going around meeting all the athletes, and go off the ship at Hamburg and off to Berlin, and then they took us into the most beautiful Olympic village ever made. And it was gorgeous, fenced in, animals running loose, lakes, stormtroopers walking through, and we'd give them the Heil Hitler salute with a big laugh on their face, and they knew we were kidding, they'd salute back.
If we said Heil Adolf, they'd say Heil Hitler, or vice versa. And so they were a lot of fun. And you're listening to the voice of the one and only Louis Zamperini, raised in Torrance, California, as he said a self-proclaimed rascal in his youth. But hearing those words, come on, Louis, it chanted by students, that recognition, well, that was all the fuel he needed, it lit a fire in this young man.
And he said, it was the first wise decision in my life to become a runner. When we come back, more of this remarkable life story, Louis Zamperini's story here on Our American Stories. Here at Our American Stories, we bring you inspiring stories of history, sports, business, faith, and love, stories from a great and beautiful country that need to be told.
But we can't do it without you. Our stories are free to listen to, but they're not free to make. If you love our stories and America like we do, please go to OurAmericanStories.com and click the donate button.
Give a little, give a lot. Help us keep the great American stories coming. That's OurAmericanStories.com. I know everything there is to know about running a coffee shop, but for small business insurance, I need my State Farm agent. They make sure my business stays piping hot and I stay cool and confident. See, they're small business owners too, so they know how to help you best. State Farm is in your corner and on it. Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.
Call your local State Farm agent for a quote today. Doing household chores can be time consuming and tedious, and there's nothing more daunting than facing piles of laundry that need to be done. It can be so overwhelming. So if you want to get those larger laundry loads done right and get back to doing the things you enjoy, try All-Free Clear Mega Packs. All-Free Clear Mega Packs are bigger packs with two times the cleaning ingredients compared to a regular pack, so you can tackle any laundry load without the worry. All-Free Clear Mega Packs are also 100% free of perfumes and dyes and gentle on skin, which is great for any family's sensitive skin needs. So the next time you come home from vacation or the kids get back from summer camp and you're faced with a giant pile of laundry, just know that All-Free Clear Mega Packs have your back.
Purchase All-Free Clear Mega Packs today and conquer any laundry load for all fabric types. Hey, you guys, this is Tori and Jennie with the 902.1 OMG Podcast. We have such a special episode brought to you by NerdTech ODT. We recorded it at iHeartRadio's 10th Poll event, Wango Tango. Did you know that NerdTech ODT Remedipant 75 milligrams can help migraine sufferers still attend such an exciting event like Wango Tango?
It's true. I had one that night and I took my NerdTech ODT and I was present and had an amazing time. Here's a little glimpse of our conversation with some of our closest friends. This episode was brought to you by NerdTech ODT Remedipant 75 milligrams. Life with migraine attacks can mean missing out on big moments with friends and family.
But thankfully, NerdTech ODT Remedipant 75 milligrams is the only medication that is proven to treat a migraine attack and prevent episodic migraines in adults. So lively events like Wango Tango don't have to be missed. And we're back with our American stories. Let's return to Louis Zamperini and where he left off with his arrival to Berlin, Germany, to compete as a 19-year-old distance runner in the 1936 Summer Olympics, also known as the Nazi Olympics. So I got in the semifinals and fortunately I made the finals. And the last lap comes and I'm 50 yards behind the leaders. Something my brother had taught me when I was – I used to complain about the third lap of the mile being tired. And he said, well, so were the other runners. They're all human beings.
They're all tired. But think of it this way. You've got a lap to go about one minute.
Isn't one minute of pain worth a lifetime of glory? And I never forgot that. And so I opened up the last lap and I caught the leaders coming down the home stretch, so I did come in with the leaders.
And in doing so, the coach said, you just ran your last quarter in 56 seconds, which was considered impossible for a distance runner. And that evidently caught the attention of Adolf Hitler. He was there every day. And I go back to my box after my shower and an officer comes over and says, Hitler wants to meet you. First he asked for my name.
I said, I didn't want anything. You know, he was shaking hands with the gold medalist. And he said, well, he wants to meet you. So I went over to him and he just reached down, shook my hand and simply said, the boy with, ah, he said, ah, yeah, the boy with the fast finish. And that was it.
So I met the Fuhrer. Didn't mean anything. But my opinion of him was the same opinion that Marty Glichman had and all the others. He looked like a comedian. And the way he acted, stomping his feet, pounding his legs and face and mustache and all that.
So that was my opinion of him. Well, the games are over and we collected souvenirs. All the Olympians did, remind them of their Olympic trip. And now I'm back home entering USC as a freshman. And now 1940, Tokyo Olympics.
We're all aiming for that. And suddenly we get the announcement. Headlines on the papers. The Olympics are canceled. Well, it was quite a brawl, you know, adults really couldn't understand it. But for a kid who's been aiming for four years for one race and you're going to hit your peak of your life at that particular year. That was hard to take until Pearl Harbor was hit. And of course, we forgot all about being athletes.
And like all other Americans, we are one mind of one accord, one purpose. Get in the war quickly, get it over with as soon as possible. However, I did run in Hawaii to keep in shape. And even though General Arnold in charge of the Air Force, through a friend, he was a friend of mine, indirectly. But they wouldn't allow me to go back because our bomb group was a special bomb group and experimental. We were the first to use the heaviest bomb of the war for dive bombing. So we had a lot of missions up and down the Marshall and Gilbert's, bombing Macon and Tarawa and Woji and all those islands. We had a few local search missions looking for submarines. And then we came back and after a mission you get a couple of days off.
And we're heading for the main gate on the way to Honolulu. And the operations officer comes skidding up in the jeep and says, We just got a report of B-25 has gone down 200 miles north of Palmyra. Now the cloud cover, broken flouzer at 1,000 feet, that's our search mission height.
And swinging down here and there looking for debris in the water, light brass, anything we could find. And suddenly the RPMs dropped on one motor, oil pressure to zero. And the pilot immediately called the new engineer and he was so excited to do his job, he came up and nervously feathered the wrong motor. Now this plane could not fly normally on four motors. You couldn't get off the ground with a bomb load.
The Green Hornet was a lemon. And with one motor out the plane was having trouble. And now when he feathered the wrong motor the plane just heeled over and went down left wing first 45 degrees into the water and exploded.
The pilot and tail gunner were fortunately blown free of the wreckage. And then as the tail snapped off the control wires, which are heavy wires that are springing. So when the wires break they coil up.
So when they snap the wires coil around the tripod. I'm in the middle, I can't get loose. Now with the wires there it's a hopeless situation. And so I just thought well this is it, this is it, I'm dead. And so I started sinking, my ears popped and that usually happens around 25, 30 feet. And then as I sank deeper, something I never had happened before.
I felt like someone was being the scientist with a sledge hammer. And then I lost consciousness. And of course I'm sinking, I'm still sinking so the pressure has got to be getting greater. And then I lost consciousness.
And then for some unknown reason I'm conscious again. I'm freed, I'm loosened from that section of the ship. I'm trailing around with my arms trying to find something to grab onto.
And fortunately my USC ring which was on this finger was bearing the White Star still there. Snagged onto the waste window and I knew that was the waste window by the field. I grabbed it with my other hand, watched my back out of the window, inflated my life jacket and popped to the surface. And there I saw my two buddies who were now hanging onto a gas tank. They were both in a state of shock, screaming help. And the pilot's head was bleeding profusely with a cut artery. And there's no way I can help them.
If I should know that to help them we're all dead. But I saw a life raft that had ejected from the plane automatically. And so there's a 100 foot core dragging behind the life raft. So I'm trying to swim to the life raft with shoes on, clothes and it's impossible. Even in a swimsuit I couldn't have caught that life raft.
The currents were that vicious. But as I almost gave up swimming this cord was going by my face. Couldn't see it in the water. And I grabbed the last two or three feet and I reeled in the raft. And I got to the pilot and co-pilot, pulled him aboard. Took two t-shirts, made a wet compress, put on the cuts, tied it with the other t-shirt.
Very tightly so it wouldn't bleed anymore and I laid him back. And then I started thinking about that escape. That really bugged me. And I kept thinking of any kind of a logical answer for my escape and I just couldn't find one. So I gave up thinking about it. Instead I started praying and thanking God for sparing my life.
Well my buddy saw this and they started to pray with me. And then it wasn't long after that the tail gunner panicked and began to scream. There was something dawning on him that happened. We're all going to die, he said. I said Mack, nobody's going to die.
We're going to die. I said Mack, nobody's going to die. And then I told him to shut up.
I said if you don't shut up I'm going to make a report on you to the military when we get back. And he still kept screaming so I tried to use child psychology on him and that didn't work. So I thought I'd give him a double shock. And this is the last resort, a good shock treatment. I turned my back on and I came around with the back of my hand and cracked him hard across the face. He laid back in the raft, content. And he was okay for maybe five days or a week and then I had to do it again.
But it always seemed to work. And he never gagged it, I just laid back and seemed to enjoy it. So our menu of course now is for the next 47 days there's what birds, fish, and water we could catch. And of course the birds and the fish we simply ate raw.
Three albatross, well we actually caught four albatross. We caught the first one we caught, we just ripped it open and the smell was enough we threw it overboard. The second one we caught, I said we've got to eat some part of it, you know.
And so we took the breast and we tried to take a bite out of the breast a piece and tried to chew it up and swallow it. We just barely swallowed one mouthful and again we threw it overboard and used parts of it through bait. And we did catch a small fish. We divided that in three ways and that wasn't bad, raw fish. And then a lot of time went by before we got another albatross.
Oh yeah there's another albatross. We opened it up and man I'll tell you it was like a hot fudge sundae with nut on it. We ate everything, eyeballs. And what a story you're hearing Louis Zamperini tell. Hitler wants to meet you, he was told after that last final burst of speed. And by the way he did not tell the story here of him seizing the Nazi flag and stealing it and taking it home. That's a heck of a story, we couldn't tell every bit and part of this story. But he did it. And he did it because, well, why not?
He was still, well, a rascal in the end. He goes to USC, he wants to compete in the 1940 Olympics. That doesn't happen, they're cancelled. Then comes Pearl Harbor. His life has changed. He takes on dangerous missions and soon finds himself stranded in the Pacific with a few buddies. 47 days hanging on for dear life to be rescued. When we come back, more of this remarkable life story. The voice of Louis Zamperini from the grave. He's in heaven now, he's smiling, loving this story.
Here on Our American Stories. I know everything there is to know about running a coffee shop. But for small business insurance, I need my State Farm agent. They make sure my business stays piping hot.
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Purchase all free clear mega packs today and conquer any laundry load for all fabric types. Hey, you guys, this is Tori and Jenny with the 9 0 2 1 OMG podcast. We have such a special episode brought to you by nerd tech ODT.
We recorded it at I heart radio's 10th pole event. Wingo tango. Did you know that nerd tech ODT remejipants 75 milligrams can help migraine sufferers still attend such an exciting event like wingo tango?
It's true. I had one that night and I took my nerd tech ODT and I was present and had an amazing time. Here's a little glimpse of our conversation with some of our closest friends. This episode was brought to you by nerd tech ODT remejipants 75 milligrams. Life with migraine attacks can mean missing out on big moments with friends and family.
But thankfully, nerd tech ODT remejipants 75 milligrams is the only medication that is proven to treat a migraine attack and prevent episodic migraines in adults. So lively events like wingo tango don't have to be missed. And we return to our American stories and to Louis Zamperini story. The year is 1941. While serving as a bombardier on a search and rescue mission in a B-24 Liberator in the Pacific, Zamperini's plane experienced mechanical difficulties and crashed into the ocean. Let's pick up where we last left off. Before we went seven days without water, on the 27th day, we heard motors and you can imagine our excitement. We shot flares through water dying in the ocean, flickered our mirrors, the plane came down and flew low as they came towards us. We had our shirts off, you know, waving our shirts, tears in our eyes, boy, we're going to be with the Marines tonight on Palmyra. And then machine gunning, water splashed off, you know, coming out of it and just missed us. And then I saw the red circle.
I knew it was a Sally bomber, which was comparable to our B-25. And so that went on, they stretched us for about 30 minutes. I was in the water with two sharks while the other two stayed in the raft. And every time I came up, I knew they were dead, but they were alive and they weren't touched, missed by an eighth of an inch, quarter inch, half inch.
And this was just unbelievable. And I'm in the water with two sharks, and of course I'm taught how to evade sharks. The last resort is straight on you. Just stay there, they'll come up slowly, they'll stop, size you up, and then they'll come at you.
And you've got plenty of time to get your hand up there and catch them on the end of the nose, and they usually just take off. And that worked. But after about 30 minutes, we decided we were in a hopeless situation. The raft was now wrinkled, laying flat in the water.
There's no chance. We've got to pretend we're dead. So we pretend we were dead, and the plane evidently bypassed us that round, but made a big circle. And we thought they were going back to base, but they decided on one more run. And this time, as they came directly on course this time, I said, off course, I looked out of the corner of my eye and I saw the bomb bay door open.
I thought, oh no, this is it. They dropped the depth charge. It was a canister. Now we dropped bombs on submarines. They dropped a canister, and it lit about 50 feet away, which would have killed us. But the canister was improperly armed, and sank to the bottom harmlessly. They did turn around then and leave us.
Boy, what a relief. And then we had to start pumping that raft. With sharks around, and we're right level with the water, we're pumping like mad, taking turns, and barely got the raft up again. And now the holes are about the size of a 22 hole.
That's a 7.7 millimeter, I think. And if you saw the inner tube pull a hole through the swimming pool, it would not sink. That was our situation. Then we settled back in the raft after eight days, which it took us about eight days to get the raft decently patched up. And then the only real big storm we had during the entire time, and it was monstrous. The waves were like 25 to 40 feet, and that was far more frightening than the Japanese airplane and far more frightening than the sharks. And we survived that.
Well, I should say the two of us survived that. The tail gunner died on the 33rd day, and we buried him at sea. And so the next day, of course, there were big swells, and we're on top of the swell, and I see land for the first time. And we knew we were going to drift into the islands, but we also knew these were held by the Japanese.
So we had to be real careful and try to find a geosurgeon island. And we were about to land on one island when the Japanese patrol boat came around a point and spotted us. And, you know, you got about 25 guys with rifles aimed at you.
One guy with a machine gun. You know, we were so blessed that we couldn't really laugh, but inside we were laughing. Then they threw us a rope and pulled us aboard. We couldn't even crawl.
We were that weak. And sat us on the deck of the ship and hit us with a pistol in the face. But they did give us a drink of water and a biscuit. And they were taking the Woji in there, weighed in at 30 kilo, about, I don't know, 65 pounds.
So I lost about almost 100. And there we were treated decently. They pulled the raft out from the boat and counted the holes, 48 holes. And I told them. I told them the day. The 27th day on the raft, the date that the Japanese pilot strafed us. You should be able to find out who that pilot was. Oh, no. Japanese pilot wouldn't do that. But he did it.
So they wouldn't accept that, even with the evidence. Two days later, we're told we're going aboard a steamer heading for another island. And after you leave this island, we cannot guarantee your life.
So we're heading for a kwaj. And we knew through the scuttlebutt that it was considered execution island. We were blindfolded. The ocean, 47 days out there, all you saw was that endless sky.
And the Pacific Ocean is what, 65 million square miles of endless ocean. Now I'm blindfolded. And when I'm inside that shell, which is two feet wide, by six feet deep and six feet long, they take my blindfold off, my eyes just jump all over the place. I couldn't believe where I was. And this had a terrible effect on me. In the corner of that shell, I just sat there and looked at my skeletal frame and just started to cry.
Two months ago, I was a vigorous athlete, and here I am a skeleton. And then our new guard came on duty after about a week, and he simply looked in and said, You Christian, me Christian, that's all I can say. Well, in Japan at that time, you didn't admit you were a Christian, not in Japan. And, of course, I thought I was.
No, me, Christian, Christian. So we started a chat on paper. We drew a picture for the name to it and so forth. And two days later, he got his monthly candy ration and shared it with me.
Unbelievable. Every day, of course, in the morning we would think about execution. Will this be the morning? Will this be the morning? And then an officer came in one day and said, You will go to the Oklahoma Children's War with the Japanese fleet.
Up to a sacred camp in the hills of Ohuna. And there I shoved him into a room and told him to stand away for further orders. And so I stand there and I see the back of the man's head.
And then he turns around, leans back in the chair and looks at him and laughs. And he didn't have to say, Remember me? I knew him well at USC for three and a half years, James Sasaki. And while he says I came back to Japan after USC and became Admiral Sasaki, the civilian rank of Admiral, head of all interrogation all over Japan, 91 prison camps. And we talked about USC, the bacon and egg vectors on the campus.
He was talking about that kind of food, so they weren't getting it. And then he said, Well, we'll see each other from time to time. They called him Jimmy. Jimmy Sasaki had a high-frequency transmitter just off of Torrance Boulevard a short distance from the Edison substation where he made broadcasts daily to the Japanese government. Then it said he left by boat two days before a raid by the FBI and CIA.
And finally transferred to what they called headquarters camp Omori between Yokohama, Tokyo on a man-made island. And there I meet the nightmare of my life, the bird. I come in there, he lines us up, comes by and looks at me and I couldn't look in his eye.
I looked away and he said, Why, you don't look in my eyes? Bang! So I'm knocked down.
I get up, knocked down again. So I'm punched out every day for the first ten days and I knew who the boss was, that's for sure. And so he was so brutal, the other guards, we gave him vile, filthy names. We didn't give him a filthy name, we simply called him the bird because if he did find out through scuttlebutt that we named him a certain name, then we're really in for trouble. And you've been listening to Louis Zamperini tell the story of his capture by the Japanese 47 days in the ocean.
The sharks were tough, the gunfire from enemy Japanese planes was tough, but what was tougher is surviving a wicked storm with 35 foot plus waves. Then he's transferred to Execution Island. He catches a glimpse of himself and all he saw was a skeleton frame and he just started crying. Every morning he thought about one thing, his execution. And then he's transferred to another camp where he meets his tormentor, the bird.
When we come back, more of this remarkable life story, Louis Zamperini's story, here on Our American Stories. . I know everything there is to know about running a coffee shop, but for small business insurance, I need my State Farm agent. They make sure my business stays piping hot and I stay cool and confident. See, they're small business owners too, so they know how to help you best. State Farm is in your corner and on it. Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.
Call your local State Farm agent for a quote today. Doing household chores can be time consuming and tedious and there's nothing more daunting than facing piles of laundry that need to be done. It can be so overwhelming. So if you want to get those larger laundry loads done right and get back to doing the things you enjoy, try All-Free Clear Mega Packs. All-Free Clear Mega Packs are bigger packs with two times the cleaning ingredients compared to a regular pack, so you can tackle any laundry load without the worry. All-Free Clear Mega Packs are also 100% free of perfumes and dyes and gentle on skin, which is great for any family's sensitive skin needs. So the next time you come home from vacation or the kids get back from summer camp and you're faced with a giant pile of laundry, just know that All-Free Clear Mega Packs have your back.
Purchase All-Free Clear Mega Packs today and conquer any laundry load for all fabric types. Hey, you guys. This is Tori and Jenni with the 902.1 OMG Podcast. We have such a special episode brought to you by NerdTek ODT. We recorded it at iHeartRadio's 10th poll event, Wango Tango. Did you know that NerdTek ODT Remedipant 75 mg can help migraine sufferers still attend such an exciting event like Wango Tango?
It's true. I had one that night and I took my NerdTek ODT and I was present and had an amazing time. Here's a little glimpse of our conversation with some of our closest friends. This episode was brought to you by NerdTek ODT Remedipant 75 mg. Life with migraine attacks can mean missing out on big moments with friends and family.
But thankfully, NerdTek ODT Remedipant 75 mg is the only medication that is proven to treat a migraine attack and prevent episodic migraines in adults. So lively events like Wango Tango don't have to be missed. And we return to our American stories and to Louis Zamperini's story. When we last left off in his story, he described a Japanese internment prison guard known as the Bird. The Bird was so deranged that General Douglas MacArthur named him as one of the most wanted war criminals in Japan. Let's continue with Louis Zamperini.
He was a son of a wealthy family. He flunked out officers' schools. They had him for officers. And I can remember when we had a B-29 raid, he called all the Americans out.
And he separated the officers from the enlisted men. And then he had all the lowest rank enlisted men just to shame us, buck drive us, face us, and each one had to punch us and knock us down. And they wouldn't hit us hard. They'd hit us easy and then they'd get hit with a club. Hey, hit us hard, knock us down, get it over with. So we had to take a full blow on the face, down on the ground. And so that's the way he was.
He took it out on officers always. Officers got the punishment. But about another week went by, and I believe there were six or seven of us lined up, put on a train. And now we're crossing Tokyo. But see, in the meantime, they had the big fire raid on Tokyo, which we saw from our vantage point. We saw the sky aglow all night and half the next day.
And we're put on the train and we go right to that charred waste. And all we could say for miles, 19 square miles of charred, you know, bamboo huts or whatever, wooden shacks. But the only thing we were able to identify were the hundreds of lanes that the Japanese did. They did like the Germans.
Their factory was bombed, but it didn't slow them down because the big factory, the industrial complex at the point of Tokyo, they only had part of their machinery there. The rest of it was in the civilian homes. And I remember going to the slaughterhouse to pick up our meat, which was horse guts, in a wheelbarrow. And I used to see these transformers. And I thought, my golly, for this little house, I'd look back and I'd see a lathe. Great big, $25,000 lathe, and the guys working, making parts. And all down the street.
Though it was really strange to see the only thing not burned were all those machines. And that was the reason Truman had the firebomb in Tokyo, was because that was the industrial complex. So now we're going north 12 hours to Waiju, Nagano, and down to the ocean to Naletu. And we get to the prison compound. We have to stand there to test in and wait for further order. And we waited and watched the front door of the guard shack. And whoever was in there was making us wait purposely. And we waited and waited and waited, and the door opened and out steps the bird. Well, my knees buckled.
I just couldn't believe it. I just thought, you know, I'm a guy that never gives up. But I got to the point where I just thought, it's hopeless. Hopeless. I can't escape this guy.
So I got back to attention, and then I had to put up with him all over again. So then about eight days before the war was over, one of the guards came to me and said, a sad thing happened in Japan. A city called Hiroshima, cholera broke out.
No one's allowed to go in. It's quarantine. And we thought that was sad. So the whole nation of Japan knew that Hiroshima was a city, quarantine was cholera. And then about eight days later, we're told to paint PW on the roof. And we'd heard rumors about the war being over for two years.
So it didn't mean much. But we wouldn't believe it until we saw a TVF fly over the river. And they saw all the prisoners in the river. And they flashed on their red light, da da da. And the radio man picked it up, the war's over.
So then we rushed up to the compound and began to wave at the plane. He circled and circled. Then he dropped the red ribbon. On the end of it was a candy bar with a bite out of it. And a pack of cigarettes with two cigarettes gone. And yet 350 men got a puff of cigarettes and we all got a sliver of candy.
Pretty good. That evening he came back and we looked like a body falling. It was a pair of Navy pants tied at the bottom and top and carton of cigarettes and candy and Commander Fitzgerald of the Grenadier Submarine. The ranking officer, he opens the pants and right on the top was a magazine. And he just stood there silently looking at that picture of the atomic bomb. Because we'd never heard of it. And he kept looking at it and the other officers walked up.
We all looked over his shoulder and looked at that picture. And then I realized the date of the cholera at Hiroshima. That the same dates were actually what happened with the bomb and the Japanese pulled their eyes over the general public by telling them it was cholera. Which was the best thing they could have done. So finally the bird, two days before we actually knew the war was over the bird disappeared. Because we had a 70 pound rock on the second floor right over the river and a rope.
We had it hidden away in the bulk of the building. And we were going to grab him, tie the rock onto him and throw him over into the river. And that was our intention.
But he flew the coupe so we didn't see him again. And the other guards all started bowing and scraping and we felt sorry for him. And we knew they had families at home and they weren't eating too well. And typical American we started giving the guards food to take home to their children and stuff like that, candy. In fact when the war was over, sleeping in tents on the way home, I still had nightmares about the bird.
I'm Italian, I have to have revenge and when he's torturing me and punishing me, I'm giving revenge in my heart. And my hands are clenched, I got him by the throat. And that was in my dreams every night, every night, every night.
I got home, it was the same thing at home. I got married, I still had the nightmares. In the meantime I started drinking because of that. But before I started drinking heavily I started training for the 48 Olympics.
And I did get in good shape and then when I had my knee give out and my ankle and muscle spasm or like an explosion in my calf, I couldn't train anymore and I gave that up and that really hurt me. So I started drinking more and more and my wife decided it was time for a divorce. And somebody in our apartment house was telling me about a fellow named Billy Graham.
We never heard of him. They talked my wife into going down to hear Billy Graham. He made a decision for the Lord, came home that night, tried to talk me into it and I said, keep away from her, I don't want to hear anymore about religion. But she said something that really struck me in the heart and that was, and because of my decision I'm not going to get a divorce. So that was good news. But the next day she was all over me and I refused to go.
Finally they more or less tricked me into going down to hear Billy. And there he's preaching for all of sin. Well, I knew I was a sinner. I didn't like the idea of him reminding me. It just gave me an excuse to leave. I got mad, grabbed my wife, pulled her home and the next day she's all over me again. So I finally consented on a return trip and I said, well, when he finishes his sermon and says every how, head bowed, I'm getting out.
Okay. So back we went and kept quoting scripture from the Bible. And I knew what I should do, but I didn't want to do it. And then as I started to leave the tent, I started thinking back on the raft. When our lives were spared, we did pray morning, noon and night. And we prayed constantly on the raft. My prayer was always God, save my life and I'll seek you and serve you.
And here I am home alive. My prayers were answered and they completely turned my back on those promises. That hit me pretty hard before I got to the aisle where I decided to turn out. No, I stopped momentarily, made my decision, went back to the prayer room and made my confessional faith in Christ and there a miracle took place. My life completely changed. I had a turnabout. I knew that I was through getting drunk.
I knew it obviously to myself. I knew I'd forgiven all my guards. I knew I'd forgiven the bird. And I think proof of that was that that night I didn't have a nightmare for the first time. And it's been two and a half years and since the war and I had a nightmare every night.
And now from 1949 till this day, I still never had a nightmare or even the slightest inkling of a nightmare. And so when I met with the studio to make the movie with Universal, the producer was hearing all the things the bird did to me and I'm sitting at this meeting like this listening to these fellows talk and finally he's getting really uptight and he jumped up and said, Louie, Louie, how could you forgive that so and so? And I stood up and I said, well, I can only give you one verse in the Bible why I could forgive him. Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new person. Behold, all things are passed away. Behold, all things are become new. And he looked at me and I didn't know what he was going to do. And he rushed over and grabbed me around the waist, picked me up and said, we're going to make this into a major film.
So I thought that was pretty neat, him being Jewish and not mentioned in Christ. So that was the climax. That was just beautiful.
So that's my story. And what a voice you just heard that is Louie Zamperini from the grave in heaven sharing his story for all to hear about how Jesus saved his life, made those nightmares disappear and renewed his life and his marriage. And a special thanks to Greg Hengler as always for the editing on that piece and thanks to Vision Video. They have 1900 video titles of uplifting family friendly content.
Go to visionvideo.com. God saved my life and I will seek and serve you. He prayed on that boat. I turned my back on God on my promises. But then I came to Christ. My life completely changed. I forgave the bird. My nightmares ended. A beautiful story. Louie Zamperini is here on Our American Stories.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-02-16 17:31:09 / 2023-02-16 17:49:53 / 19