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Editorial Reviews. From Library Journal. Zamperini was an intractable troublemaker of a youth dilerssowind.tk: Devil at My Heels: A Heroic Olympian's Astonishing Story of Survival as a Japanese POW in World War II eBook: David Rensin.
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- The Unbroken Warrior: Louis Zamperini – StMU History Media
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Air Medal with three oak leaf clusters. Prisoner of War Medal.
Somehow I made it home, and people called me a hero. All I did in the war was survive. My trouble reconciling the reality with the perception is partly why I slid into anger and alcoholism and almost lost my wife, family, and friends before I hit bottom, looked up—literally and figuratively—and found faith instead.
A year later I returned to Japan, confronted my prison guards, now in a prison of their own, and forgave even the most sadistic.
The Unbroken Warrior: Louis Zamperini – StMU History Media
Back at home, I started an outreach camp program for boys as wayward as I had once been, or worse, and I began to tell my story to anyone who would listen. I have never ceased to be amazed at the response. My mission then was the same as it is now: to inspire and help people by leading a life of good example, quiet strength, and perpetual influence. My father, Anthony Zamperini, came from Verona, Italy. He grew up on beautiful Lake Garda, where as a youngster he did some landscaping for Admiral Dewey. My dad looked a little bit like Burt Lancaster, not as tall but built like a boxer.
His parents died when he was thirteen, and soon after that he came to America and got a job working in the coal mines. At first he used a pick and shovel and breathed the black dust. Then he drove the big electric flatcars that towed coal out of the mines.
He worked hard all his life, always had a job, always made money. But he wanted more, so he bought a set of books and educated himself in electrical engineering. His wisdom sustained us. My mother, Louise, was half-Austrian, half-Italian, and born in Pennsylvania. A handsome woman, of medium height and build, Mom was full of life, and a good storyteller.
She liked to reminisce about the old days when my big brother, Pete, my little sisters, Virginia and Sylvia, and I were young. Of course, most mothers do. Her favorite stories—or maybe they were just so numerous—were about all the times I escaped serious injury or worse. The doctor in Olean in upper-central New York State told my parents, You have to get your kids out of this cold climate to where the weather is warmer.
My uncle Nick already lived in San Pedro, south of Los Angeles, and my parents decided to travel west. At Grand Central Station my mother walked Pete and me along the platform and onto the train. She searched all the cars and then did it again. When we first moved to California we lived in Long Beach, but our house caught fire in the middle of the night.
Devil at My Heels a Heroic Olympians Astonishing Story of Survival as a Japanese Pow in Wwii
My dad grabbed me and Pete and whisked us out to the front lawn, where my mother waited. My dad rushed back into the burning house. His eyes and lungs filled with smoke, and he had to crawl on his knees to see and breathe. He crept into my room and spotted a hand sticking out from under the bed. Clutching me to his chest, he ran for the front door.
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While he was crossing the porch, the wood collapsed in flames and burned his legs, but he kept going and we were safe. As she talked, I managed to sink. She turned and saw only bubbles on the surface. It took a while to work the water out of me. A few months later a slightly older kid in the neighborhood challenged me to a race. I lived on a street with a T-shaped intersection, and the idea was to run to the corner, cross the street, and be first to touch a palm tree on the far side.
He led all the way and was almost across the street by the time I got to the corner. I ran back home scared to death, pulled off a vent grate, and hid under the house. I could see the mangled boy lying on the concrete, and the ambulance that soon took him away.
My mother would often remind me of those times, saying, We move to California for your health, and here you are almost dying every day!
There were still more fields than houses, and the barley rose three feet tall. At first, thinking we were renting, our German and English neighbors got up a petition against us. But they had no choice. I still have a copy of the deed; it restricts the house from being sold to anyone other than white Caucasians. Although we qualified, the rule was still wrongheaded. My parents were hardworking, honest, and caring people forced into defending their rights and themselves.
In the end they simply returned good for evil and just by being themselves won over the entire street. My mother ran the household. She was strict but fair. Every morning before school we had chores.
She also cooked fabulous meals—lasagne, gnocchi, risotto—and we had a great family life. For as long as I can remember there was laughter in our home and the doors were always open to friends.