Book Highlights: Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

Book Highlights: Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

IUnbroken 198x300Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand is the true story of Louie Zamperini who was young athlete in the 1936 Olympics before joining the Army Air Corps and becoming a bombardier.  On a rescue trip his plane crash-landed into the ocean and one of the most fascinating stories of survival and tradgey begins.  This book will suck you into his story and amazing resilence through it all.

Here is a story of a young man who’s life couldn’t look much brighter and then he is thrown into war.  As a POW to the Japanese everything is stripped from him but he survives years of this to come back and live a life of meaning and happiness again.  I think there are lessons in this book that we could all learn.  When times get hard, and it’s hard to think of anything more difficult to survive than what Louie did, there is hope on the other end.

Of the 1,487 customer reviews on Amazon 87% are five stars!  I don’t think I’ve seen a book with that many reviews?  I can’t recommend this amazing story enough.

If you are curious about a little more information check out this short video trailer for the book.  You just have to feel that it is only a matter of time before this story is turned into a movie.

As I’ve done in recent reviews here are my Kindle highlights for a couple of really catching passes.

In the 1930s, America was infatuated with the pseudoscience of eugenics and its promise of strengthening the human race by culling the “unfit” from the genetic pool.

He didn’t run from something or to something, not for anyone or in spite of anyone; he ran because it was what his body wished to do. The restiveness, the self-consciousness, and the need to oppose disappeared. All he felt was peace.

Louie wins the 1933 UCLA Cross Country two-mile race by more than a quarter of a mile.

Louie’s supreme high school moment came in the 1934 Southern California Track and Field Championship. Running in what was celebrated as the best field of high school milers in history, Louie routed them all and smoked the mile in 4:21.3, shattering the national high school record, set during World War I, by more than two seconds.

A lifetime of glory is worth a moment of pain. Louie thought: Let go.

In 1935, when Cunningham’s record of 4:06.7 reigned, science weighed in. Studying data on human structural limits compiled by Finnish mathematicians, famed track coach Brutus Hamilton penned an article for Amateur Athlete magazine stating that a four-minute mile was impossible. The fastest a human could run a mile, he wrote, was 4:01.6.

In World War II, 35,933 AAF planes were lost in combat and accidents. The surprise of the attrition rate is that only a fraction of the ill-fated planes were lost in combat. In 1943 in the Pacific Ocean Areas theater in which Phil’s crew served, for every plane lost in combat, some six planes were lost in accidents. Over time, combat took a greater toll, but combat losses never overtook noncombat losses.

Everyone had heard stories like Reading’s, and everyone had looked from their planes to see sharks roaming below. The fear of sharks was so powerful that most men, faced with the choice of riding a crippled plane to a ditching or bailing out, chose to take their chances in a ditching, even in the B-24. At least that would leave them near the rafts.

Historians estimate that the Japanese military murdered between 200,000 and 430,000 Chinese, including the 90,000 POWs, in what became known as the Rape of Nanking.

Without dignity, identity is erased. In its absence, men are defined not by themselves, but by their captors and the circumstances in which they are forced to live. One American airman, shot down and relentlessly debased by his Japanese captors, described the state of mind that his captivity created: “I was literally becoming a lesser human being.”

Dignity is as essential to human life as water, food, and oxygen. The stubborn retention of it, even in the face of extreme physical hardship, can hold a man’s soul in his body long past the point at which the body should have surrendered it. The loss of it can carry a man off as surely as thirst, hunger, exposure, and asphyxiation, and with greater cruelty.

In Japan’s militaristic society, all citizens, from earliest childhood, were relentlessly indoctrinated with the lesson that to be captured in war was intolerably shameful. The 1941 Japanese Military Field Code made clear what was expected of those facing capture: “Have regard for your family first. Rather than live and bear the shame of imprisonment, the soldier must die and avoid leaving a dishonorable name.” As a result, in many hopeless battles, virtually every Japanese soldier fought to the death. For every Allied soldier killed, four were captured; for every 120 Japanese soldiers killed, one was captured. In some losing battles, Japanese soldiers committed suicide en masse to avoid capture.

in many hopeless battles, virtually every Japanese soldier fought to the death. For every Allied soldier killed, four were captured; for every 120 Japanese soldiers killed, one was captured.

“If I knew I had to go through those experiences again,” he finally said, “I’d kill myself.”

Two hundred and twenty-five men from the 11th had gone missing and were presumed dead, including twenty-six from Louie’s 42nd squadron. Many more had been killed in action. Of the sixteen rowdy young officers who had shared the pornographic palace on Oahu, only four—Louie, Phil, Jesse Stay, and Joe Deasy—were still alive.

“From now on,” she said, “September 9 is going to be Mother’s Day to me, because that’s the day I learned for sure my boy was coming home to stay.”

The paradox of vengefulness is that it makes men dependent upon those who have harmed them, believing that their release from pain will come only when they make their tormentors suffer.


  1. Pat Schaible
    Mar 27, 2012

    I need to keep up with your blog. I recently help start a new Book Club. The first book we chose is Unbroken. Charles & I both have now read it and agree with all you say. I’ll check on the one you mention above.

  2. Gaby
    Sep 3, 2013

    what page was the quotes “A lifetime of glory is worth a moment of pain”

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