An "inspirational" and "extraordinary" memoir of one of the most courageous of the greatest generation, Devil at My Heels is a must-read for anyone who read and loved Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Lauren Hillenbrand. Now with a new foreword exclusive to the ebook edition, in which Louis Zamperini reflects on his life through 2010 and being the subject of Hillenbrand’s critically acclaimed biography.
A juvenile delinquent, a world class NCAA miler, a 1936 Olympian, a WWII bombardier: Louis Zamperini had a fuller than most, when it changed in an instant. On May 27, 1943, his B–24 crashed into the Pacific Ocean. Louis and two other survivors found a raft amid the flaming wreckage and waited for rescue. Instead, they drifted two thousand miles for forty–seven days. Their only food: two shark livers and three raw albatross. Their only water: sporadic rainfall. Their only companions: hope and faith–and the ever–present sharks. On the forty–seventh day, mere skeletons close to death, Zamperini and pilot Russell Phillips spotted land–and were captured by the Japanese. Thus began more than two years of torture and humiliation as a prisoner of war.
Zamperini was threatened with beheading, subject to medical experiments, routinely beaten, hidden in a secret interrogation facility, starved and forced into slave labour, and was the constant victim of a brutal prison guard nicknamed the Bird–a man so vicious that the other guards feared him and called him a psychopath. Meanwhile, the Army Air Corps declared Zamperini dead and President Roosevelt sends official condolences to his family, who never gave up hope that he was alive.
Somehow, Zamperini survived and he returned home a hero. The celebration was short–lived. He plunged into drinking and brawling and the depths of rage and despair. Nightly, the Bird's face leered at him in his dreams. It would take years, but with the love of his wife and the power of faith, he was able to stop the nightmares and the drinking.
A stirring memoir from one of the greatest of the "Greatest Generation," Devil at My Heels is a living document about the brutality of war, the tenacity of the human spirit, and the power of forgiveness.
Zamperini, the son of Italian immigrants, was convinced by his younger brother to try out for the track team and he eventually earned a spot on the 1936 U.S. Olympic team. In Berlin, he roomed with Jesse Owens and (alas) shook hands with Adolf Hitler. When WWII began, Zamperini entered the Army Air Corps and became a bombardier in a B-24 squadron. On May 27, 1943, during a search and rescue mission, Zamperini's plane crashed into the Pacific, leaving him and two other survivors in a life raft. Forty-seven days later, after one of the three had died, Louis and his pilot washed ashore on Wotje Atoll and were quickly scooped up by a Japanese patrol. Then followed more than two years of hell. After narrowly averting being executed, Zamperini wound up in prison camps in Japan itself, where his captors unsuccessfully tried to recruit him to broadcast propaganda for them. After the war, he returned home, married and tried to return to normal. But the flashbacks of his captivity, especially the psychopathic brutality of a guard nicknamed "The Bird," continued to haunt him. Alcoholism followed. Then, his wife persuaded Zamperini to attend one of evangelist Billy Graham's crusades. The author found salvation and even returned to Japan as a missionary. Although Zamperini published his story in 1957, this updated version, which includes his participation in the 1998 Winter Olympic Games ceremonies in Japan, resurrects Zamperini's heroism via Rensin, a veteran of similar collaborations. It's difficult to argue with the account they have produced of a harrowing life constantly redirected toward good works.
Customer ReviewsSee All
What a read!
I thank Jesus, that Louie is a brother in the Lord. What God has done for him. All told so richly through this book. I am touched by having read it and will never forget. I never truly had an understanding of what POWs went though in WWII. Not only do I have a clearer picture but a deeper gratitude for what those and all soldiers sacrifice for their God & country. We are truly blessed as Americans.
Thought this book was just as good as the Hillenbran book, if not better.
“a smooth sea never made a good sailor.”
Inspirational, a case for predestination. If only Castro would have received Zamperini's message warmly!