War hero, Olympian Zamperini dies at 97

Published:

Associated Press

LOS ANGELES -- Louis Zamperini, 97, an Olympic distance runner and World War II veteran who survived 47 days on a raft in the Pacific after his bomber crashed, then endured two years in Japanese prison camps, has died.

Zamperini is the subject of Laura Hillenbrand's best-selling book "Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption," which is being made into a movie by Universal Pictures.

He competed in the 5,000-meter run at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. His U.S. Army Air Forces bomber crashed in the Pacific Ocean during a reconnaissance mission. After before being captured by Japanese forces he spent more than two years as a prisoner of war, surviving torture.

In May, Zamperini was named grand marshal of the 2015 Rose Parade in Pasadena, California, which next New Year's Day will feature the theme "Inspiring Stories."

In accepting the honor, Zamperini, wearing a USC cap, recalled that Hillenbrand, in researching the book, asked to interview his friends from college and the Army.

"And now after the book was finished all of my college buddies are dead, all of my war buddies are dead. It's sad to realize that you've lost all your friends," he said. "But I think I made up for it. I made a new friend -- Angelina Jolie. And the gal really loves me, she hugs me and kisses me, so I can't complain."

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