Sunday, June 10, 2012

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption ...by Laura Hillenbrand

The hols is over and I finished this book with one day to spare, after I finished some painting around the house. Daughter was a great help this time around. Between the 2 of us, we finished painting more than what I had originally set out to do. 8) And the best thing was I enjoyed doing it with her very much.

Back to the book. WWW2 - most of the books I have read covered mostly the European side of the war. This one covers the Pacific theatre. War is cruel. It disrupts everything. It lays bare the worst and also the best in humans.

The book begins with Louis Zamperini as a kid of Italian migrants. A colorful childhood, his escapades and brushes with the law were humourous. A natural runner, his brother Pete helped to shape him into a better athlete. At 19, he took part in the 1936 Olympics running a fantastic last lap. Hitler asked to meet him after the race. A great future seemed to await him. Then the War broke out and he became a bombardier of a B24, at a time when more airmen died via accidents than the actual war.

The irony was he wasn't shot down in bombing runs but his plane, the Green Hornet ditched into the sea due to engine failure. Only 3 survived the crash but one died on Day 33. After drifting in the ocean for 47 days, Louis and Phil made landfall, on the Japanese side. They became prisoners of war and were incarcerated in Japan for 2 years.

The story of their survival is a mark of their resilience. Redemption for their lives came after Japan surrendered. The other part of his redemption came after he was able to come to terms with his past as a POW and forgive his tormentors. Life as an American POW in the Land of the Rising Sun was a nightmare. The atrocities and cruelty of the Japanese are well known. My parents and grandparents' generation lived in fear of the Japanese. And my generation was brought up listening to the cruelty of the Japanese. Suffice to say, as a kid, I never did like the Japanese or the Germans.... blame that on the show, Combat.

But life for the Japanese POW was more pleasant. Say as much one may of the loose Western morals but mo POWS died in Japan than even Nazi Europe. Suffice to say too one also reads about the Little Napoleans who stole rations meant for the POWs for personal profit and commanding officers looked the other way while their subordinates tortured inmates; all to shore up support as well as their standing, so that they can move highter up in the ranks.

Not too long ago, in Outlier, I read that the era we're born into plays a pivotal role in our lives too. This book confirms that too. Louis Zamperini could have been the greatest miler of his time. He never did find out. WWW2 made sure of that. His era was an era of tumult and great upheavals... It wasn't possible for his talent to grow and achieve its maximum. WWW2 killed all of that, just as it killed many great athletes of that time.

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