“Unbroken” Louis Zamperini should be the hero of every Christian as he was for Angelina Jolie
Louis Silvie Zamperini was known as “Torrance Tornado” for his track and field record. He was set for the 1940 Olympics when World War II broke out. As an army bombardier, his plane crashed in the Pacific Ocean because of mechanical failure.
Of the eleven men on board, only three survived but as POW, his ordeal just began. Yet he was unbroken in the hands of General Watanabe.
Unbroken: Adrift for 47 days
Adrift at sea on a raft for 47 days, they were exposed to harsh weather, strafings of Japanese bombers, and circling hungry sharks. They drank whatever rainwater they could collect and killed birds that perched on the raft for food.
By the time they have swept ashore, one had died. They found themselves in the Marshall Islands, a Japanese-occupied territory.
Unbroken: Hell on Earth as POW
A horrific ordeal followed their harrowing experience at sea as a POW in the hands of the Japanese. They were subjected to physical and mental torture. Starved and brutally manhandled, it was hell on earth.
Lou was singled out by a Japanese sergeant called “the Bird” to receive the end of his psychotic fits. He was constantly and mercilessly beaten to a pulp.
“The Bird” (Mutsuhiro Watanabe) would have other POWs line up and throw jabs at Lou like a punching bag. Fellow prisoners naturally didn’t want to hurt their own kind. But Lou himself would insist and challenge them.
Otherwise, an already bloodied comrade-at-arms would get the blows whenever one of the men refused to follow the Bird’s orders. Lou would rather endure the pain than see someone else suffer.
Unbroken: Punch Him in the Face!
General Bird’s concept of honor and respect is twisted. Lou refused to submit to authority, and Bird taught him “respect.” The General instructed prisoners to punch Lou in his face, humiliating him and setting the stage for fear.
Naturally, fellow prisoners refused, but they had no choice. To save another battered prisoner from Bird’s rod, Lou received the punches from a long line of fellow prisoners.
Unbroken: Don’t Look at Me!
He was made to carry a heavy piece of lumber on his shoulders under the heat of the sun while other prisoners quietly looked on.
The Bird watched him intently, waiting for Lou to buckle under the weight. Dropping the wood meant more trouble for Lou. It wasn’t just a show of strength but of real courage.
Lou Zamperini’s test of will power
Just when Lou was close to breaking point, he mustered all the strength he had left, raised the lumber higher over his head, and looked the Bird in the eye.
It was the impudent, sadistic sergeant who backed down first and, out of frustration, bludgeoned Lou with a vengeance. Sticks and stones may break Lou’s bones, but not his dogged spirit.
Trauma left Zamperini scarred
Lou returned to the United States after his release when the war ended in 1945. However, the trauma as a POW left Lou scarred. Nightmares hounded him, and he became an alcoholic who nearly ended in divorce.
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The Bird: Forgiving the unforgivable
Lou was suffering from anhedonia when he heard Billy Graham in LA in 1949. After committing his life to Jesus, healing began to take place. Soon after, he went to the ministry by establishing the Victory Boys Camp for troubled youths.
His greatest liberation came when he was able to forgive some of his tormentors personally. This happened in 1950 when he visited a Tokyo prison where they were serving sentences for war crimes.
In 1998, he returned to Japan to carry the torch at the Nagano Winter Games. There he made efforts to reach out to “the Bird,” Mutsuhiro Watanabe.
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What happened to General Bird?
Mutsuhiro Watanabe was one of General MacArthur’s 40 most wanted war criminals in Japan. After the war, he went into hiding and was never prosecuted. Eventually, all charges were dropped, and he even became a wealthy insurance salesman.
Watanabe acknowledged beating prisoners but was unrepentant, saying, “I treated the prisoners strictly as enemies of Japan.“
Zamperini forgave him and even arranged to meet him, but Watanabe refused. Watanabe died in April 2003, while Zamperini died on July 2, 2014.
Are you going through a fiery ordeal?
2 Corinthians 4:8-10
“We are hard-pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.”