Louis Zamperini, who was a World War II prisoner of war survivor, as well as a former Olympic distance runner, has died. He was the subject of Lauren Hillenbrand’s book, “Unbroken,” which was adapted into a film by the Coen brothers, and directed by Angelina Jolie. He was 97.
“Having overcome insurmountable odds at every turn in his life, Olympic runner and World War II hero Louis Zamperini has never broken down from a challenge,” Zamperini’s family said in a statement. “He recently faced the greatest challenge of his life with a life-threatening case of pneumonia. After a 40-day long battle for his life, he peacefully passed away in the presence of his entire family, leaving behind a legacy that has touched so many lives. His indomitable courage and fighting spirit were never more apparent than in these last days.”
In 1998, Zamperini ran a leg in the Olympic Torch relay for the Winter Olympics in Japan, where he had been a prisoner of war during World War II. In 2011, he received honorary degrees for Doctor of Humane Letters from both Azusa Pacific University and Bryant University. That same year, he received the Kappa Sigma Golden Heart Award. Zamperini was scheduled to be the grand marshal of the 2015 Rose Parade in Pasadena, California.
Hillenbrand’s book, “Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption,” was a 2010 biography of Zamperini’s extraordinary life. It was a #1 New York Times bestseller, as well as being named Time Magazine’s best nonfiction book of the year.