Louis Zamperini

War Hero

Louis Zamperini was born in Olean, New York, United States on January 26th, 1917 and is the War Hero. At the age of 97, Louis Zamperini biography, profession, age, height, weight, eye color, hair color, build, measurements, education, career, dating/affair, family, news updates, and networth are available.

Date of Birth
January 26, 1917
United States
Place of Birth
Olean, New York, United States
Death Date
Jul 3, 2014 (age 97)
Zodiac Sign
$1 Million
Athletics Competitor, Autobiographer, Long-distance Runner, Military Personnel, Motivational Speaker
Louis Zamperini Height, Weight, Eye Color and Hair Color

At 97 years old, Louis Zamperini has this physical status:

Hair Color
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Eye Color
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Louis Zamperini Religion, Education, and Hobbies
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Louis Zamperini Spouse(s), Children, Affair, Parents, and Family
Cynthia Applewhite, ​ ​(m. 1946; died 2001)​
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Dating / Affair
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Louis Zamperini Life

Louis Silvie Zamperini (January 26, 1917 – July 2, 2014) was an American World War II soldier, a Christian evangelist, and an Olympic distance runner.

He began running in high school and qualified for the United States in the 1936 Berlin Olympics.

He was commissioned as a lieutenant in 1941 and was posted in the United States Army Air Forces as a lieutenant.

In the Pacific, he served as a bombardier in B-24 Liberators.

Mechanical failures led Zamperini's plane to crash in the ocean while on a search and rescue mission.

He landed on the Japanese-occupied Marshall Islands and was captured after being drifting on sea for 47 days.

He was taken to a prison camp in Japan, where he was tortured.

He had trouble surviving his ordeal during the war. He later became a Christian Evangelist with a strong belief in forgiveness.

Since 1952, he has dedicated himself to at-risk youth, which continues today.

Three biographical films have been shot at Zamperini: Unbroken (2014), its sequel Unbroken: A Journey to Redemption (2018), and Captured by Grace (2015).

Early life

Louis Zamperini was born in Olean, New York, to Anthony Zamperini and Louise Dossi, both born in northern Italy, and Louis Zamperini was born in January 26, 1917. Pete had an older brother and two younger sisters, Virginia and Sylvia. He was raised in a strict, devout Catholic household. Nonetheless, he started smoking and drinking at a young age. He wrestled with bullies and reportedly died twice, one due to a house fire and the other from falling into an oil rig and almost drowning. Pete's brother, who was also very supportive of him and encouraged him to start his running career in later years.

When Louis Zamperini was two years old, the Zamperini family migrated from Olean, New York, to Long Beach, California. Louis attended Torrance High School in 1919, moving to Torrance, Texas. When he and his family immigrated to California, they spoke no English, making him a target for bullies due to his Italian roots. He was chased and arrested for a robbed beer, and he was brought home to his parents who dealt with him. His father taught him how to box in self-defense. He soon began to be "beating the tar out of every one of them," but I was so good at it that I began relishing the prospect of getting even. I was sort of addicted to it."

Pete's older brother Pete was encouraged by school track team, where Pete was already a celebrity, to discourage him from getting into trouble as a rebel. Zamperini's classmates challenged him to a foot race before then, in the ninth grade. Louis came last and was humiliated. Pete was taken on several training runs. Zamperini began winning races, but he was getting faster. Louis took up distance running after discovering his role model, Glenn Cunningham. In the All City C-division 660 yard (600 m) dash, he came in fifth place at the end of his freshman year.

He was undefeated in 1932, starting with his first cross-country relay and the last three years of high school. He began beating his brother's names. He set an interscholastic record for the mile in 1934, clocking in at 4 minutes, 21.2 seconds at the preliminary meeting to the California state championships in 4 minutes, 21.2 seconds. He won the CIF California State Meet championships in a time of 4 minutes and 27.8 seconds the previous week. He received a scholarship to the University of Southern California as a result of his academic success. He was a member of the Kappa Sigma fraternity in Delta Eta during his undergraduate years in Washington, D.C.

Zamperini, a 1936 student, decided to try out for the Olympics for the first time. In those days, athletes had to pay their way to the Olympic trials, but Louis had a train ticket free of charge because his father worked for the railroad. Once the local hero was born, a group of Torrance merchants raised enough money for him to live. This year, the 1,500 meters spot was fierce, with eventual silver medalist Glenn Cunningham, Archie San Romani, and Gene Venzke all battling to make the team.

Zamperini did not run the 1,500 meters but rather ran the 5,000 meters. During the 1936 North American heat wave in Randalls Island, New York, the race saw co-favorite Norm Bright and several others die during the run. During the week, 40 people died in Manhattan alone due to the heat. Zamperini finished in a dead-heat tie against American record-holder Don Lash, who qualified for the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, Germany, with a sprint finish at the end. He competed for the first American 5,000 meters qualifier at 19 years old, 178 days.

Neither Zamperini nor Lash were expected to win the 1936 Olympics 5,000-meter race against world record holder Lauri Lehtinen. Zamperini later related several anecdotes from his Olympic experience, including gorging himself on the boat ride to Europe: "I was a depression-era kid who had never been to a drugstore for a sandwich in his life," he said. I didn't just have one sweet roll, but about seven in the morning, with bacon and eggs. "My eyes were like saucers." Louis Zamperini, who was on the ship with most athletes, had shed a considerable amount of weight: in Zamperini's case, 12 pounds (5 kg). Although the weight gain was not beneficial to his running, it was nonetheless necessary to his wellbeing, as he had lost 15 pounds (7 kg) while training in New York's summer heat.

In the 5,000-meter distance run at the Olympics, Zamperini came in eighth, behind Finland's Gunnar Höckert's Olympic record of 14 minutes 22.2 seconds (world record holder Lehtinen was second and Zamperini's teammate, Lash, 13th). However, Adolf Hitler's final lap of 56 seconds was quick enough to pique Adolf Hitler's interest, who refused to attend a personal meeting. Hitler shook his hand as Zamperini related the tale, saying, "Ah, you're the one with the fastest finish."

Zamperini enrolled as a student at the University of Southern California following the Olympics. He was a member of Kappa Sigma Fraternity in Washington, C. (Delta-Eta Chapter). Despite severe cuts to his shins from opponents trying to spike him during the run, Zamperini set a national collegiate mile (1609 meters) record of 4 minutes 8.3 seconds in 1938; this record lasted for fifteen years, earning him the nickname "Torrance Tornado."

Post-war life

Zamperini was first reported missing at sea, but then, a year and a day after his disappearance, he was killed in battle. He received a hero's welcome as he returned home.

Zamperini and Cynthia Applewhite were married in 1946, until her death in 2001; they had two children, Cissy and Luke.

Zamperini said in a televised interview on the Christian Broadcasting Network in 2003 that he had nightmares about strangling his captors and started bingeling his food, but he's now recovering from his time as a POW. Cynthia became a born-again Christian after attending one of Billy Graham's evangelistic crusades in Los Angeles. Zamperini reluctantly agreed to attend a crusade in 1949, with the support of his wife and her Christian friends. Graham's preaching reminded him of his prayers during his time on the life raft and prison, and Zamperini committed his life to Christ. He forgave his captors and his nightmares disappeared after this.

Later Graham supported Zamperini in starting a new life as a Christian evangelist. Forgivening was one of his regular themes, and he visited several of the guards from POW days to tell them that he had forgiven them. This included a visit to Sugamo Prison in Tokyo, where many war criminals were detained, as well as expressed condolence to them. Zamperini told CBN that some Christians had responded as a result.

Zamperini ran a leg in the Olympic Torch relay in Nagano, Japan, four days before his 81st birthday in January 1998, not far from the POW camp where he had been held. Mutsuhiro Watanabe, the war's chief and most brutal tormentor, escaped prosecution as a war criminal, but Watanabe refused to see him. However, Zamperini wrote him a letter, stating that though he suffered a great deal of mistreatment from him, he forgave him. Watanabe was unknown if he read the letter; Zamperini never replied; and Watanabe died in 2003. Zamperini returned to Germany in March 2005 to visit the Berlin Olympic Stadium for the first time since he had competed there.

Zamperini continued to watch USC football games in his 90s, and he befriended quarterback Matt Barkley in 2009.

On June 7, 2012, Zamperini appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, discussing his personal life, the 1936 Olympics, and his World War II exploits.

Zamperini's death had mistakenly been announced during his World War II service when the US government classified him as dead in action. In 1944, President Franklin D. Roosevelt sent Zamperini's parents a formal condolence note. Zamperini was discovered alive and freed from his captors only after World War II in late 1945.

Zamperini's true death occurred 70 years ago, when he died of pneumonia at his Los Angeles home on July 2, 2014; he was 97.


Louis Zamperini Awards

Legacy and awards

  • USAAF Decorations