Devil at My Heels: A World War II Hero's Epic Saga of Torment, Survival, and Forgiveness

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HarperCollins, Jan 21, 2003 - Biography & Autobiography - 304 pages
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A juvenile delinquent, a world-class NCAA miler, a 1936 Olympian, a World War II bombardier: Louis Zamperini had a life fuller than most when it changed in an instant. On May 27, 1943, his B-24 crashed into the Pacific Ocean. Louis and two other survivors found a raft amid the flaming wreckage and waited for rescue. Instead, they drifted two thousand miles for forty-seven days. Their only food: two shark livers and three raw albatross. Their only water: sporadic rainfall. Their only companions: hope and faith -- and the ever-present sharks.

On the forty-seventh day, mere skeletons close to death, Zamperini and pilot Russell Phillips finally spotted land -- and were captured by the Japanese. Thus began more than two years of torture and humiliation as prisoners of war.

Zamperini was threatened with beheading, subjected to medical experiments, routinely beaten, hidden in a secret interrogation facility, starved and forced into slave labor, and was the constant victim of a brutal prison guard nicknamed the Bird -- a man so vicious that the other guards feared him and called him a psychopath. Meanwhile, the Army Air Corps declared Zamperini dead and President Roosevelt sent official condolences to his family, who never gave up hope that he was alive.

Somehow Zamperini survived and he returned home a hero. The celebration was short-lived. He plunged into drinking and brawling and the depths of rage and despair. Nightly, the Bird's face leered at him in his dreams. It would take years, but with the love of his wife and the power of faith, he was able to stop the nightmares and the drinking.

A stirring memoir from one of the greatest of the "Greatest Generation," Devil at My Heels is a living document about the brutality of war, the tenacity of the human spirit, and the power of forgiveness.

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Devil at my heels

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Zamperini was an intractable troublemaker of a youth who became a champion runner, competing in the 1936 Olympics and shaking hands with Hitler and Goebbels. When war seemed inevitable, he joined ... Read full review

About the author (2003)

Louis Zamperini is the subject of Lauren Hillenbrand's critically acclaimed biography Unbroken, the research for which was conducted over the course of more than 75 phone calls between Zamperini and the author, resulting in hundreds of hours of interviews. Zamperini is a regular lecturer, appearing before student groups, veterans, troubled youth, sports clubs, senior citizens, and religious organizations. Zamperini, now 93, lives in Hollywood, and only recently gave up skateboarding.

David Rensin has written and cowritten thirteen books, five of them New York Times bestsellers. He lives in Los Angeles.

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