After ‘Unbroken’: The remarkable story of Louis Zamperini’s faith

By Franklin Graham

Actor and director Angelina Jolie has done an incredible job in following the remarkable story of Olympian and World War II POW Louis Zamperini, as told in the book “Unbroken” by Laura Hillenbrand.

Unfortunately, Jolie’s movie, by the same title, stops before Louie’s real battle begins.  He was broken by his own memories of anger, fear, alcoholism and the abandoned promise he had made to God while adrift at sea in 1943. 

I met this incredible man in Long Beach, California in 1998 where I was hosting an Operation Christmas Child (OCC) airlift of shoe box gifts for children in developing countries.  I was impressed, as anyone would be, with this gentle but powerful individual.   

Returning to life in California after World War II revealed what the Japanese couldn’t do to Louie Zamperini; they couldn’t break this hero. But Louie’s real battle was still ahead.

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For a time he enjoyed the celebrity of heroism and hob-knobbing with Hollywood.  He met and married a beautiful woman named Cynthia Applewhite and life was good.  But when all the glitz and glamour faded and reality set in, reoccurring nightmares of war and memories of Louie’s torture by his enemies tormented him. To escape these horrors, Louie turned to alcohol.  Pent-up anger overcame him. 

His wife who genuinely loved him felt she had no choice but to divorce him.  The man who had endured horrific physical and mental abuse, and emerged unbroken from the ravages of war, had succumbed to an enemy that would not let go — himself.

Meanwhile on the corner of Washington Boulevard and Hill Street in Los Angeles, my father Billy Graham and his team had erected a 480-foot tent in a vacant parking lot to embark on a three-week evangelistic campaign in September of 1949; it was extended to eight weeks because of the massive response. 

It was under that tent that Stuart Hamblen, a cowboy and West Coast radio personality and Jim Vaus, an electronics wizard and mob-connected wire tapper, discovered God and turned their lives around.  And so did the Zamperinis…


After ‘Unbroken’: The remarkable story of Louis Zamperini’s faith | Fox News