Saturday, 5 July 2014


My obituary of Louis Zamperini, the world-class miler who survived his bomber's crash into the Pacific, 47 days adrift in a rubber raft, and two years of torture as a Japanese prisoner of war, went up at the Guardian, appropriately enough, on the Fourth of July. You can link to it here.

There are a few changes from what I wrote. The obit as printed gives the impression Zamperini was a pilot; he was a bombardier. And it's unclear to me when his parents received notice that he was killed in action; 1944 makes more sense than 1943, but it may be that one was a personal note from President Roosevelt.

Also cut was the fact that Zamperini had been named Grand Marshal of the Rose Parade next New Year's Day, and that the organisers announced no replacement would be named. I also wrote briefly about his relationship with Hillenbrand, who called him a 'grandfather figure' when she took ill, and with Jolie.

And the lede graf was reordered somewhat. Of course, I like my version better...

Star runner, war hero, survivor of 47 days at sea in a rubber raft and two years of torture in Japanese prison camps, Louis Zamperini's life was the stuff of Hollywood movies, and 70 years after he was declared killed in action in the Pacific, four years after Laura Hillenbrand's biography of him became a best-seller, Hollywood got the message. Angelina Jolie's film, Unbroken, with Jack O'Connell playing Zamperini and a screenplay by Joel and Ethan Coen, will be released on Christmas Day, but Zamperini, who has died aged 97, will not be there to see it.

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