Posted by: SJS | February 25, 2011

Highly recommended

Reading Laura Hillenbrand’s new book, Unbroken, is an especially powerful experience for anyone who had relatives who fought in the Pacific during WWII.  The book tells the story of Army Air Force Lieutenant, Louis Zamperini, who grew up in California, became a track star in high school,  and left college to enter the service.  After his bomber crashed into the ocean, he drifted in a raft for over a month in the open sea with two crewmates, one of whom dies at sea.  After Zamperini and his surviving crewmate are captured by the Japanese, things go from horrendous to hellish in short order. Book Title:  Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

The horrors of captivity by the Japanese, especially after the tide of the war had turned against them, are almost impossible to comprehend.  With the same narrative skills she displayed in her previous bestseller, Seabiscuit: An American Legend, Ms. Hillenbrand tells the story of Zamperini (who is still alive).  I’m sure that a movie will be forthcoming but my advice is to get the book and allow your imagination to provide the visuals.  

In addition to being an excellent read, the book also provided me with a sobering meditation on the daily risks faced by my father and his fellow PT boaters.  Every patrol in 1945 carried with it the possibility of death, injury,  or captivity at the hands of the Japanese, who referred to the PTs as “Devil boats.”   While most of the sailors were very young and daring, the level of stress and tension they lived under was enormous.  Witnessing the death and injury of crewmates surely left emotional scars that lasted a lifetime.  Having an awareness of the cruel propensities of their adversary only served to raise the stakes each time a PT boat ventured into those dark waters.

My thanks to Laura Hillenbrand for enlarging my understanding of the world in which my father went from youth to adulthood on a very fast track.  With that understanding comes a deepened respect, a renewed admiration, and a richly textured love for a man who served his country with courage, nerve, and great skill.


  1. It certainly does build understanding to think of our parents in a wider context of their time.

  2. Nancy,

    That has been my experience exactly. I thought I knew everything there was to know about my father’s Navy experience but that was clearly not the case. With the wider learning comes a deepened appreciation.

    Thanks for subscribing to my blog. My best to Jay.


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