Louis Zamperini, the Torrance Tornado
Louis “Louie” Zamperini (1917-2014) had multiple careers: Olympic athlete, World War II bombadier, author, and Christian evangelist, among others. His bomber plane was a B-24. Pictured on this page is the last B-24 that still flies, which is part of the “Wings of Freedom” tour sponsored by the Collings Foundation. (You can read more at collingsfoundation.org.)
His autobiography, Devil at My Heels, walks readers through these amazing chapters in his life. Originally, it was published in 1956 and was to be made into a movie starring Tony Curtis, but producers found it too challenging to include such an abundant life in one two-hour film and gave up. The book was re-published in 2003.
In 2010, his life became the subject of the best-selling and award-winning book entitled Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. It was followed on-screen by an Oscar-nominated movie of the same title, directed by Angelina Jolie.
While both books are intended for adults, or adults reading alongside youth, the age range for the movie audience stretches wider.
Louie Zamperini was scheduled to be the Grand Marshal of the 2015 Tournament of Roses Parade, but he passed away about five months too soon at the age of 97.
Tribute at University of Southern California
The University of Southern California (USC) in Los Angeles provides a location commemorating its famous track star and World War II survivor through Louie Zamperini Plaza at the entrance to Loker Stadium. The Plaza honors USC’s Olympic and NCAA champions. In addition to the Plaza, Zamperini’s high school stadium at Torrance High School and a city airport in Torrance are named for him as well.