Louis Zamperini will be grand marshal of the 2015 Rose Parade

05/09/2014 2:47 pm0 commentsViews: 17
 Louis Zamperini take his turn at Tournament of Roses Photo by Brad Graverson

Louis
Zamperini take his turn at Tournament of Roses
Photo by Brad Graverson

PASADENA (CNS) – Former Olympic track star and World War II hero Louis
Zamperini will be grand marshal of the 2015 Rose Parade, Tournament of Roses
officials announced today.
The 97-year-old’s life story inspired the best-selling book and upcoming
movie “Unbroken.” His military record includes surviving 47 days on a raft
after the bomber he was on crashed in the Pacific, then enduring repeated
torture for two years as a POW.
“Louis Zamperini’s life story illustrates the strength of human spirit
in many ways,” Tournament of Roses President Richard L. Chinen told the crowd
at the Tournament House in Pasadena.
“From becoming a young sports hero in Southern California to surviving
47 days on an inflatable raft in the Pacific Ocean and then persevering for
more than two years held in captivity in Japan, Louis now lives as an enduring
symbol of perseverance, heroism and forgiveness,” Chinen said.
Zamperini — who will lead the 126th Rose Parade, themed “Inspiring
Stories” — noted during his speech today that all of his fellow prisoners of
war and college friends interviewed for the “Unbroken” book have died.
“It’s sad to realize that you’ve lost all your friends, but I figure I
made up for it. I made a new friend — Angelina Jolie,” he said to a cheering
crowd.
In December, the film version of “Unbroken” — directed by Jolie –
will be released by Universal Pictures.
Born in 1917 to Italian immigrants, Zamperini moved to Torrance in 1919
and became a world-class distance runner by the time he graduated from Torrance
High School, setting a world interscholastic record in the mile.
His track skills won him a scholarship to USC, where he was a member of
the Kappa Sigma fraternity.
At age 19, Zamperini qualified to compete in the 1936 Berlin Olympics,
where he was America’s top finisher in the 5,000-meter run, finishing the final
lap in 56 seconds and causing Adolf Hitler to request a personal meeting with
him.
During World War II, Zamperini became a bombardier and served in the
South Pacific.
While on a reconnaissance mission, Zamperini’s aircraft crashed into the
Pacific Ocean. He and a surviving crewmate spent 47 days adrift on an
inflatable raft before being captured by Japanese soldiers when they reached
the Marshall Islands.
He was a POW for more than two years, during which time he was
frequently beaten and tortured by his captors.
Zamperini returned to Southern California to a hero’s welcome.
Suffering from post traumatic disorder, Zamperini found solace in 1949
when he became a born-again Christian after attending a Los Angeles crusade led
by evangelist Billy Graham. He eventually became an inspirational speaker
preaching the power of forgiveness.
He practiced what he preached in 1950, when he went to Sugamo Prison in
Tokyo — where Japanese war criminals were being held — and met with some of
his torturers to offer them forgiveness, hugging them in the process.
At age 81, Zamperini – a five-time Olympic torch-bearer – ran a leg in
the torch relay for the Winter Olympics in Nagano. During his visit, he
attempted to meet with his most brutal tormentor during the war, Mutsuhiro
Watanabe, but Watanabe –who escaped prosecution as a war criminal — refused
to see him.
In 2005, Zamperini returned to Germany to visit the Berlin Olympic
Stadium for the first time since he competed there in 1936.
Zamperini has been inducted into the Italian-American Sports Hall of
Fame. Torrance High School’s home football, soccer and track facility is named
after him.
“It’s such an honor to be the Grand Marshal of the 126th Rose Bowl,”
said Zamperini “Growing up in Torrance, the parade route on Colorado Boulevard
is one I have been familiar with my whole life. I look forward to sharing he
experience with my family and all the fans of the Rose Parade who will be
watching.”

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