The theme of the 2015 Tournament of Roses Parade is Inspiring Stories and the Grand Marshall is Louis Zamperini, whose story is moving and motivating. Now 97 years old, Louie, born and raised in Torrance, not only ran in the 1936 Olympics, but later went on to become a war hero. His life story is told in a book by Laura Hillenbrand called Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption, which has remained on bestseller lists for four years. The book can be found on the shelves of the Monrovia Public Library, along with Hillenbrand’s other terrific biography, Seabiscuit: An American Legend, about another runner, the race horse Seabiscuit.
The first thing you should know about Louis Zamperini is that he was just an ordinary kid with athletic skills who rose to the occasion several times in his life to distinguish himself as extraordinary. Bullied by other kids because he spoke Italian, Louis learned to box to protect himself and then learned to run. His prowess on the track led him to USC and to participate in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, where Adolph Hitler shook his hand. Louis then joined the Army Air Forces and his plane went down in the Pacific. Floating on a life raft with two others and surviving on birds, fish and rain water, Louie landed on the Marshall Islands where he was captured by the Japanese and placed in a prisoner of war camp. From 1942 to the end of the war in 1945 Louie suffered physical torment and a starvation diet. His family thought he was dead and when he returned to his home town it was as a hero.
And if his story isn't inspiring and amazing enough, a movie based on the biography Unbroken is currently being made with Angelina Jolie as the director and Joel and Ethan Coen as the screenwriters.