Study Guide

Unbroken Introduction

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Unbroken Introduction

We're pretty much done with World War II. There are so many books and movies about it—we kinda feel like we've seen it all. Joseph Heller finds himself in a Catch-22, Stephen Ambrose describes the impenetrable bond between men in Band of Brothers—and freaking Death himself narrates a story of the Holocaust in The Book Thief. There can't be any more stories to tell about this war, right?

Wrong. Oh so very wrong. You've never seen anything like Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption. Unbroken is the story of Bruce Willis, who finds out he's a modern-day superhero, and has to battle Samuel L. Jackson… oh wait, that's Unbreakable. Unbroken isn't that different, though. It's about Louis "Louie" Zamperini, a World War II-era bomber who pretty much is a real-life indestructible superhero managing to survive bullets, bombs, sharks, and prison camps to make it home alive.

Laura Hillenbrand published Unbroken in 2010. She also wrote Seabiscuit: An American Legend, the true story of a Depression-era champion racehorse, so she's an expert at finding unusual, inspiring stories in the strangest of places.

Unbroken was Time magazine's number one nonfiction book in 2010 and has spent more weeks on the New York Times bestseller list than Louie Zamperini spent in a Japanese POW camp (to be clear, that's a lot of weeks), a somewhat frivolous achievement in comparison, but an achievement nonetheless. In addition to the endless success and praise, the book is also a feature film directed by none other than Angelina Jolie. In other words, the book's super legit.

So if you think you've seen it all, we have two pieces of advice for you: (1) Get over yourself; and (2) pick up Unbroken for an almost unbelievable true story of strength, courage, and perseverance. We guarantee this is one World War II story unlike any other.

What is Unbroken About and Why Should I Care?

Think of a time when the United States wasn't at war somewhere. Go ahead. We'll wait.

Even if you are able to think of a time when the U.S. of A wasn't embroiled in some sort of global conflict (from Afghanistan to Korea to Vietnam and everywhere in between), it probably wasn't in your lifetime. It seems like every day you hear stories of war, from the tragedy of lost lives to the miraculous return of soldiers who have been away from home for years.

Unfortunately, war has lasting consequences. Some of them physical. Many of them mental. PTSD affects millions of Americans, many of them war veterans. Back in Louie Zamperini's day, his traumatic breakdowns were known as flashbacks, but the pain and hardship are the same, no matter what the medical field is calling it these days.

In times of hardship, whether your own or that of a loved one, everyone can use an uplifting story. Unbroken is an inspirational, true story, which can inspire anyone who is still dealing with trauma from difficult times. (No, the premature cancellation of your favorite television show doesn't count.)

Unbroken Resources


A Map of the World
Laura Hillenbrand's website has a spiffy interactive map that you can use to track Louie's miraculous journey across half the world. 

Lucky Louie
Louie may be from your great grandfather's generation, but that doesn't mean he hasn't kept up with the times.<em> </em>Yup—he has a website too. 

Movie or TV Productions

Unbroken—the Movie
A story this incredible is perfect for the big screen.

Articles and Interviews

Unbroken Illustrated
<em>Unbroken </em>has such broad appeal, we're able to link to <em>Sports Illustrated, </em>something we're not usually able to do when discussing popular literature.

"Superlative Pack Rat"
<em>Superlative Pack Rats </em>isn't as catchy a title as <em>Hoarders, </em>but in this case, Louie's tendency to save <em>everything </em>is what allowed Laura Hillenbrand to write such a well-researched book.

Long-Distance Relationship
Hillenbrand never even met Louie face-to-face while researching her book. Homebound herself by chronic illness, she was able to relate to Louie's years of confinement. 


A Perfectly Nice Guy
We're talking about the Bird here, believe it or not. Bob Simon was shocked to discover that Watanabe seemed like "a perfectly nice guy" during his interview with the war criminal. 

Some Assembly Required
JOUR380 was the best college class of 2011 when Louie Zamperini came to visit.


Sharks, Starvation, and Strafing
We wish we'd come up with <em>that </em>headline, which Scott Simon uses on <em>Weekend Edition</em> when introduction Laura Hillenbrand.

Ten Minutes of War
Get an earful of the <em>Unbroken </em>audiobook sample here.


Running Buddy
One of the few men <em>not </em>pictured in the book is Glenn Cunningham. Here he is for your viewing pleasure. 

Pilot fish to Bombardier… Pilot Fish to Bombardier
Louie catches a pilot fish to bait a shark, which is the animal kingdom equivalent of someone kidnapping Phil to bait Louie. 

Lead Zeppelin
Here's the blimp seen 'round the world: the Graf Zeppelin 

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