World War II hero and former Olympian Louis Zamperini recently visited the Billy Graham Library where he was met by hundreds of people touched by his life as chronicled in Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption.
The location for the book signing on Friday was fitting as the 94-year-old is known to have accepted Christ at the 1949 Los Angeles Billy Graham Crusade. While his life was changed by the Gospel Graham preached, his own story as a POW and then a missionary left deep impressions among readers.
“I heard about the book for the first time on NPR, and I didn’t even know the salvation story was in there. They never mentioned it. We got it because we love history,” said Elizabeth Tracy, according to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
“Zamperini’s testimony was a hidden gift. When I read that, I thought, ‘Who can I introduce this book to who might not be saved but who likes history?’”
Unbroken, written by “Seabiscuit” author Laura Hillenbrand, was on the New York Times Best Sellers list for months.
Among some of the highlights is a recounting of how he was taken by the Japanese as a POW during WWII after crashing in the Pacific Ocean. He was freed two years later.
“There’s a part in there where this Japanese corporal is beating the daylight out of Zamperini and I got so angry. I visualized myself in his place,” Skip Broome, who visited Zamperini at the library, said, according to BGEA. “I had to ask for forgiveness from God for my anger, just like Zamperini did.”
Another highlight is his life-changing decision to accept Christ. After returning from war, Zamperini struggled with alcoholism and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. His wife, Cynthia, was ready to divorce him. But she ended up accepting Christ while listening to Billy Graham in Los Angeles after being convinced by neighbors to attend the big tent event. She then persuaded Zamperini to go.
He received Christ and his nightmares stopped. “When you accept Christ, you become a new creation. Old things are gone,” he said, according to BGEA.
After giving his life to Christ, Zamperini was found back in Japan preaching forgiveness to the guards who tormented him during the war. Some of the guards became Christians.
Since the release of the biography, Zamperini has received letters from Christians inspired and impacted by his story.
“’Unbroken’ has had a tremendous influence, and it has turned into a God-given opportunity to share the Gospel,” he said, according to BGEA. “The book has yielded an unbelievable ministry.”