This Week's Story

Louie Zamperini crashes into Indian Ocean and struggles to survive shark attacks and starvation

This Week’s Story relives American history and the Bible through brief inspiring stories presented on mp3 audio recordings and text for reading.

Louie Zamperini, adrift in the Indian Ocean part two

The Green Hornet tumbled from the sky into the Pacific Ocean.  Eleven soldiers were aboard, all expecting to die soon.  Louie Zamperini found himself wrapped in wires and moving into the belly of the ocean.  He passed out. When he regained consciousness, the wires were gone.  How?  He began gulping sea water.  A piece of metal steadied him and he moved through an open window, pulling the cords of his Mae West.  Its chambers filled with carbon dioxide and he burst upwards.

He found two airmen alive.  Phil had blood burbling from head injuries.  Mac looked strangely blank, but showed no sign of injury.  Louie managed to tie two rafts together.  Inside they were only two plus feet by six feet.  Phil was pulled into one and pressure was applied to lessen his bleeding.

Louie was hurting. All his ribs had been broken in the crash.  He began checking for resources. The provisions box was lost, but the rafts were in good shape.  In raft pockets he found bitter chocolate bars, military issue intended to supply calories and not melt. There were

some half-pint tins of water, a mirror, a flare gun, sea dye, fishhooks, fishing line, two air pumps, pliers with a built-in-screwdriver, and two raft patch kits.  That was it!  No knife. No bucket.

Sharks began circling the rafts. Hours passed, but none attacked. The men fell asleep.  When Louie awakened in the morning, he went to get one small chocolate section for each man.  All the bars were gone.  Mac’s guilty face explained where.

Twice search planes flew overhead. Five days passed with no food. Now the water was gone. Their skin was cracking from sun, salt water, and wind. Louie prayed silently for help.  He remembered praying only once before in his life.

On the third day without water, rain came. More days went by. An albatross lighted on Louie’s hood as he lay half asleep. He broke its neck and with pliers tore at the meat.  A revolting stench filled their noses nauseating the men. With the meat as bait they caught a pilot fish and ate it to the bones.

A huge concern was how to protect their minds. They needed to be exercised like muscles.  So Louie and Phil did quiz shows and shared their personal histories.  They fixated on food, talking as though they were chefs on a cooking show.  The talk was healing.

Day 27 a Japanese bomber rained bullets upon them. One raft was destroyed. As Louie crouched in the water, a shark rushed at his head.  As an old man had once advised Louie in Honolulu, he made a ferocious face and smashed the palm of his hand on the tip of the shark’s nose.   A second attack came and a second blow from Louie.  He escaped into the raft.  Air was leaking from it.

Sharks whirled around the raft; one jumped over the wall of the raft and tried to grab a man. The shark was struck with an oar and slid off.  Desperately Louie tried to use the patching kit to repair leaks.

The men calculated that based on how they were moving, the flight pattern and range of the Japanese bomber, they were 850 miles from the Marshall or Gilbert Islands. Day 46 or 47 should bring them to islands.

 One night as the men slept huddled together, Mac died.  More days passed.  Then came an unforgettably beautiful still morning!  “Too beautiful,” Louie thought, “to have come by chance.”  More days!   Day 47 they moved into islands and were captured by Japanese soldiers!

This is Barbara Steiner with a story that cannot stop, even when Louie and Phil go to prison camps.

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