This Week's Story

Louie Zamperini is captured by enemy soldiers after 47 days lost in the Pacific Ocean.

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 Lives, part three

“I know Louie is alive!  Don’t call this paper his death notice.  It means the United States War Department does not know where Louie is.  Yes, his B-24 crashed thirteen months ago into the South Pacific Ocean. But, he lives!”

Louie’s mom looked at her hands.  They were covered with a painful rash oozing moisture that first appeared when she heard that Louie’s plane had gone down May 27, 1943.  None of his family believed him to be dead.  Not possible!  From the time Louie walked he couldn’t be stopped. He was an ingenious rebel and survivor.

As Louie’s family waited for him, Louie and two other soldiers struggled to stay alive in the world’s biggest ocean. One died. In a small raft Louie and Phil faced hunger, thirst, shark attacks, strafing by a Japanese bomber, and storms.  They   glimpsed that a divine power was protecting them.

Louie and Phil’s raft drifted for two thousand miles.  Day 47 they came to islands and enemy territory.   Capture was swift.  Their Japanese captors began to strike them, but they were stopped by a

captain.  For two days they were given excellent medical attention and food.  When they had arrived, each was too weak to walk and had lost half of his body weight.

Then the third day they were ordered to Execution Island. Louie was dumped into a wooden cell crawling with maggots, flies, and mosquitoes.  On the wall were names of nine marines.  He learned that they had been executed, because no prisoners of war left Execution Island alive.

Interrogations and beatings followed. He and Phil were used for medical experimentation.  Guards tried to strip the men of their dignity.  It might be forcing them to crawl and pick up tiny pieces of rice, while they were stabbed with sticks. One day as Louie lay in his wooden cell, he heard voices singing. The melody slipped away, but it remained in his mind, giving him hope.  Another day a new guard came to Louie’s door and asked him,

“You Christian?”

A little religion had stuck with Louie from his childhood and he answered, “Yes.”

The guard smiled.  “Me Christian.”

Kawamura, the new guard, became a friend and source of hope.

Forty-two days passed. Louie and Phil were put on a ship for Japan.  They were taken to Ofuna.  This was a secret prison with no limits to what could be done to prisoners.  Guards who showed mercy were repaid with beatings from other guards.

In yet another POW camp Louie became the number one object of Corporal Watanabe’s cruelty. The Bird, as he was called, was low in rank, but his brutality gave him power.  Daily he found excuses to try to beat Louie into submission.

As months passed the Allies’ bombing of Japan increased. Louie was moved to another prison and there again was The Bird and more torture.  Finally an end to the war came after two atom bombs were dropped upon two Japanese cities.

The war was over, but not for all the POW’s who returned home. Many battled their war experiences. Louie drank heavily, found love and marriage, but little peace.  Not until four years after his release did he walk the aisle of a Billy Graham evangelistic crusade and keep the promise he had made to God upon the Pacific Ocean in a raft.  “If you will save me, I will serve you forever.”  Peace and forgiveness came to Louie.

This is Barbara Steiner.  Louie passed away July 2, 2014 at age 97.

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