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The Sun-Times - Heber Springs, AR
  • War hero and 'Unbroken' subject, Louis Zamperini dead at 97

  • Former Olympian and World War II prisoner of war, Louis Zamperini, has died at the age of 97.

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  • SALT LAKE CITY — Former Olympian and World War II prisoner of war, Louis Zamperini, has died.
    The beloved war veteran, who’s life story was re-told in the book “Unbroken” by Laura Hilenbrand, died of complications of pneumonia at the age of 97.
    In a statement, Zamperini’s family said he had “recently faced the greatest challenge of his life with a life-threatening case of pneumonia.
    “After a 40-day long battle for his life, he peacefully passed away in the presence of his entire family, leaving behind a legacy that has touched so many lives. His indomitable courage and fighting spirit were never more apparent than in these last days.”
    Zamperini’s story is currently being made into a film from Universal Pictures, directed by Angelina Jolie, who says she and Zamperini became close friends before and during production.
    “We are so grateful for how enriched our lives are for having known him,” a statement released by Jolie read. “We will miss him terribly.”
    At age 19 Zamperini became the youngest American qualifier for the 1936 Olympic games in Berlin, running the 5,000 meters. Shortly thereafter, when World War II broke out, Zamperini enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Forces and his plane was shot down in the South Pacific in 1943.
    Following the crash, Zamperini survived in an open raft on the ocean for 47 days before washing up on a Japanese-occupied island. Zamperini then spent two years as a prisoner of war.
    The film based on Zamperini’s life, “Unbroken,” is due in theaters on Christmas Day, 2014.
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