The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

Opinion

July 10, 2014

Zamperini was more than a hero

Just two pages into the book “Unbroken,” its protagonist is in the water, hiding beneath the deteriorating life raft in which he has been drifting across the Pacific Ocean for almost a month. Overhead, Japanese bombers are circling back to strafe him a second time. And sharks are approaching from below.

Death is coming for him from two directions, and your impulse is to verify that this is not a novel, not some outlandish fiction from the Indiana Jones School of Narrow Escapes.

But it isn’t.

The story is true, the man in the water, real. His name is Louis Zamperini and he died last week of pneumonia.

No one who has read the book (a movie of the same name is due on Christmas Day) will be surprised to learn that it took that fearsome disease 40 days to claim this 97-year-old man. If Zamperini was nothing else, he was a fighter. Whatever life threw at him, he threw back. Whatever it piled on top of him, he overcame.

Child of poor Italian immigrants in suburban Los Angeles, he overcame a predilection for petty theft, vandalism and brawling to become a celebrated runner, first in high school, then in college and finally in the 1936 Berlin Olympics.

Bombardier for the Army Air Corps, he overcame a plane crash, surviving 47 days on a raft in the trackless vastness of the Pacific Ocean, subsisting on rainwater, fish and seabirds.

Prisoner of the Japanese, he overcame daily beatings and torture from a sadistic guard nicknamed “the Bird,” and lived to return home after the war ended.

A cash-strapped alcoholic and wife beater, tormented by nightmares of what the Bird did to him, he overcame his own degradation when he came forward at a tent revival and accepted Christ at the invitation of a young evangelist named Billy Graham. A World War II veteran who would have been fully justified in anger and bitterness over what the Japanese did to him, he overcame those things to carry the torch in the 1998 Olympics in Nagano and write a letter of forgiveness to the man who had daily tortured him.

Text Only
Opinion
  • Lindley, Tom.jpg Better police needed for college teams enticed to cheat

    The NCAA once cracked down on colleges that went too far luring top prospects, then it targeted teams that lathered players with special treatment. That was until the NCAA's get-tough approach backfired, rendering it ineffective and creating an opportunity for those who want to play dirty.

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Lindley, Tom.jpg Expectations too high for a rehabbing Woods

    Tiger Woods finished near bottom last weekend at Royal Liverpool, drawing out his drought of major tournament wins. Despite the disappointing showing, Woods' return to form remains a matter of when, not if.

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Todd Akin's back again to talk of rape So, Todd Akin is back and he’s talking rape again.You remember what happened last time. The would-be Missouri senator torpedoed his campaign two years ago after suggesting in a TV interview that if a woman is a victim of “legitimate rape,” she is unl

    July 22, 2014

  • Sadness remains as two-year mark passes in cousins' case As most citizens of the Cedar Valley are well aware, July 13 marked two years since the disappearance of cousins Elizabeth Collins and Lyric Cook-Morrissey of Evansdale.The passage of time provides some semblance of healing, but the sadness, particul

    July 22, 2014

  • UI needs to keep its admission standards high There’s been a lot of talk lately — most of it coming from the leadership of the Iowa state Board of Regents — about the University of Iowa not being passionate enough about its recruitment of in-state undergraduates. Regent president Bruce Rastetter

    July 21, 2014

  • Vote fraud myths meet voting rights reality Before she was allowed to register and vote for the first time in Franklin County, North Carolina, Rosanell Eaton had to read the entire preamble to the U.S. Constitution out loud in front of three men in the county courthouse.Eaton is black. The thr

    July 21, 2014 1 Story

  • 7-21-14 David Helscher mug Prepare for possible effects of Fed's decisions It has been more than 5 years since the Federal Reserve has taken unprecedented steps to support the economy through purchases of Treasury and mortgage-backed debt securities. This has generally been called quantitative easing and has not been withou

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • What it was like as a teen

    Ten years ago today, I’d like to think I was checking out educational books to prepare myself for my upcoming journey through college.

    In reality, I was probably playing video games and thinking of ways to have fun, while trying not to get into too much trouble.

    July 20, 2014

  • Randy Meier Spoofing practices resurface Spoofing is the practice deliberately falsifying a telephone number and/or name relayed to the caller ID feature of a phone. This type of call right now is the number one phone scam I receive. Many people report receiving calls appearing on caller ID

    July 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • Impeaching the president Sarah Palin is right about impeaching President Obama.No, not that the president should be impeached. But Palin is correct in arguing that, for those who assert that Obama has grievously abused his executive authority, impeachment is the proper cours

    July 18, 2014

Poll

With the Clinton County Justice Coordinating Commission and the Clinton County Board of Supervisors discussing proposals to construct a new jail, do you think the time has come for Clinton County to construct such a facility?

Yes
No
     View Results
Facebook