Lessons We Can Learn From ‘Unbroken’

Lessons We Can Learn From ‘Unbroken’

For those who have not either read the book or seen the movie ‘Unbroken’, I would highly recommend it.  It is truly an amazing and inspiring story of overcoming adversity, determination and forgiveness.  There are some great lessons that can be learned that we can use as we journey through life.


Before we get into those, here is a brief synopsis of the story.

The story centers around a man named Louie Zamperini who grew up in Torrence, CA in the 1920’s and 30’s.  He was a track star in high school and college and would go on to qualify for the 1936 Olympics in the 5000m run.


World War II breaks out and Louie enlists in the Army Air Corps and serves as a bombardier on B-24 bombers in the Pacific.


During a search and rescue mission on May 23, 1943, Louie’s B-24 experiences mechanical problems and crashes in the Pacific.  Eight of the crew members are killed leaving Louie and two other crew members adrift in life rafts.

With little provisions, they survive by catching rain water and occasionally capture an albatross or fish to eat.  They experience storms, are strafed by Japanese bombers, and fend off sharks constantly.  One of the men dies after 33 days.  Louie and pilot Phil Phillips remain adrift for another 14 days and finally reach land in the Marshall Islands where they are immediately captured by the Japanese navy.

This would begin a tortuous journey through numerous prison camps where he is severely beaten and mistreated until the end of the war in 1945.  During this time he encounters a prison guard that is known as the “Bird” who seems to make it his personal mission to break Louie and will stop at nothing to make that happen.

Louie survives and returns home to reunite with his family.


This is a very brief overview of the story, but it should give you an idea of the journey that Louie endures.

There are a couple of themes that come out of this story for me.

“If I can take it, I can make it”

This is a theme that runs throughout the story.

It begins when he is a young man and training as an up and coming track star.  His brother would often tell him “A lifetime of glory is worth a moment of pain”.

He would carry this with him as he endured his time on the life raft and the years in prison camps.  The determination that Louie demonstrates is truly remarkable and inspiring.

In life, there are certainly times that may not be all that pleasant, but many times we can come out the other side a better and stronger person for the experience.


After the war, Louie struggled with the memories of his ordeal and turned to drinking as a remedy.  In 1949 at the urging of his wife, he attends a Billy Graham crusade.  This would ultimately lead to Louie recommitting himself to Christianity and he forgave his captors. He actually returned to Japan in 1950 and met some of his captors and personally forgave them.  He was not able to locate the “Bird” however.

An excerpt from the book puts it this way:

“The paradox of vengefulness is that it makes men dependent upon those who have harmed them, believing that their release from pain will come only when they make their tormentors suffer. In seeking the Bird’s death to free himself, Louie had chained himself, once again, to his tyrant. During the war, the Bird had been unwilling to let go of Louie; after the war, Louie was unable to let go of the Bird.”

Forgiveness is not always an easy thing to do and for many people is a struggle.  I am amazed after the treatment that Louie received at the hands of his captors that he was able to find a way to forgive.

I hope you have a chance to read this book and/or see the movie for yourself and I look forward to hearing what you take away from this story.

Bill Hoover – Design Professional

Gould Design, Inc.