Unbroken – by Laura Hillenbrand (2010)

Unbroken

There have been hundreds of biographies written of World War II heroes, but one you should not pass over  is “Unbroken”, the story of Louis Zamparini. As a child, he had limitless energy and a propensity to get into trouble. By the grace of God and the love of his family, he managed to focus on his strengths, and ended up running in the 5000-meter race at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, Germany.  Hitler was so impressed with his lightning-speed finish that he insisted on meeting Louis and shaking his hand.

Then World War II broke out, and he became an Air Force pilot. Louis was the best of the best in his field. Despite his expertise, things went terribly wrong and he found himself afloat in the ocean, followed by even worse circumstances – washing ashore and becoming a prisoner of war. How much suffering could one man bear? There seemed to be no end in sight. But keep reading to the end – you will see how God wove all the events of Louis’ life together into something amazing.

Parts of this book are difficult to read because of their graphic nature. But until you read a story of someone like Louis, you truly have no idea what our soldiers went through to preserve the freedom of all Americans. This book has been made into a movie, which will open on Christmas Day 2014. But read the book first, and you’ll appreciate the movie more.

Three Came Home – by Agnes Newton Keith (1947)

Three Came Home

There have been so many books written about World War II and prisoners of war, most often from a male point of view. This book shows the POW experience from the point of view of a woman and her child. Agnes was an American, married to a British citizen who was serving as a Director Of Agriculture in north Borneo. They naively believed that they were safe there. By the time it was obvious that they were in danger, it was too late to leave. Agnes, her husband Harry, and their pre-school son George were held in prison camps by the Japanese until they were liberated by the Australians.

Agnes was a talented writer before captivity, and was actually ordered by the Japanese to write a book about how well the prisoners of war were being treated. She reluctantly complied, but secretly kept notes on daily life so that she could later write the real story of life in captivity.

The parts I found most interesting were: how the Japanese treated the children, the way the women depended on each other, the role of the nuns imprisoned with them, the elaborate smuggling system, and the role of Col. Suga.

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