When Louis Zamperini’s WW2 B-24 bomber develops engine failure, and the crew have to bail out, only three of them survive, and for forty seven days they find themselves drifting in a dinghy. As they battle the sea, the weather and enemy attack Louis makes a promise to God, if he survives this he’ll serve heaven for the rest of his days.
They do survive but get taken to a Japanese prisoner of war camp where the men endure terrible hardship under one particular guard, known as ‘The Bird’. Because he is an Olympic athlete Louis is singled out and victimised by this sadistic corporal.
At the end of the film we are told that Louis kept his promise to God and dedicated his life. He discovered that forgiveness rather than revenge was the best way forward. He was terribly traumatised by his experiences in the camp and needed counselling, but afterwards he returned to Japan to meet and forgive his captors. Only ‘The Bird’ refused to see him. This is a remarkable story when you consider the degrading and dehumanizing brutality that these men lived through. Last year’s The Railway Man told a similar story of one man’s journey back to wholeness, and the part that forgiveness played in that. As Jesus died, murdered in the most barbaric fashion, he prayed forgiveness on those who had perpetrated the crime. This at a time when he was experiencing the worst kind of desolation in being separated from his heavenly father. In an age when blame is often seen as the solution, Louis’s story stands out as another incredible example of courage, endurance, forgiveness and faith.