11 Louie and Cynthia meet neighbor: Louis Zamperini, telephone interview.

12 Cynthia goes to Graham: Ibid.; Cliff Barrows, Graham musical director, telephone interview, February 22, 2007.

13 Dinner at Sylvia’s: Sylvia Flammer, telephone interviews, October 25, 27, 2004.

14 Cynthia talks Louie into seeing Graham: Louis Zamperini, telephone interview.

15 Graham exhausted, doesn’t recognize daughter: Graham, pp. 156–57.

16 Train whistle: Billy Graham, “The Only Sermon Jesus Ever Wrote,” Los Angeles, October 22, 1949, audio recording, BGEA.

17 Louie’s impression of Graham: Louis Zamperini, telephone interview.

18 Graham’s sermon, Louie’s reaction: Billy Graham, “The Only Sermon Jesus Ever Wrote,” Los Angeles, October 22, 1949, BGEA; Louis Zamperini, telephone interviews.

19 Cynthia gets Louie to return to Graham: Louis Zamperini, telephone interview.

20 Graham’s second sermon, Louie’s reaction: Ibid.; Billy Graham, “Why God Allows Communism to Flourish and Why God Allows Christians to Suffer,” Los Angeles, October 23, 1949, BGEA.

21 Louie’s last flashback: Louis Zamperini, telephone interviews.

22 Louie and Cynthia return home: Ibid.

23 Louie at park, new view of his life: Ibid.

Chapter 39: Daybreak

1 Louie goes to Sugamo: Louis Zamperini, telephone interview; Louis Zamperini, interview by George Hodak, Hollywood, Calif., June 1988, AAFLA.

2 Shizuka goes to see son: “From Chief of Hyogo Prefectural Police Force,” November 21, 1950, police report.

3 “Mutsuhiro,” Shizuka had said: Ibid.

4 Shizuka’s shrine: Frank Tinker, telephone interview, February 20, 2005.

5 Louie at Sugamo: Louis Zamperini, telephone interview.


1 Victory Boys Camp: Louis Zamperini, telephone interview; Louis Zamperini, interview by George Hodak, Hollywood, Calif., June 1988, AAFLA.

2 Louie’s postwar life: John Hall, “Lou and Pete,” Los Angeles Times, June 2, 1977; Louis Zamperini, interview by George Hodak, Hollywood, Calif., June 1988, AAFLA; Morris Schulatsky, “Olympic Miler at 19, Skateboards at 70,” undated article from papers of Peter Zamperini, NPN; Louis Zamperini, telephone interview; Cynthia Zamperini Garris, telephone interview, December 13, 2008.

3 “When I get old”: National Geographic Channel, “Riddles of the Dead: Execution Island,” October 13, 2002.

4 “When God wants”: Peter Zamperini, telephone interview, December 12, 2006.

5 Not angry for forty years: Louis Zamperini, telephone interview.

6 Falls down stairs, stays in hospital: Ibid.; Cynthia Zamperini Garris, telephone interview, December 13, 2008.

7 “I never knew anyone”: Peter Zamperini, telephone interview, October 17, 2004.

8 Phil’s postwar years: Karen Loomis, telephone interview, November 17, 2004; Monroe and Phoebe Bormann, telephone interview, June 7, 2005.

9 Phil’s irritation: Karen Loomis, telephone interview, November 17, 2004.

10 This Is Your Life: Louis Zamperini, interview by George Hodak, Hollywood, Calif., June 1988, AAFLA.

11 “Dad must have”: Karen Loomis, telephone interview, November 17, 2004.

12 “a little grin underneath”: Ibid.

13 Life, death of Harris: Katey Meares, email interviews, March 14, 17, 18, 27, 2008; Whitcomb, pp. 286–87; Edwin H. Simmons, Frozen Chosin: U.S. Marines at the Changjin Reservoir (Darby, Pa.: Diane Publishing), p. 94; “Jamestown Man Gets Navy Cross,” Newport Daily News, December 6, 1951; “Marine Officer Missing in Korea,” Newport Mercury and Weekly News, December 29, 1950.

14 Pete’s life, death, Cynthia’s death: Peter Zamperini, telephone interviews, October 15, 17, 19, 22, 2004; Louis Zamperini, telephone interview.

15 Louie learns the Bird is alive: Louis Zamperini, telephone interview.

16 Watanabe’s return: Mutsuhiro Watanabe, “I Do Not Want to Be Punished by America,” Bingei Shunjyu, April 1956, translated from Japanese.

17 Pressure to resolve war-crimes issue: Piccigallo, p. 47; Daws, p. 373; Awaya Kentaro, “The Tokyo Tribunal, War Responsibility and the Japanese People,” Shukan Kinboyi, December 23, 2005, translated by Timothy Amos; Ernie Hill, “Japan’s Revival,” Oakland Tribune, March 17, 1953.

18 “Christmas amnesty”: “Amnesty for 17 Top Jap War Suspects,” Lowell (Mass.) Sun, December 24, 1948; Dower, p. 454.

19 Kishi: Michael Schaller, “America’s Favorite War Criminal: Kishi Nobusuke and the Transformation of U.S.-Japan Relations,” This Is Yomiuri, August 1995.

20 Many defendants believed to be guilty: “Amnesty for 17 Top Jap War Suspects,” Lowell (Mass.) Sun, December 24, 1948.

21 Last man tried: Tom Lambert, “Last Trial Held on War Crimes by U.S. Tribunal,” Stars and Stripes, October 20, 1949; “All Known Japanese War Criminals Brought to Trial,” Independent (Long Beach, Calif.), October 20, 1949.

22 Sentences reduced: “War Criminal Is Due Parole,” Lubbock Evening Journal, March 7, 1950.

23 Treaty of Peace and reparations: Gary Reynolds, U.S. Prisoners of War and Civilian American Citizens Captured and Interned by Japan in World War II: The Issue of Compensation by Japan, Congressional Research Service, December 17, 2002, pp. 3–9, 9–10.

24 Order for apprehension revoked: Mutsuhiro Watanabe, “I Do Not Want to Be Punished by America,” Bingei Shunjyu, April 1956, translated from Japanese.

25 War criminals paroled, amnesty declared: Daws, p. 373; “U.S. Pardons Last 83 Japan War Criminals,” Stars and Stripes, December 31, 1958.

26 Watanabe blames war, not self: Mutsuhiro Watanabe, “I Do Not Want to Be Punished by America,” Bingei Shunjyu, April 1956, translated from Japanese.

27 “I was just in a great joy”: Ibid.

28 Watanabe’s postexile life: Lyon, p. 63; Martindale, p. 250.

29 Visited America, rumors that the Bird is alive: Draggan Mihailovich, email interview, August 3, 2007; Martindale, p. 249.

30 Daily Mail interviews with the Bird, Wade: Peter Hadfield and Clare Henderson, “Deathcamp Monster Finally Says I’m Sorry,” Daily Mail (London), August 20, 1995.

31 Naoetsu park movement: Yoshi Kondo, email interview, February 14, 2009; Shoichi Ishizuka, “About Naoetsu POW Camp,” Gaiko Forum, June 2006.

32 Mihailovich seeks the Bird, interview: Draggan Mihailovich, email interview, August 3, 2007; CBS Television, “48 Hours: Race to Freedom,” 1998.

33 Louie writes to the Bird: Louis Zamperini, letter to Mutsuhiro Watanabe, May 19, 1997; Louis Zamperini, telephone interview.

34 The Bird refuses to see Louie: Draggan Mihailovich, email interview, August 3, 2007.

35 Watanabe dies: Yuichi Hatto, written interview, July 16, 2004.

36 Louie runs with torch: Louis Zamperini, telephone interview; Chris Boyd, “Legendary Zamperini Carries the ‘Eternal Flame,’ ” Palos Verdes Peninsula News, March 5, 1998; R. J. Kelly, “Olympic Torch Relay Rekindles Ex-POWs Flame of Forgiveness,” Stars and Stripes, January 30, 1998; “Zamperini: War Survival Was a Matter of Miracles,” Stars and Stripes, January 26, 1998.


LAURA HILLENBRAND is the author of the #1 New York Times bestseller Seabiscuit: An American Legend, which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, won the Book Sense Book of the Year Award and the William Hill Sports Book of the Year award, landed on more than fifteen best-of-the-year lists, and inspired the film Seabiscuit, which was nominated for seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture. Hillenbrand’s New Yorker article, “A Sudden Illness,” won the 2004 National Magazine Award, and she is a two-time winner of the Eclipse Award, the highest journalistic honor in thoroughbred racing. She and actor Gary Sinise are the co-founders of Operation International Children, a charity that provides school supplies to children through American troops. She lives in Washington, D.C.


to watch a video featuring Laura Hillenbrand and

Louis Zamperini, read a personal note from Laura,

view photos, and much more.

Also by Laura Hillenbrand:

Seabiscuit: An American Legend

Read on for an excerpt from Laura Hillenbrand’s



In 1938, near the end of a decade of monumental turmoil, the year’s number-one newsmaker was not Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Hitler, or Mussolini. It wasn’t Pope Pius XI, nor was it Lou Gehrig, Howard Hughes, or Clark Gable. The subject of the most newspaper column inches in 1938 wasn’t even a person. It was an undersized, crooked-legged racehorse named Seabiscuit.

In the latter half of the Depression, Seabiscuit was nothing short of a cultural icon in America, enjoying adulation so intense and broad-based that it transcended sport. When he raced, his fans choked local roads, poured out of special cross-country “Seabiscuit Limited” trains, packed the hotels, and cleaned out the restaurants. They tucked their Roosevelt dollars into Seabiscuit wallets, bought Seabiscuit hats on Fifth Avenue, played at least nine parlor games bearing his image. Tuning in to radio broadcasts of his races was a weekend ritual across the country, drawing as many as forty million listeners. His appearances smashed attendance records at nearly every major track and drew two of the three largest throngs ever to see a horse race in the United States. In an era when the United States’ population was less than half its current size, seventy-eight thousand people witnessed his last race, a crowd comparable to those at today’s Super Bowls. As many as forty thousand fans mobbed tracks just to watch his workouts, while thousands of others braved ice storms and murderous heat to catch a glimpse of his private eighty-foot Pullman railcar. He galloped over Manhattan on massive billboards and was featured week after week, year after year, in Time, Life, Newsweek, Look, Pic, and The New Yorker. His trainer, jockey, and owner became heroes in their own right. Their every move was painted by the glare of the flashbulb.

They had come from nowhere. The horse, a smallish, mud-colored animal with forelegs that didn’t straighten all the way, spent nearly two seasons floundering in the lowest ranks of racing, misunderstood and mishandled. His jockey, Red Pollard, was a tragic-faced young man who had been abandoned as a boy at a makeshift racetrack cut through a Montana hay field. He came to his partnership with Seabiscuit after years as a part-time prizefighter and failing jockey, lugging his saddle through myriad places, getting punched bloody in cow-town boxing rings, sleeping on stall floors. Seabiscuit’s trainer, a mysterious, virtually mute mustang breaker named Tom Smith, was a refugee from the vanishing frontier, bearing with him generations of lost wisdom about the secrets of horses. Seabiscuit’s owner, a broad, beaming former cavalryman named Charles Howard, had begun his career as a bicycle mechanic before parlaying 21 cents into an automotive empire.

In 1936, on a sultry August Sunday in Detroit, Pollard, Smith, and Howard formed an unlikely alliance. Recognizing the talent dormant in the horse and in one another, they began a rehabilitation of Seabiscuit that would lift him, and them, from obscurity.

For the Seabiscuit crew and for America, it was the beginning of five uproarious years of anguish and exultation. From 1936 to 1940, Seabiscuit endured a remarkable run of bad fortune, conspiracy, and injury to establish himself as one of history’s most extraordinary athletes. Graced with blistering speed, tactical versatility, and indomitable will, he shipped more than fifty thousand exhausting railroad miles, carried staggering weight to victory against the best horses in the country, and shattered more than a dozen track records. His controversial rivalry with Triple Crown winner War Admiral culminated in a spectacular match race that is still widely regarded as the greatest horse race ever run. His epic, trouble-plagued four-year quest to conquer the world’s richest race became one of the most celebrated and widely followed struggles in sports. And in 1940 after suffering severe injuries that were thought to have ended their careers, the aging horse and his jockey returned to the track together in an attempt to claim the one prize that had escaped them.

Along the way, the little horse and the men who rehabilitated him captured the American imagination. It wasn’t just greatness that drew the people to them. It was their story.

It began with a young man on a train, pushing west.

Chapter 1


Charles Howard had the feel of a gigantic onrushing machine: You had to either climb on or leap out of the way. He would sweep into a room, working a cigarette in his fingers, and people would trail him like pilot fish. They couldn’t help themselves. Fifty-eight years old in 1935, Howard was a tall, glowing man in a big suit and a very big Buick. But it wasn’t his physical bearing that did it. He lived on a California ranch so huge that a man could take a wrong turn on it and be lost forever, but it wasn’t his circumstances either. Nor was it that he spoke loud or long; the surprise of the man was his understatement, the quiet and kindly intimacy of his acquaintance. What drew people to him was something intangible, an air about him. There was a certain inevitability to Charles Howard, an urgency radiating from him that made people believe that the world was always going to bend to his wishes.

On an afternoon in 1903, long before the big cars and the ranch and all the money, Howard began his adulthood with only that air of destiny and 21 cents in his pocket. He sat in the swaying belly of a transcontinental train, snaking west from New York. He was twenty-six, handsome, gentlemanly, with a bounding imagination.Back then he had a lot more hair than anyone who knew him later would have guessed. Years in the saddles of military-school horses had taught him to carry his six-foot-one-inch frame straight up.

He was eastern born and bred, but he had a westerner’s restlessness. He had tried to satisfy it by enlisting in the cavalry for the Spanish-American War, and though he became a skilled horseman, thanks to bad timing and dysentery he never got out of Camp Wheeler in Alabama. After his discharge, he got a job in New York as a bicycle mechanic, took up competitive bicycle racing, got married, and had two sons. It seems to have been a good life, but the East stifled Howard. His mind never seemed to settle down. His ambitions had fixed upon the vast new America on the other side of the Rockies. That day in 1903 he couldn’t resist the impulse anymore. He left everything he’d ever known behind, promised his wife Fannie May he’d send for her soon, and got on the train.

He got off in San Francisco. His two dimes and a penny couldn’t carry him far, but somehow he begged and borrowed enough money to open a little bicycle-repair shop on Van Ness Avenue downtown. He tinkered with the bikes and waited for something interesting to come his way.

It came in the form of a string of distressed-looking men who began appearing at his door. Eccentric souls with too much money in their pockets and far too much time on their hands, they had blown thick wads of cash on preposterous machines called automobiles. Some of them were feeling terribly sorry about it.

The horseless carriage was just arriving in San Francisco, and its debut was turning into one of those colorfully unmitigated disasters that bring misery to everyone but historians. Consumers were staying away from the “devilish contraptions” in droves. The men who had invested in them were the subjects of cautionary tales, derision, and a fair measure of public loathing. In San Francisco in 1903, the horse and buggy was not going the way of the horse and buggy.

For good reason. The automobile, so sleekly efficient on paper, was in practice a civic menace, belching out exhaust, kicking up storms of dust, becoming hopelessly mired in the most innocuous-looking puddles, tying up horse traffic, and raising an earsplitting cacophony that sent buggy horses fleeing. Incensed local lawmakers responded with monuments to legislative creativity. The laws of at least one town required automobile drivers to stop, get out, and fire off Roman candles every time horse-drawn vehicles came into view. Massachusetts tried and, fortunately, failed to mandate that cars be equipped with bells that would ring with each revolution of the wheels. In some towns police were authorized to disable passing cars with ropes, chains, wires, and even bullets, so long as they took reasonable care to avoid gunning down the drivers. San Francisco didn’t escape the legislative wave. Bitter local officials pushed through an ordinance banning automobiles from the Stanford campus and all tourist areas, effectively exiling them from the city.

Nor were these the only obstacles. The asking price for the cheapest automobile amounted to twice the $500 annual salary of the average citizen—some cost three times that much—and all that bought you was four wheels, a body, and an engine. “Accessories” like bumpers, carburetors, and headlights had to be purchased separately. Just starting the thing, through hand cranking, could land a man in traction. With no gas stations, owners had to lug five-gallon fuel cans to local drugstores, filling them for 60 cents a gallon and hoping the pharmacist wouldn’t substitute benzene for gasoline. Doctors warned women away from automobiles, fearing slow suffocation in noxious fumes. A few adventurous members of the gentler sex took to wearing ridiculous “windshield hats,” watermelon-sized fabric balloons, equipped with little glass windows, that fit over the entire head, leaving ample room for corpulent Victorian coiffures. Navigation was another nightmare. The first of San Francisco’s road signs were only just being erected, hammered up by an enterprising insurance underwriter who hoped to win clients by posting directions into the countryside, where drivers retreated for automobile “picnic parties” held out of the view of angry townsfolk.

Finally, driving itself was something of a touch-and-go pursuit. The first automobiles imported to San Francisco had so little power that they rarely made it up the hills. The grade of Nineteenth Avenue was so daunting for the engines of the day that watching automobiles straining for the top became a local pastime. The automobiles’ delicate constitutions and general faintheartedness soon became a source of scorn. One cartoon from the era depicted a wealthy couple standing on a roadside next to its dearly departed vehicle. The caption read, “The Idle Rich.”

Where San Franciscans saw an urban nuisance, Charles Howard saw opportunity. Automobile-repair shops hadn’t been created yet—and would have made little sense anyway as few were fool enough to buy a car. Owners had no place to go when their cars expired. A bicycle repairman was the closest thing to an auto mechanic available, and Howard’s shop was conveniently close to the neighborhoods of wealthy car owners. Howard hadn’t been in town long before the owners began showing up on his doorstep.

Howard had a weakness for lost causes. He accepted the challenge, poked around in the cars, and figured out how to fix them. Soon he was showing up at the primitive automobile races held around the city. Before long, he was driving in them. The first American race, run around Evanston, Illinois, had been held only eight years before, with the winning car ripping along at the dizzying average speed of seven and a half miles per hour. But by 1903, automotive horsepower had greatly improved— one car averaged 65.3 mph in a cross-European race that season—making the races a good spectacle. It also made for astronomical casualty rates. The European race, for one, turned into such a godawful bloodletting that it was ultimately halted due to “too many fatalities.”

Howard was beginning to see these contraptions as the instrument of his ambition. Taking an audacious step, he booked a train east, got off in Detroit, and somehow talked his way into a meeting with Will Durant, chief of Buick Automobiles and future founder of General Motors. Howard told Durant that he wanted to be a part of the industry, troubled though it was. Durant liked what he saw and hired him to set up dealerships and recruit dealers. Howard returned to San Francisco, opened the Pioneer Motor Company on Buick’s behalf, and hired a local man to manage it. But on a checkup visit, he was dismayed to find that the manager was focusing his sales effort not on Buicks but on ponderous Thomas Flyers. Howard went back to Detroit and told Durant that he could do better. Durant was sold. Howard walked away with the Buick franchise for all of San Francisco. It was 1905, and he was just twenty-eight years old.

Howard returned to San Francisco by train with three Buicks in tow. By some accounts, he first housed his automobiles in the parlor of his old bicycle-repair shop on Van Ness Avenue before moving to a modest building on Golden Gate Avenue, half a block from Van Ness. He brought Fannie May out to join him. With two young boys to feed, and two more soon to follow, Fannie May must have been alarmed by her husband’s career choice. Two years had done little to pacify the San Franciscan hostility for the automobile. Howard failed to sell a single car.

At 5:12 a.m. on April 18, 1906, the earth beneath San Francisco heaved inward upon itself in a titanic, magnitude 7.8 convulsion. In sixty seconds the city shuddered down.Fires sprang up amid the ruined buildings, converged, and raced toward Howard’s dealership, consuming four city blocks per hour. With the water lines ruptured and the sewers bled dry, there was nothing to check its course.Wagon horses ran in a panic through the streets, snapped their legs in the rubble, and collapsed from exhaustion. The horse-drawn city was in desperate need of vehicles to carry firemen and bear the injured, 3,000 dead, and 225,000 homeless out of the fire’s path. Fleeing citizens offered thousands for horses, but there were none to be had. People were fashioning makeshift gurneys from baby carriages and trunks nailed to roller skates, pulling them themselves. There was only one transportation option left. “We suddenly appreciated that San Francisco was truly a city of magnificent distances,” wrote one witness. “The autos alone remained to conquer space.”