The author of Seabiscuit, Laura Hillenbrand has a new novel, Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption. It sounds fascinating.
About the book from NPR:
Hillenbrand interviewed Louis Zamperini—"seven years' worth of interviews with Hillenbrand. The tale Zamperini has to tell, augmented by mountains of diaries, letters and official documents, is a stunner. Zamperini's story, in a nutshell, is this: He was born in 1917, a son of working-class Italian immigrants who made a life for themselves in Torrance, Calif. Louie was a juvenile delinquent from the get-go, always stealing food from neighbors' houses and concocting homemade explosives. Louie's older brother saved him by forcing him to try out for track in high school; all those years of scampering from the cops turned out to be excellent training, and Louie eventually competed in the 1936 Olympics with Jesse Owens. Hitler even gave Louie a congratulatory nod.
When World War II broke out, Zamperini joined the air corps as a lieutenant s"tationed in Hawaii, where he learned to operate the bombsight on a B-24, an unwieldy plane known to flight crews as "The Flying Coffin." His pilot, Russell Allen Phillips—known as "Phil"—was respected as "a damn swell pilot" by the other men, and Hillenbrand vividly describes a few knuckle-biting bombing missions in which Phillips' skill nursed the injured plane back to base, sans brakes or fuel. But Zamperini's and Phillips' luck ran out on May 27, 1943, when, on a rescue mission in the middle of the Pacific, an engine died and their plane went down, killing everybody onboard but Zamperini, Phillips and a guy named "Mac," the tail gunner.
"For a record 47 days, the men floated on two, then one, rubber raft. Sharks circled constantly, scraping their fins under the bottom of the rafts. Water came, when it did, from the skies; food consisted of raw fish and a couple of unwary albatrosses that alighted on the rafts. They were strafed by a Japanese fighter; thrown into a typhoon. The men lost half their body weight, and drifted for some 2,000 miles on open water. Mac didn't make it; the other two men survived to become prisoners of the Japanese—subjected to starvation, torture and slave labor. Because of his Olympic fame, Zamperini became the special target of a sadistic Japanese corporal who dedicated himself to shattering Zamperini's spirit."