Once Upon a Time in the Vest

Friday, July 25, 2014

Vol. 4 No. 54 Tokyo Olympics 1964 Day 4 Oct. 17

1964 OLYMPICS fourth day Oct. 17

    Today's program includes four finals: the 200, steeplechase, shot put and pole vault. We also have the semifinals in the 200, the first two rounds of the 400, the first rounds of the 1500 and high hurdles and qualifying in the hammer throw.

    Some of the better 200 guys coasted through yesterday's first two rounds. There is none of that today. The big boys make sure they will be around for this afternoon's final. Two races qualify the first four finishers.
    Paul Drayton takes no prisoners in the first race, equaling the Olympic
record of 20.5.
Otis Paul Drayton

 Sergio Ottolina of Italy is second at 20.7, a tenth ahead of Richard Stebbins of the US who has to work hard on the straight after a bad start. Marian Foik of Poland edges France's Paul Genevay for the last spot in the finals as both run 20.9.

Paul Gevenay
    The prevailing thought is that world record holder Henry Carr is either not at the top of his game or he has been taking it easy in the first two rounds. Any question about his health is answered in the second race as he comes into the straight two yards behind Livio Berruti of Italy then goes to the afterburners to power past the reigning Olympic champion and win in 20.6. Berruti's 20.8 is a tenth better than that of Trinidad-Tobago's Edwin Roberts.
Berutti congratulating Carr
 Canada's Harry Jerome keeps alive his quest to become the only medal winner in both sprints by barely edging France's Roger Bambuck for fourth, both running 21.0.

    This morning it will take a throw of 17.80 meters (58'4¾” in imperial measurement) to be invited back for this afternoon's activities. If there is any event in this Olympiad in which the US is sure of having all three entrants make the final, this is it. Our guys are world record holder Dallas Long, iconic two time Olympic champion Parry O'Brien and 19 year old Randy Matson who has the second longest throw in history.
    No surprises here. One throw for each is all it takes. Long throws 64-0¼, Matson 62-1 and O'Brien 58-6. Thanks for dropping by, guys. We'll see you this afternoon.

    At ten o'clock it is a sunny 64 degrees as fifty five runners prepare for seven heats which will qualify the first four finishers and the next four fastest times overall.
Trinidad-Tobago's Wendell Mottley sets the tone in the first race with a stunning 45.9 victory, the fastest time of the morning and over a second and a half than necessary to qualify. England's Robbie Brightwell runs 46.1 for the second best time in the heat and the morning.
    Mottley's T-T teammate Kent Bernard, a Michigan man, shows better emotional control in the second race, winning in a more suitable 46.8. Poland's Andrzej Badenski takes the third race in 46.4.
    Our guys show their stuff in the next three races. Ulis Williams wins the fourth heat in 46.2. Olan Cassell edges Canada's Bill Crothers, 46.8 for both in the fifth race, a time matched by Mike Larabee in winning the sixth heat. Czech Josef Trousil takes the last heat in a sensible 47.0.
    No one of consequence has been eliminated. Thirty-two one lappers will return this afternoon.

    It takes a throw of 63 meters, 206-8 in Englishspeak, to qualify for tomorrow's final. Fifteen throwers, including our three guys, are up to that task. World record holder Hal Connolly pops 221-1½ and is excused for the rest of the day. Ed Burke, at 213-1, and Al Hall, at 211-0, also get their tickets punched for the final. Russia also has three in the final. The day's longest throw, 223-0½, belongs to Gyula Zsivotzky of Hungary.

    There are four heats with the first four finishers in each qualifying along with the two fastest losers. The US has an entrant in each of the first three races.
    Dyrol Burleson qualifies easily in the first heat, running 3:45.6 to place third behind Wiltold Baran of Poland and John Davies of New Zealand. Jim Ryun shows he is up to running with his elders, placing fourth in the second heat in 3:44.4 behind the European trio of Michel Bernard of France, Jurgen May of Germany and John Whetton of Great Britain.
    The third heat belongs to Kipchoge Keino of Kenya whose 3:45.8 gives him a comfortable margin over Wolf-Dieter Holtz of Germany who is closely followed by Tom O'Hara of the US in 3:46.7. Taking an afternoon stroll, finishing a tenth behind O'Hara, is yesterday's 800 champ, Peter Snell, completing the first step of the second half of his quest to win both the 880 and 1500.
    The fourth heat has the advantage of knowing what it will take to qualify for the last two spots and, indeed, that is exactly what happens. The pace is a tad swifter and the fastest four times of the day are the result. Great Britain's Alan Simpson wins in 3:42.8 followed by Jean Wadoux of France, 3:43.0, Czechoslovakia's Josef Odlozil, 3:43.2 and Belgium's Eugene Allonsius, 3:43.3. Yugoslavia's Simo Vasic benefits the most from the fast pace, making the cut at 3:43.7 as the fastest non-automatic qualifier.

    There are five heats, each qualifying three and the fastest fourth place finisher for tomorrow's semifinals. It is apparent that no one is flat out as the fastest time is 14.1.     Our guys, Hayes Jones, Blaine Lindgren and Willie Davenport, all qualify easily. Davenport loafs to a second place finish in the first heat in 14.4. Lindgren wins the second heat in 14.2, the same time run by Jones in finishing second in the fifth heat. The day's fastest time belongs to Russian Anatoliy Michailov. No one of consequence is eliminated.     
     One wonders why the hurdlers aren't running the semis this afternoon. The 400 runners are running two today.

Olan Cassell
Wendell Mottley
    This morning's races pared the field from 55 to 32. This afternoon that number will be cut in half. There will be four heats qualifying the first four finishers.
    Wendell Mottley's 45.9 is the fastest time of the morning. Not content with that, the Yale captain runs 45.8 to win the first heat for the quickest clocking of the afternoon. Ollan Cassell of the US is second in 46.2.
Robbie Brightwell
Andrej Badenski

Bill Crothers
Poland's Andrzej Badenski takes the second race in 46.5 over the 46.7 of Canada's Bill Crothers, yesterday's 800 silver medalist.
Mike Larabee
    The third heat is loaded. Mike Larrabee of the US coasts through a 46.5 followed by Kent Bernard of Trinidad-Tobago and Robbie Brightwell of Great Britain who run 46.7 and 47.1.
Kent Bernard
    The fourth heat qualifies Trinidad-Tobago's third entrant, Edwin Skinner, who edges Ulis Williams of the US as both run an economical 46.9. The fourth member of the Trinidad-Tobago 4 x 400 team is the talented Ed Roberts. Add Roberts to Skinner, Bernard and Mottley, and one has to think the Caribbean lads will be a formidable foe in this Olympiad's final race four days hence.


    World record holder Gaston Roelants of Belgium has been wearing a cast on his leg in the Olympic village but there has been no explanation why and he certainly didn't look hindered two days ago in qualifying.

Gaston Roelants Belgium
Olympic Champion

    At the gun Adolf Aleksiejunas of the Soviet Union jumps into the lead. The Russian broke the Olympic record finishing ahead of Roelants in the final heat of qualifying and appears confident of carrying his advantage over to today.
    Roelants is not easily intimidated. By the end of the first lap he has taken over and leads by five yards with the rest of the field, including George Young of the US, tightly bunched.
    At the end of the third lap the world record holder applies pressure and opens up seven yards on second place Guy Texereau of France with the rest of the field fifteen yards behind. Roelants continues to force the pace and, with five laps gone, now leads by 12 yards over Texereau with Young 
George Young
George Young
another five back in third.
    Roelants' dominance is obvious as on the sixth lap his advantage grows to 40 yards over the surprising Young who is trying to distance himself from the pack. At the start of the final lap, Young's resolve is overwhelmed by his fatigue and the pack closes in. Maurice Herriott of Great Britain is moving up on Young but no one is catching Roelants who has opened 60 yards. On the backstretch the pace begins to tell on the great Belgian, but no one is close enough to threaten him
Maurice Herriott
Maurice Herriott
    Young is feeling the effects of his American record the day before yesterday. Herriott goes by, followed by Ivan Belyayvev of the USSR and Portugal's surprising Manuel Oliviera. But no one is catching Roelants, although Herriott closes to within 10 yards at the tape. Roelants has earned the new Olympic record of 8:30.8 to go with his gold medal. Herriott's 8:32.4 British Empire record is good for silver. Belyayev takes the bronze at 8:33.8. Oliviera is fourth in 8:36.2, two seconds ahead of the courageous Young who edges Texereau by two tenths.

    There is no doubt. World record holder Dallas Long is the man in this event. He is a heavy favorite to win gold. Upon his retirement to concentrate on dental school, Randy Matson will inherit the throne. Today they enter the competition #1 and #2. They will leave the field this afternoon as #1 and #1a.
    There is hope that the US will sweep the medals as former record holder and two time Olympic champion, Parry O'Brien could pick up bronze.
Thirteen throwers will have three throws to position themselves in the top six and by so doing, earn three more throws.
    Long leads after the first round with 64-4. Vilmos Varju of Hungary is a surprising second at 63-1. O'Brien is sitting third at 62-2. Matson's first effort is only 60-9½, leaving him in sixth.
    In the second round Matson improves to 62-11½ to drop O'Brien from third.
Things get interesting in the third round. O'Brien regains third with his best throw of the day, 63-0, and Varju pops 63-7 to improve his hold on second. Matson is up next and this is where things change. The 19 year old Texas A&M freshman pops a new Olympic record of 65-2 and moves into the gold medal position. Long can't improve and so, when the field is culled to six, the medal order is Matson, Long and Varju.
    The future becomes clear in the fourth round when Matson steps into the ring and gets all of his 6'7”, 245 pounds into the throw. When the measurement of 66-3¼ is read it is obvious that young Randy isn't waiting for Dallas Long's retirement to claim the crown. It is the longest throw of his life and breaks his Olympic record set a few minutes ago.
    Now, his dominance in question, Long is in the ring. His best of the day is nearly two feet behind that of Matson. In a literal minute order is restored. With a mighty grunt, Long propels the iron ball 66-8½ to reclaim first place.
Discussing Matson's upcoming Basketball Season?
    Matson can't improve on his next two throws. Neither can Long, but it doesn't matter, 66-8½ is enough to do it. He retires with the gold medal and Olympic record. Matson will have to wait four years for another chance. Varju is third and O'Brien fourth.

Henry Carr
    At 4:00 it is the very picture of a fine fall day, 73 degrees and virtually no wind. The Olympic champion is about to be determined. The good news for the Italians is that they have two competitors in this final. The bad news is that they have drawn the two tight inside lanes. From inside out the lane assignments are 1) defending champion Livio Berruti wearing his trademark dark glasses 2) teammate Sergio Ottolina who was second in this morning's heat 3) Canada's Harry Jerome attempting to become the only double sprint medal winner 4) 
Foik second from right
Marian Foik

Poland's Marian Foik 5) Paul Drayton of the US who equaled the Olympic record this morning 6) the erratic Richard Stebbins of the US 7) world record holder Henry Carr who won the other heat this morning 8) the dangerous Edwin Roberts of Trinidad-Tobago. While the Italians have reason to grumble about the lane assignments, the Americans have to be thrilled to be placed together in outside lanes.
Richard Stebbins
    Everyone starts well. Drayton and Carr have enough history to know each others racing tendencies. Drayton is counting on having the lead as the field enters the straight. He is surprised that Carr has outrun him by a yard as they come off the curve. Unfortunately for Drayton, there is no plan B available. Give Henry Carr a yard lead halfway through the race and it is over. Indeed it is. Carr continues to widen his margin all the way to the tape which is reached in Olympic record time of 20.3. 
Finish 200
L to R  Roberts, Carr, Stebbins, Drayton, Foik, Jerome, Ottolina  , Berutti
Drayton holds on to claim silver in 20.5 ahead of Roberts, whose 20.6 denies Jerome his second medal by a tenth.
Edwin Roberts
.Berruti, Foik and Stebbins finish in that order, all clocking 20.8. Ottolina is eighth in 20.9.
Sergio Ottolina
Livio Berutti
Livio Berutti

Here's the replay on youtube.
    The day belongs to Carr. He has dominated the best sprinters in the world. The Arizona State student now has a gold medal, Olympic record and world record on his resume and he is not done. He will be back to lead off the US 4 x 400 relay team.

Fred Hansen
    Eighteen vaulters qualified two days ago, oddly two thirds of them from four countries. Germany, Russia, Finland and the US each have three athletes in today's final.
John Pennel
At 4.60 meters (15-1¼), the field is reduced to 14. With the bar at 4.70m (15-5), another vaulter is eliminated. With the bar at 4.80, a new Olympic record, the field is pared to ten including all three Germans and all three Americans.
Billy Pemelton
    The bar has been moved up in ten centimeter increments. Now the increments are reduced to five centimeters. At 4.85 (15-11), the world's first 17 foot vaulter, American John Pennel, is out. On paper this would be a shocking surprise, but the truth is that he has been in pain with a back injury and has no hope of going higher. Also out is teammate Billy Pemelton, leaving only world record holder Fred Hansen to carry the US hopes.
Pennel and Hansen
Hansen sequence
    Hansen passes 4.90 and 4.95 before clearing 5.00 (16-5) on his first attempt. Each of the three Germans also clear on their first attempt. With the bar at 5.05 (16-6¾), Hansen leads with no misses. Klaus Lehnertz has a miss. Manfred Preussger has two and Wolfgang Reinhardt has missed four times. Now it is 8:45 and darkness has fallen.
Manfred Preussger
    Hansen has vaulted only four times, having passed on five heights. At 16-6¾ he passes again. Reinhardt clears on his first jump to take the lead. Preussger and Lehnertz each miss three times. Lehnertz has the bronze medal on fewer misses.
Klaus Lehnertz
    Now we are down to Hansen and Reinhardt at 5.10 meters (16-8¾).
Reinhardt is in the gold medal position. If they both miss, he wins by virtue of clearing 5.05 while Hansen passed. If they both clear on the same turn, Hansen wins on fewer total misses.
    Hansen is up first. Under normal circumstances 16-8¾ is no problem. He is the world record holder at 17-4. But these circumstances are far from normal. Fred has been sitting and waiting for six hours. Now it is 9:30 and everything is on the line.
Manfred Preussger
    On his first attempt he hits the bar on the way up. Reinhardt doesn't come close. On Hansen's second attempt his feet are too far apart and once again he displaces the bar on his way up. Reinhardt misses as well, but this time it is close.
    Now Hansen is down to his last jump. The US has won the pole vault in every Olympics. Failure to clear this height and that streak will be over. He moves the uprights back eight inches, the farthest they will go. At 10:02 he starts his run. He hits the box and his pole bends as well as ever. Up, up and over by half a foot he goes.
Hansen winning jump
    The three German vaulters all congratulate him. Yes, Reinhardt has a jump left, but even if he makes it, he will have to outjump Hansen at the next height to win. He hits the bar with his knees and at 10:07 the event is over. There is no reason for Hansen to jump again.
Wolfgang Reinhardt and Klaus Lehnertz
    What went through Hansen's mind as he prepared for that last jump? Fred says, “I was thinking what I could do for my country, not for myself. Please don't think I am corny, but that is what I was thinking.”
    A good day, no, make that a great day by any measure. Americans won gold and silver in the shot put and 200 and a dramatic gold in the pole vault. George Young placed well in the steeplechase. All three of our guys advanced in the hammer, 400, 1500 and high hurdles. Can't ask for much more than that.
    Tomorrow we'll see finals in the 5000, hammer throw and 50 kilometer walk, semis and final in the high hurdles, qualifying and final in the broad jump and the semifinals of the 400. Should be fun. Once again we'll save you the seat right next to ours. See you tomorrow.

Obituary Paul Drayton  March 2, 2010
Otis Paul DraytonJr. was born May 8, 1939 to Otis (Sr.) and Sally Drayton in Glen Cove, New York. He moved to Cleveland with his family at an early age. Both parents preceded him in death.
Otis, or Paul as he was referred to by many, graduated from Cathedral Latin High School and Villanova University. He was a proud member of the United States Army from 1963 to 1966. Paul retired from the City of Cleveland's Recreation Division as Deputy Project Director in 2003 and later worked part-time for the Cuyahoga County Sheriff's Department as a process server.
In the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo, Japan, Paul led the United States relay team to a world record gold medal win in the 4 X 100 relay and won a silver medal in the 200 meter race.Paul accomplished many other athletic feats including High School All-American, AAU champion from 1961-1963, two-time All-American at Villanova University, and numerous world-wide records.
Paul loved life and people. He was passionate about history and could quote Bible passages as well as clergy. The recent United States Presidential election of Barrack Obama delighted Paul immensely and he would often engage everyone he came in contact with in a hearty discussion of President Obama. Paul was known for his continuous and hearty "high-fives" and funny stories. He savored the comradeship of his fellow Olympian and other athletes and looked forward every year to an annual gathering in Philadelphia prior to the final day of the Penn Relays. Paul started this annual Penn Relay dinner 13 years ago with five people and it has now grown to a large event with last year's attendance up to almost 75. Paul was concerned about today's youth, particularly young men, and encouraged education and/or service to the military. Although not a rich man and often teased for his frugality, Paul firmly believed in helping others in need and contributed to a variety of organizations. A devout Catholic, Paul enjoyed his life-long attendance at St. Cecilia's Catholic Church.
He enjoyed traveling, photography, computers, great food and loved to have people visit his home.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Vol. 4 No. 53 Alice Coachman RIP

Alice Coachman Davis,  the first black female Olympic champion passed away at the age of 90.  She was the champion in the high jump in the 1948 games in London.  There are a series of youtube interviews with Mrs. Coachman.  If you link to the one below, it will guide you to the others.   These are quite interesting, because she gives some very personal accounts of the coaching at the games.   She was harassed by the US women's coach for not working out the day before the high jump competition.  Nevertheless she stuck to her routine of taking a break the day before.  The US women were not having a good Olympics.  Only Mickey Patterson had a bronze in the 200  winning the only other medal that year for the US women. In the youtube interview, Alice recalls receiving a segregated welcome home after the Olympics in the Jim Crow South.


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Vol 4 No. 52 How Did Louis Zamperini's Story Make It's Way to the Silver Screen?

July 11, 2014

While breathlessly waiting for the next installment of our 1964 Olympics coverage, I received a query from Bob Schul whom we will hear more about shortly.   Bob asked if Louis or his estate would be getting a cut of the proceeds or rights to his story.    Before trying to answer that intriguing question, I had to ask myself, from where rights and revenue may be coming.  Some of you may be able to answer this question better than me, and I encourage you to send us some opinions and /or facts.  First,  coming home a war hero/survivor, Louis had a story. Every soldier has a story, but whether it has some commercial value is another question.   Well, in Louis' case it appears from an L.A. Times article which I will link below that he indeed derived  some financial benefit eleven years after returning home.   Universal Studios paid him $8,000.00 for the rights to make a film of his life in 1956.  It turned out that it would take another 56 years to get the film made.  The problem seemed to be that Louis' life was just too big for the movies.  Scripts and ideas were bounced around for years at Universal, and the story was eventually back burnered then forgotten.    In the meantime a book  "Devil At My Heels" would come out a few years later, but then Laura Hillenbrand wrote the bestseller  "Unbroken, A WWII Story of Survival,Resilience, and Redemption"  which made a lot of money.  It had a good shot at doing so, based on the fact that her previous book, "Seabiscuit" was a best seller and made into a commercially viable film.

I"ve so far found no reference to whether Louis and Laura Hillenbrand's publisher had made any financial arrangement.  But I will keep looking.   Probably the $8,000.00 that Louis got in 1956 was  for the film rights.  Those rights may have changed hands over the years, but Louis had sold them for the $8,000, and probably had no more claim to them.  It's a legal question whether a book that would be turned into a film had created a new set of rights to be valued and sold and whether the human subject of the story had any ownership.   The article below mentions that with the $8,000, Louis purchased a house in the Hollywood Hills, and it turned out that he lived very close to Angelina Jolie who will be directing the film, so Louis didn't make out too badly from the sale.

Check out this story that appeared in the L.A. Times several months  ago about the history of the making of the film.


You can also see the film trailer to "Unbroken" at the link below.  It is scheduled for release on December 25, 2014.   http://www.unbrokenfilm.com/

Since writing this posting a good friend, former teammate at the University of Oklahoma, and lawyer Walt Mizell responded to my request for an opinion.

George,  It's impossible to say what rights Zamperini's heirs or estate might have right now, without reviewing the contract he signed with Universal 56 years ago.  It could have had a cut-off date like a oil well drilling contract, that provided that if they didn't do anything with the story within "x" years, their license terminated.  Or it could have provided that they could use anything that had occurred in his life up to the time the contract was signed.  Of course, Laura Hillenbrand's book goes well beyond his war years. I would think that her publisher would have checked out whether the contract he signed in 1956 (1958?) would impact their right to publish her work.

I'd like to give you  a better analysis than this, but all I can really do is refer you to the starting point, namely whatever it was he sold back in the '50's.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Vol 4 No. 51 Louis Zamperini R.I.P.

Louis Zamperini

Winston Churchill once said, "Some men achieve greatness, others have it thrust upon them."
Certainly Louis Zamperini who passed away today, July 3, 2014, at the age of 97 fits tightly into that former category.  

I personally never heard his story until recent times, maybe in the last ten years when the book "Unbroken" by Laura Hillenbrand was published and someone passed it on to me to read. That book was preceded by another biography, "Devil at My Heels".  Louis' greatness did not come easily.   

  Born into an immigrant family in Olean, NY, his family moved to California early on, and Louis first distinguished himself with his delinquency.  But a caring member of the local police in Torrance, CA took Louis under his wing and pointed him down a better path.   To expend his abundance of energy, he became a runner.  And what a runner!  He was one of if not the first high schooler to ever distinguish himself nationally as a distance runner making the US Olympic team in 1936 at the 5,000 meters.   He not only made the team, he made the Olympic finals and ran to a credible 8th place in that race.

In Berlin ,  a slide back to his former childhood proclivities , resulted in his being arrested by the German police after he 'removed'  a German flag off a light pole in the streets of the city.  All was however forgiven.

In a well documented tale, his life reads on like an improbable saga of triumph and tragedy.  He would go to the University of Southern California,  join up for WWII as a flight officer.  Crash in the Pacific and survive 47 days adrift in the ocean only to be taken prisoner of the Japanese and spending the rest of the war under one of the harshest prison guards the Japanese had to offer.

His triumphant return home was shadowed by losing bouts with alcohol,  then redemption and a life of serving others.  He displayed his faith openly and credited it with saving him from a life of misery.  

Since "Unbroken" was published, he had become a celebrity again and traveled the country giving speeches and attending various functions.  The theme of his message was forgiveness.  His is a life to be admired,  maybe not envied for all that he had to endure.  

A feature film based on the book "Unbroken"  is scheduled for release in the near future.
R.I.P.  ,  Louis.

Personal Bests: 880y – 1:53.2 (1938); 1500 – 3:52.6 (1939); Mile – 4:08.3 (1938); 2 miles – 9:12.8 (1939); 5000 – 14:46.8 (1936).


Men's 5,000 metres

Event History  · Glossary  · SHARE  · Embed  · CSV  · Export  · PRE  · LINK  · ?
1936 Summer19BerlinAthleticsUnited StatesFinal814:46.8
1936 Summer19BerlinAthleticsUnited StatesRound OneHeat Three5QU15:02.2

Louie Zamperini dead at 97.
Great Christian, great American, great Olympian.
Appropriate that he leaves us as we celebrate the 4th.


Earl Young

Roy Mason  

8:11 AM (17 minutes ago)

I can't imagine enduring what he did.  He is at the top of my hero list.

Richard Mach

George,  was on the horn this AM with my WMU track coach , George Dales about
 Zamperini's loss.  He told me Louis had come to Western about two years ago
and given one of the most inspiring speeches ever given on that campus.  What a
guy!  97 years young.   RIP

George, here is my review of the book "Unbroken published in Cross Country Journal.

Paul O'Shea

 All He Had He Gave

Book Review

By Paul O’Shea

“Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience,
 and Redemption” by Laura Hillenbrand, Random House, 2010
496 pages, $28.

“All I had, I gave it.”
When Lou Zamperini collapsed after running the last lap of the
 l936 Olympic 5,000 meter final in 56 seconds, those six words
 eerily presaged the qualities he would need in the years to come.  
Ahead were not Olympic medals or the first sub-four minute mile for a 
highly promising athlete, but more daunting challenges that required 
courage,  immeasurable endurance, and the will to survive the Second 
World War.

Looking back Zamperini can remember when it took all he had to 
survive forty-seven days adrift on the Pacific Ocean, two years 
as a prisoner of war in the most brutal conditions, and a 
peacetime enveloped by post-traumatic stress disorder.

Indeed, all he had he would need.

“Unbroken” has been on The New York Times’ best seller list for 
more than three years since publication.  Its author is Lauren 
Hillenbrand who also wrote the Pulitzer Prize-winning Seabiscuit: 
An American Legend. “Louis and Seabiscuit were sports stars 
around the same time, the mid-‘30s to l940,” she remembered.  
“They were both based in southern California, so in the articles 
I was looking through for Seabiscuit I kept coming across articles 
for this teenage running phenom.  When I was done working on 
Seabiscuit, I called him and we had this amazing conversation, 
and I knew that I had to write this book.”

“I’ll be an easier subject than Seabiscuit,” he told Hillenbrand. 
“At least I can talk.”

Growing up in Torrance, California Lou Zamperini was a juvenile 
delinquent before the term became popular.  Described as 
“feral,” the youngster was diverted from a life of crime by being 
the fastest kid on the block.   Older brother Phil, a leading miler 
on the high school team persuaded the troubling and troubled 
Lou to give track a try.

Progress came quickly.  In two years he went from 5:03 to 
breaking the national high school mile record with 4:21.2, a mark 
that would stand for nineteen years.   The University of Southern 
California was the next stop where as a sophomore he won the 
NCAA mile in 4:08.3.3, missing the world record by less than two 

Injuries prevented Zamperini from training for the 1,500, so he 
moved up to the 5,000 and qualified for the Berlin Olympics.  
On the trip over training sessions on the luxury steamer 
Manhattan consisted of running laps on the first deck while 
dodging tourists. What he couldn’t avoid was the irresistibly rich 
food that girdled him with a dozen extra pounds.  “I was a 
Depression-era kid who had never even been to a drugstore for 
a sandwich.”

Most top milers at the time ran their last lap in about sixty seconds
. Zamperini turned in that 56-second closer in the 5,000, placing 
eighth.  In a post-race interview Adolph Hitler tells him, “Ah, you’re
 the boy with the fast finish.”

Back home Zamperini is a favorite to be the first man to run 
sub-four minutes, and to medal in the 1940 Olympics scheduled 
for Tokyo. But the winds of war plunged the United States and the
 world into conflict and put his Olympic dreams on hold.

Zamperini joins the U.S. Army Air Force and is soon flying 
missions as a bombardier over the Pacific.  On one flight his 
Green Hornet returns with 594 gunshot holes in the fuselage. Not 
long after, the Hornet is searching for a missing aircraft when it 
is shot down 850 miles west of Hawaii, killing eight of the eleven 
on board.   Zamperini and two other airmen survive.

They drift west from where their B-24 Liberator slipped into the 
Pacific Ocean, enduring brutal heat and life-threatening storms. A 
fellow crewmember lives 33 days. Strafed by Japanese fighter 
planes, going hand-to-hand with sharks that jump into the life raft 
and have to be clubbed into submission with an oar, at the mercy 
of a catastrophic typhoon, he and his mate finally reach one of 
the Marshall Islands, two thousand miles from where they went 
down. With little food and no water, Zamperini survives 
forty-seven days before reaching land.  The Japanese Navy 
quickly takes them captive. 

Two violently inhumane years as a prisoner of war follow. When 
authorities learn they have captured an American Olympian, he 
finds himself the Number One Prisoner of Mutsuhiro Watanabe, 
who would become one of Japan’s forty most notorious war 
criminals. Zamperini’s life is one of hunger, ferocious beatings 
and medical experiments. Finally, the dropping of atom bombs on 
Hiroshima and Nagasaki accelerates the war’s end and his 

With peacetime, the war’s imprint is indelible.  “As bad as were 
the physical consequences of captivity,” Hillenbrand tells us, 
“the emotional injuries were much more insidious, widespread 
and enduring.”

Homecoming was ridden with problems.  He launches and invests 
in a number of get-rich-quick ventures.  All fail.  He starts to train 
for London ’48 but is injured and forced to give up the Olympic 
dream.  He begins smoking and drinking heavily.  He marries and 
he and his wife have a baby, but the marriage is threatened 
because of his alcoholism.

Then, after attending a Billy Graham crusade Lou Zamperini 
turns his life around, as a born again Christian. He finds peace as
 he finds faith, establishes a foundation to help troubled boys, 
delivers inspirational speeches, and carries torches for five 
Olympic efforts.  

Today, 97-year-old lives in Hollywood Hills, California.  In his 
sixties he climbed a peak in the Santa Monica Mountains, ran 
sub-six minute miles and began skateboarding. At 85 he returned 
to the site of a Japanese prison camp to meet and forgive his 
captors who were still alive.  He went skiing in his nineties.  He is, after all still 
Lou Zamperini, still giving it all he has, still undefeated.


V 11 N. 3 "Quicksilver: The Mercurial Emil Zatopek" by Pat Butcher, a Book Review by Paul O'Shea

When we come across books to review, we know that there is a particular skill set needed to be fair and honest and at the same time literary...