Nightmares, alcohol and a looming divorce: The little-known story of Louis Zamperini's return to God


closeVideoLouis Zamperini fought some of his most difficult battles as an Army Air Force corpsman in World War II, surviving a plane crash that left him stranded at sea for 47 days and a Japanese prison camp where he sustained unimaginable physical and mental torture.But Zamperini’s toughest personal battle came after his return home, when the war hero turned alcohol to escape the recurring nightmares of war and torture.  “Louis Zamperini: Captured by Grace,” available now on Fox Nation, explores the religious journey of man broken by his memories and how his return to God allowed him to heal from the anger that had overtaken his life and his family. After floating for 47 days on a raft in the Pacific Ocean as one of the only survivors of a military plane crash, Zamperini was captured by the Japanese. Beaten, starved, and tormented, Zamperini was left with deep wounds that would haunt his post-war life. Zamperini returned to the United States a hero and married Cynthia Applewhite soon thereafter. But when his celebrity status faded and reality set in, Zamperini began to suffer from a severe case of post-traumatic stress disorder.  “Coming home as a soldier, you get a hero’s welcome. Everybody treated me, took me out to parties and dinners, and I’m taking advantage of all this notoriety,” he recalled prior to his 2014 death at age 97. A sadistic Japanese corporal, Mutsuhiro Watanabe, who was known as “the Bird,” began to haunt Zamperini at night, as chronicled in Laura Hillenbrand’s book, “Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption.” “Because of the Bird, I had nightmares because of my life in prison camp and resentment about many things that happened in prison camp,” he recalled.  To escape these horrors, Zamperini turned to drink. “The nightmares every night, I couldn’t get rid of it,” he said. “I began to drink. … When I’m drinking and getting drunk and I completely forget about my ordeals. And so that’s kind of a temporary comfort.” Zamperini reached his breaking point when he woke up one night to find himself “strangling” his wife, who he had mistaken for the Bird. “My wife got fed up with it and she knew our marriage was ruined and she had our little girl to take care of,” he recalled. “And she said I’d have it until she decided to file for divorce.” The Zamperinis thought they were out of options, until a concerned neighbor invited them to a sermon by young, little-known evangelist named Billy Graham. “I wanted no part of it,” Zamperini recalled. “But she said she … already had papers for divorce. Because of my conversion, I’m not going to get a divorce.” Zamperini said he almost left the event, before something Graham said “that really stabbed me in the heart. “Of all of my near-death experiences, my life never passed before my eyes, never,” he said. In that moment, however, “My life did pass before my eyes.” The sermon sparked a radical shift in Zamperini, who internalized that no man “can solve the problem



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