Meet 93-year old Olympian Louis Zamperini - Off-Ramp for July 31, 2010

Louis Zamperini's epic life story

Louis Zamperini

Gina Delvac/KPCC

Louis Zamperini, Olympian and World War II survivor, right, with KPCC's Madeleine Brand.

UPDATE 7/3/2014: Olympian and World War 2 vet Louis Zamperini died yesterday of pneumonia; he was 97. Zamperini was also a spellbinding storyteller, and in 2010 he regaled a packed Crawford Family Forum with tales of his long and remarkable life.

Epic in the most literal sense possible: Zamperini's life plays out like a grandiose American hero's tale. Louis Zamperini is a living legend you probably have never heard of, but you've seen his name everywhere. Listen to the on-air version by clicking on the first icon, listen to the whole Olympic Panel by clicking on the second!

You might have seen a football game Torrance High School’s Zamperini Stadium, or landed an airplane Zamperini Field, even Zamperini Plaza, at the front of USC’s track and field stadium. They’re all named after Louis Zamperini. A former Olympic track runner, World War Two veteran and Los Angeles native who at 93 years old shares his story to this day. This past June, at KPCC’s Crawford Family Forum, Zamperini spoke with Fellow Olympian John Naber about how he ended up in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, met Hitler, stole a Nazi flag, served in the airforce, survived for a month and half on a life raft in the Pacific, and endured years of life in captivity as a Japanese prisoner of war.


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