Arts & Entertainment

World War II POW, former Olympian Louis Zamperini named 2015 Rose Parade grand marshal

File: Louis Zamperini presents an award at the 2011 Golden Goggles at JW Marriott Los Angeles at L.A. LIVE on November 20, 2011 in Los Angeles.
File: Louis Zamperini presents an award at the 2011 Golden Goggles at JW Marriott Los Angeles at L.A. LIVE on November 20, 2011 in Los Angeles.
Noel Vasquez/Getty Images for USA Swimming

Former Olympian and war hero Louis Zamperini will be 2015's grand marshal of the 126th Rose Parade.

The Torrance High and USC alum was on the 1936 U.S. Olympic team — where he met Adolf Hitler after a run — and was a POW in World War II. 

RELATED: Louis Zamperini's epic life story

Zamperini, who is 97, is the subject of Laura Hillenbrand's best-selling book, "Unbroken." It chronicles his life after being captured by the Japanese Navy after he and his crewmembers spent 47 days adrift on the ocean. He says the author wanted to interview his buddies for the book.
 
"All of my war buddies are dead. It's sad to realize that you've lost all your friends, but I tell ya, I made up for it. I made a new friend — Angelina Jolie," Zamperini said, laughing.
 
Jolie directed the movie of "Unbroken," being released this December. The Rose Parade will be held on Jan. 1, 2015.

“Growing up in Torrance, the parade route on Colorado Boulevard is one I have been familiar with my whole life," Zamperini said, according to a Rose Parade press release.

Tournament of Roses President Richard Chinen made the announcement during a Pasadena press conference Friday.

"From becoming a young sports hero in Southern California to surviving for 47 days on an inflatable raft in the Pacific Ocean and then persevering for more than two years held in captivity in Japan, Louis now lives as an enduring symbol of perseverance, heroism and forgiveness," Chinen said.

Zamperini — born in 1917 to Italian immigrants — is also known for documenting his story in the book "Devil at My Heels."

This story has been updated.