Louie was born into a family of six counting himself, one brother, two sisters, and his father and mother. His brother Pete was everything the boys wanted to be – he was smart, handsome, athletic and had the manners of an adult. Not only that but he had a silver tongue. He could talk almost anyone in or out of things and was smooth with the girls. He was everything Louie was not. Louie was scrawny, ill-tempered and stubborn, but he was clever sneaky and fast. When I say fast, I mean really fast. He would run around town getting his hand on anything he could eat or steal just for the fun of it. For example when Louie was two he got sick with pneumonia, he climbed out of his bedroom window and went on a naked dash around town with a policeman chasing him and a crowd watching in amazement. Some time later, when Louie and his family were moving to California, Louie hopped off the train and ran off. His family was looking for him for about a half an hour when they found him casually walking around like nothing happened, then, he ran up hugged his mother and said, “I knew you would come back!” Louie eventually ended up as an Olympic runner.
When Louie entered high school he joined track, and for the next six years he broke record after record until he qualified for the 1936 Olympics. After nearly breaking the world record, Louie continued to train for the next Olympics, but World War II started and the Olympics, to Louie’s dismay, were canceled. Louie was forced to join in the war. He decided to join the Air Force after his standard training. Louie and his squad were assigned to a B-27 bomber, known by some as ‘The Flying Coffin’. After around four years with the B-27 bomber, Louie was sent on a mission to Makin and Tarwa island. Louie and his crew were flying 2500 miles over the island to give them the element of surprise. Louie launched his first few bombs when the plane started shaking – the anti aircraft guns were already starting to fire on them. Louie launched the last of his bombs and they started to fly back to Canton Island when a piece of flak nearly hit Louie in the face. With low fuel, a broken tail fin and a shaken crew they reached the island with their bomber looking like swiss cheese. By the end of the day, it is said they counted 596 holes.
Louie was issued a bomber nickname ‘the green hornet’. Instead of taking a break after a bombing mission, his crew went to look for a crashed plane. After they reached the search area, both of their left engines failed and the co-pilot shouted, “brace for impact!”. Louie and two others, Phil and Mac, survived the crash. Louie and Phil survived on a raft for 47 days but Mac died on the 33rd day. On the 47th day, Louie and Phil were found by the Japanese and were taken captive there for two years.
If you want to dig deeper into Louie’s life as a prisoner of war, read the book UNBROKEN. It is an awesome book and will explain everything in full detail about his time on the raft and his life as a P.O.W. There is so much to his story and too much about it to explain here. Louie’s life and many others were horrible during the war. Louie did get home and was married but experienced PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) in his normal day and in his nightmares. Louie eventually turned to his Christian faith and his nightmares went away. He lived the rest of his life in peace. In 1988 Louie carried ran the olympic torch near the site of one of the most infamous Japanese prisoner of war camps.