Revisiting Louis Zamperini and Unbroken

(We first posted this three years ago, but sadly Louis Zamperini passed away last week so I thought it’d be a good time to check this out again. Enjoy.)

Last year, Laura Hillenbrand released a book titled “Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption“, based on the life of Louis Zamperini (details on Amazon). The book has been very popular, quickly becoming a best-seller and recently being picked up by Universal Studios to be turned into a movie.

The life of Zamperini is amazing, and the book is excellent. Zamperini, a world-class runner that competed in the Berlin Olympics in 1936, is drafted into World War II. He fights a number of missions before his plane goes down and he’s trapped in a raft at sea. After 46 days at sea, he floats into the Japanese-controlled Marshall Islands, and he’s placed in various POW camps for the next few years.

In reading the book about his journey, I realized that it would pretty cool to track down his various missions and POW camps in Google Earth. I was right! However, I was unable to find a decent timeline of his life, so I spent a few hours researching it and created one myself. After that, I did more research to find all of those locations in Google Earth and ended up with a pretty cool file.


The file includes locations from his early days (homes, school), the various places he went for military training, the Pacific missions he completed, the POW camps he was placed in, and the various stops on his journey home. You can download the KMZ file here to try it for yourself.

I had hoped that historical imagery might come into play with this, but the old imagery in the Pacific and Japan doesn’t go back nearly far enough (as opposed to Europe, where many locations have historical imagery dating back to the mid-1940’s). However, one good example was Hamilton Field, where he stopped over on his way to Hawaii. The present-day imagery no longer shows a runway, but if you switch to the 1993 imagery you can clearly see the runway still there.


All of that being said, I’m sure the file isn’t perfect. If you make any corrections to it, please email me the updated version ( and I’ll update this post.

So, have you read the book? What did you think of it?

About Mickey Mellen

Mickey has been using Google Earth since it was released in 2005, and has created a variety of geo-related sites including Google Earth Hacks. He runs a web design firm in Marietta, GA, where he lives with his wife and two kids.


  1. says:

    Wonderful. Loved the book, thanks for putting this together.

  2. A reason I liked this book is because it had many themes that were both inspiring and negative. It also taught many lessons. This book showed us that nothing is impossible as long as you have dignity, are determined, and have friends and family that you can rely on. The subjects that are still problems today include alcoholism, language barriers, and war. We learned that alcoholism can lead to broken families and that the inability to communicate between races can lead to anger and frustration. We learned that war is ugly and that it is a psychological battle that can ruin lives. This book widened my view about the world, helped me realize the patience we have for one another, and aided me to understand what it means to be human. I learned many important lessons from this book.

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