The book, "Unbroken" by Laura Hillenbrand, is the true story of a man faced with unimaginable tests of survival, will and inner strength. A story so extraordinary it seems to surpass reality, yet as hard as it is to believe, the tale is real.
It was the spring of 1943 and world was at war. The young athletic Lieutenant, Louis Zamperini, joined his crew on an Army Air Force bomber off the Pacific coast but the airmen never returned to their base. They disappeared into the ocean, leaving only debris, gasoline and blood.
Weeks, months and years of unthinkable struggle for survival on a life raft and ultimately, as a prisoner of war, play out on the pages of the book as Louis is faced with disease, torture and near death. Yet his faith in life and spirit is never broken. This extraordinary man faced struggles most of us could never bare, yet he survived with gripping force.
As I read the story of Louis Zamperini I sometimes found myself personalizing his story, thinking of my own father and his days on the Army Air Force base in Chauboy, India. Though my father never faced the struggles of Louis, I felt myself drift into the scenes, bringing a sense of reality and understanding of the circumstances my father endured.
You see, we are the generation of descendents of World War 2 veterans that are left floating in wonder. My father, like many others, never discussed his experiences of the war. They were men of steal, locking away their memories of wartime and like my father, their memories imprisoned them until death. Louis Zamperini's story gave me an answer to a question I have asked all my life: "What was the war like, dad?"
If your father or grandfather fought in World War 2, you have most likely asked that same question but like many of us, your question has never been answered. And so you search, looking for remnants of anything that will connect a piece to your endless puzzle.
You do not have to be a member of a fee-based website to locate information on your father or grandfather's World War 2 enlistment records. The National Archives has made all WW2 Draft Records available for free on-line. Records of Prisoners of War; Duty locations for Naval Intelligence Personnel and Prisoners of the Japanese Data Files are also downloadable--easily searchable by your ancestor's name.
For many of us, we will never gain the complete narrative of our father's wartime experience but as family historians we can use our research skills to dig through their records in hopes of weaving together their tale.
So we don't have to float in wonder of our father's story.
Keep searching for answers,