A Man at Peace


Louis Zamperini
Carly Danek, via Flickr

Liz Waid and Joshua Leo look at the life of Louis Zamperini. He has been many different things in his life: a star runner, a soldier and a prisoner. But finally, he became a man at peace with himself, and the world.

Watch Video


Transcript


Voice 1

Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Liz Waid.

Voice 2

And I’m Joshua Leo. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.

Voice 1

A small group of people sit together. They are sharing a meal in a restaurant, a public eating place. The men have not seen each other in several years. When their food arrives, it includes a small serving of rice. Without warning, one of the men shouts in anger. Why would a small serving of rice make someone so angry?

Voice 2

One of the men at the table was Louis Zamperini. Louis has been many different things in his life: a star runner, a soldier, a prisoner. He experienced many terrible things. These experiences almost destroyed his life. But now, Louis Zamperini shares an unexpected story. A story of hope and forgiveness. Today’s Spotlight is on the life of Louis Zamperini.

Voice 1

In 1943, the United States and Japan were at war. Louis was a soldier in the United States Air Force. But in the month of May, his airplane crashed into the Pacific Ocean. Only three men survived. The men had a small boat, but they did not have food or water. They hoped for rescue. But no-one came for them.

Voice 2

The men floated for 47 days on the ocean. They drank rain water and they caught a few fish and birds to eat. They faced many dangers. They fought sharks. Enemy airplanes shot at them. The United States military told their families they were dead. Finally, one man did die.

Voice 1

They floated more than 3000 kilometres. Finally, Louis and the other man were found. But the men who found them were Japanese soldiers. Louis and the other man were now prisoners.

Voice 2

Both men were very weak. Each had lost half of their body weight. They could not stand without help. They were given some food and put in a hospital for two days. After that, the Japanese military sent them to a prison camp for captured soldiers.

Voice 1

For the next two years, Louis stayed in the prison camp. The conditions were terrible. He had very little food to eat - usually just one small serving of rice each day. It was the memory of these meals that made the men angry many years later.

Voice 2

The guards forced him to work hard. And they beat him often. One guard took a special interest in Louis. The prisoners called this man “The Bird.” The Bird hurt many people, and he hurt Louis most of all. Every day for one year, the Bird tortured Louis. He beat Louis with a long belt from around his waist. He hit Louis with his hands, and with hard wooden sticks.

Voice 1

Why did the Bird choose Louis for these beatings? No one knows for sure. But it may be because of who Louis was. Before World War Two, Louis had been a star sports player. As a runner, he had set records. And he competed in the 1936 Olympic Games. The Bird knew about this success. It may have made him feel important to beat someone who had been great.

Voice 2

The war finally ended in 1945. Like thousands of other soldiers, Louis returned to his family in the United States.

Voice 1

But things did not go well for Louis at home. He continued to suffer. He had left the prison camp. But he could not forget his experiences. These bad times were always with him. He could not sleep at night. In his dreams, The Bird would visit him and beat him again.

Voice 2

Three years after the war had ended, Louis was not at peace. He felt lost. He was often angry. He dealt with this by drinking alcohol. But it did not help. He got into fights. He only wanted one thing. He wanted to return to Japan. He wanted to find The Bird and murder him.

Voice 1

During this time, Louis met a woman named Cynthia. They got married. But Louis’ problems continued. Some nights when he was fighting The Bird in his dreams, he would attack his wife instead. Finally, Cynthia decided to divorce Louis.

Voice 2

Then, in 1949, Cynthia went to an event that would change their lives. She went to hear a Christian minister named Billy Graham. He was speaking in large meetings to many people. Graham’s message was simple. He talked about Jesus Christ. He said that Jesus Christ offered peace and forgiveness to all people. He said that following Jesus changed people’s lives. As a result of his message, Cynthia decided not to divorce Louis. She had changed. She believed that Louis could change too. The next day, she asked Louis to go and hear Billy Graham’s message.

Voice 1

Louis agreed. But the message made Louis uncomfortable. He left in the middle of the meeting. His bad dreams, drinking and fighting continued. But Cynthia did not stop. She asked him to go hear the message again.

Voice 2

This second meeting changed Louis’ life. He became a follower of Jesus Christ. That night, for the first time since the war ended, Louis did not dream about The Bird. Through Jesus Christ, peace finally came to Louis. This peace continued for the rest of his life. Louis became a Christian speaker. He shared his story with other people. He even travelled to Japan. Earlier, he wanted to hurt the guards who had hurt him. But now, he had a different message. He forgave his former guards. He had new love for his former enemies.

Voice 1

In 1998, the Olympic Games were in Japan. At the beginning of every Olympic Games, there is a special ceremony. It involves the Olympic torch. The torch holds a fire. It travels around the world, from Greece. People from many countries carry it for short distances, all the way to the Games.

Voice 2

That year, Louis carried the torch in Japan. He carried it past the place where he had been a prisoner. Crowds of Japanese people cheered for him - people who knew his story, and his experiences. Louis felt great joy and great love. He was a man at peace. He told the news organization CBS,

Voice 3

“I think back to 1945, when we left the prison camp. It was such a horrible place in our minds. I could not look back. But when I leave here today, I will look back. And I will never forget.”

Voice 1

The writer of today’s program was Jeff Munroe. The producer was Michio Ozaki. The voices you heard were from the United Kingdom and the United States. All quotes were adapted for this program and voiced by Spotlight. You can find our programs on the internet at www.radioenglish.net. This program is called “A Man at Peace.”

Voice 2

We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. Goodbye.

(Get our app for Android or for Apple devices. Let us know how you like it and write a review!)

Question:

Has it ever seemed like only bad things happen to you? What do you do during those times?

Comments


Avatar Spotlight
Dina
said on September 05, 2011

Thanks for this story. It’s grate that we have a chance to return in peace by jesus’s help. I can understand Louise. I was unhappy and had to take care for my two little sons 17 years ago. It was very hard and I was along. But, when Jesus come every things were changed. And Jesus said I never will along. this is just heavenly miracle for us.
In His love, Dina.

Avatar Spotlight
egirl1989
said on September 11, 2011

My father was injured as a valiant soldier fighting in the Vietnam-America war so indeed the story is completely understandable with our family though the situation is not exactly the same. I mean the war surely results in a lots terrible impacts but people directly relating to it may overcome all and even reach surprisingly success in life because their will is extraordinary.

Avatar Spotlight
Narath
said on October 01, 2011

Mr. Louis is able to stay at Peace because of his wife , Cynthia and Christian minister, Billy Graham . He had a great opportunity to meet both people . If he didn’t meet them he would stay in suffering and in a bad dream forever. And the most important point he is the only one person who is able to help himself at the first step. Thank you so much Spotlight I learn many things from this program .

Avatar Spotlight
chooti
said on October 01, 2012

I like learn English.I like join your conversation.Can you join me.how do i join it?

Avatar Spotlight
Luckyman...
said on October 05, 2012

Me too. I really hate he war. Many people was dead by the war. Thousand of buildings and trees was destroyed.

Avatar Spotlight
Dela
said on October 19, 2012

I think forgiveness is necessary in our lives and God will help us forgive even our enemies. Thanks for very interesting story!

Avatar Spotlight
QuangTrang
said on January 14, 2014

Great, the forgiveness helped Luois better that mean it will be help us the same him if we do as him. Thanks for the story.

Avatar Spotlight
kenhieuloilam
said on January 16, 2014

Each of us was born and grows up. We live our lives. We age. We die away everyday. The life has difficulties, challenges and sufferings. We live our faith lives. Our lives are passing to go to new lives. That is our great hope. Difficulties, challenges and sufferings make us die away. Not good things make us die away. We struggle with difficulties. We struggle with not good things. We are willing to die away in the life everyday. If we live we will live our lives for beautiful good things.

Avatar Spotlight
Dela
said on January 17, 2014

Louis really deserved to be a man carrying the Olympic torch. The big satisfaction and reconciliation were given to Louis after the horrible experiences in the past. Jesus Christ helped him find peace, love and feeling of forgiveness too.
Greetings

Avatar Spotlight
timetobealive
said on January 17, 2014

At life a lot of suffering and pain come to us it’s very hard to try to overcome bad times, but if you trust you or something else, you can get better than before and you’ll see life like never before.

Avatar Spotlight
kieuoanh.oala
said on January 19, 2014

this is a really touching story. It made me remember the soldiers who sacrificed their lives for the country. my uncle is a martyr, I’m always proud of him
I hope everyone all over the world can forget pair of war in order to have a happy life

Avatar Spotlight
Honneur
said on September 21, 2019

I am a man who sees only for the future. The past I put in his place: the past. Behaving so, I have no troubles with peoples wich whom I had bad experiences in my life. But there is another fact to talk about: I never forgive anyone. This word do not integrate my vocabulary.