Essays on the Theme of Heroism

Louis. S. Zamperini

by Karen Balvaneda from San Diego, California in United States

133978Louis.S. Zamperini{{Information |Description ={{en|1=Cpt. Louis Zamperini, U.S. Army Air Forces}} |Source =[ Veteran Tributes] |Author =U.S. Army |Date =ca. 1945 |Permission = |other_v... “Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them,” said William Shakespeare. True heroism is achieved through hard work that builds upon what one naturally has. It is the perseverance a person has to achieve greatness. It is the way a person uses their achievements to positively impact our world. What specialty does heroism have that draws us to the typical model or actress? If one pauses to think about it, there has never been a moment, humans have not had an idol. According, “The Psychology Behind Superhero Origin stories,” one is attracted to heroes because of their similar struggles and background stories. Most see the idol’s struggle through the toughest times and it serves as an example of how to get through the situation or how to avoid getting into trouble. The source stated, “‘Perhaps we love stories,’ Markovitz suggested, ‘because they show the exact moment when a normal guy goes from being Just Like Us to being somehow better, faster, stronger’” (Rosenburg 1). People like to see that there is hope, even if one is average. Another study shows, that heroism, is great bravery or an act of justice. The article, explains the psychological reason for the why we are attracted to justice. The article states, “...the infants were presented with replicas of the intervening and non-intervening third figures, and they consistently preferred the one who saved the day” (Warner 3). As young as six months old, we were still able to identify what is morally correct. Since we can identify what is just, we are able to know if who we idolize is truly a hero. A true hero is one that perseveres and is selfless. This is crucial because one wants a hero who is unbiased no matter what obstacle comes between them. One looks for a hero who cannot be broken a hero who is selfless, and a hero who will give one’s life for others. That is the definition of a hero, not someone who helps once in a while or someone who gives up. This idea about heroism is frequently misused. Although there may be people who help out and do what is fair once in a while, this should not be considered heroism. It should be a responsibility to help others, even when no one is watching. A hero, not only helps when one can, but also goes out of one’s way to go help others. Louis S. Zamperini is the definition of a selfless hero that stands his ground no matter what. All in all, a real hero is someone who is selfless and who perseveres through anything.

Louie Zamperini represents the qualities of perseverance and selflessness by his willpower to overcome harsh obstacles and his altruistic intentions to help his friends, family, and the country before himself. Louis S. Zamperini was born in Olean, New York, on January 26, 1917. His parents were Italian immigrants Anthony and Louise Zamperini. Mr. Zamperini worked as a coal miner, boxer, and construction worker. When Zamperini was two years old, he caught pneumonia, causing the family to move to the warmer climates of Torrance, California. As a child, Zamperini was a troublemaker. He smoked at age five, drank at night when he was eight, and stole. Nearing his teens, he was short-tempered, a germophobe, and did not have much courage. Because Zamperini was bullied at school, his father taught him to box and fight. Zamperini then beat up anyone who crossed him. In 1931, when he was fourteen, he was caught stealing keys from the gym. Zamperini’s big brother Pete, heard that “the principal punished him by making him ineligible for athletic and social activities” (Hillenbrand 13), to which Louie responded with indifference. This still enraged Pete, who headed straight to the principal's office to fix things. Zamperini later joined track with his brother because of his weakness for girls. He trained daily and made All City Finals. He then participated in the 880-yard race, finishing in 5th place and clocking a 4:42 mile-time. Zamperini pushed himself harder and harder. Finishing eighth in the Olympics was an great accomplishment. He broke the record for the fastest last lap, clocking it in 56 seconds. His dedication during his last lap is astonishing. Zamperini pushed the limits everyday and dreamed of beating the four minute-mile. But the war had just started. Zamperini was going to enlist. On August 19, 1916, he made his way to the base, leaving his family in tears and fear. He later faced the cruelties of war, making him obtain certain traits to keep him going. Among these were selflessness and perseverance. A hero must possess perseverance and selflessness because he or she must never be selfish or weak. Louis S. Zamperini, a track Olympian, is a hero not only because of his enlistment in the war, but also for his perseverance and selflessness throughout his journey where he saved many lives. He never let himself be weighed down by hardships and always put his friends, family, and the country before his needs. 

133979(Third-Louie Zamperini) finishing his 5000 meter race at the 1936 Randall's Island Olympics TrialDeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University file: ag1982_0234_1469_race_sm_opt.jpg Zamperini is a hero because of his benevolence and tenacity throughout World War II. Louie Zamperini showed perseverance through his hard work to make the Olympics and his persistence when facing the harsh conditions and beatings in the POW camps. During the 1936 Berlin Olympics, Zamperini found himself falling behind the others. With his brother words of encouragement in his mind, he pushes himself to the finish line: “Nearing the finish line for the penultimate time, Louie fixed his eyes on the gleaming head of the competitor, who was many runners ahead. He began a dramatic acceleration. Around the turn and down the backstretch, Louie kicked his legs reaching and pushing, his cleats biting the track, his speed dazzling” (Hillenbrand 35). Zamperini’s diligence and willpower shows heroism because he is focused on finishing the race strong. He uses all of his strength to push beyond his body’s limits to finish the race. His brother, Pete, had told him, a moment of pain is worth a lifetime of glory. Zamperini used his brother’s words as an encouragement to fiercely finish. His determination during this race helped him build a strong mindset that he later uses throughout the war. Zamperini’s steadfastness in this race shows him he is capable of anything if he sets his mind to it. Throughout the war he endures severe beatings and harsh living conditions when kept in the Japanese prisoner of war (POW) camps. Zamperini used his perseverance from this race to encourage him to fight when facing tough situations. After enlisting in the war, Zamperini crashes in the Green Hornet. Zamperini and Phillip were captured by the Japanese after living on a raft for 47 days. McNamara only survived until the 33rd day on the raft. At the Japanese camps, Zamperini would face Sueharu Kitamura, also known as the The Bird, one of the most feared guards in Japan. After being struck by The Bird weeks before, leaving his left ear deaf, Zamperini faced beatings once again: “The Bird continued to beat him, every day. As his attacker struck him, Louie bore it with clenched fists and eyes blazing...” (Hillenbrand 258). Zamperini shows perseverance because he continues to endure these beatings without letting the Bird destroy his dignity and self-worth. He bore the beatings with a stubborn mindset to show he is strong and does not give in to beatings. Zamperini was The Bird’s obsession. His perseverance at the POW camps when beat by one of the most vicious, bipolar, and strict guards, taught him that he could overcome any barrier that came his way. He never let the beatings, hunger, and endless thirst, break him. He clung onto the thought he would come home and see his family. Zamperini’s perseverance at the race encouraged him to get through the severe beating in the POW camps, in order to push his way through until the war was over.

133980Louie Zamperini served in the war and attacked Nauru IslandNauru Island under attack by Liberator bombers of the Seventh Air Force. Image appears in ''[ United States Army in World War II - The War in the Pacific - Seizure of the Gilberts and Marshalls]'' by PhiSelflessness can be seen when Zamperini chose to put everyone’s needs at the Japanese camps and at home before his own. After the Green Hornet crashed in the ocean, when they were on a rescue mission, Louie took charge because Phillip and Mac were injured: “With the inventory taken and rules established, there was nothing left to do but wait. Louie was in pain… When the plane had hit the water and he’d been thrown into the gun mount, all of his ribs had broken” (Hillenbrand 135). Louie’s selflessness is portrayed in this quote because Louie tended to the raft, and aided others injuries, before even thinking about what injuries he might have. Louie is selfless because he doesn’t think about himself first. He proved himself a hero by setting his needs to a side and treating others first.  Louie’s selflessness made him a compassionate hero. He shows strength and compassion when constantly helping his friends and tending to their injuries. He uses this selflessness frequently throughout the rest of his journey always putting his friends, family, and the country before himself. Louie even gives water to his friend which is a big sacrifice because as a prisoner he was only given about three or four sips of water a day. Through countless acts of selflessness he has proven he is a true hero. When interrogated by the Japanese, Louie portrayed selflessness. He was asked about America’s planes, ships, military, and strategies. He was pressured with a whole table full of food and goodies which he could eat if only he gave them the crucial information they needed. Louie decided to help his country by giving false information, “As they celebrated, they had no idea that the “bases” that Louie had identified were the fake airfields he had seen when tooling around Hawaii with Phil. If the Japanese bombed there, the only planes they would hit would be made of plywood” (Hillenbrand 194). Louie shows selflessness because he is risking the possibility of receiving severe beatings in order to protect his country with honor. His strength encourages him to never give in no matter what the reward would be. Louie shows honor and selflessness because if the Japanese found out the information given was false they would beat him up or kill him. Thankfully, the Japanese had shipped him off to another camp before he could receive that beating. It is also known the Japanese chose to not kill him because he could be propaganda material since he was a track Olympian. Louie would once again refuse to speak the truth in countless interrogations showing true honor and selflessness. Louie’s humanity shows what a true hero, he is because he places his friends, family, and the country before his needs and desires.

133981B-24 Liberator Louie Zamperini flewUnited States Army Air Forces Consolidated B-24D Liberator over Maxwell Field, Alabama. Louis Zamperini, a track Olympian, is a hero, not only because he served in the war, but because of how he honored his country and family while showing perseverance and selflessness throughout the toughest times. Louie was unbreakable because of his constant willpower to do what is fair. His perseverance when he was young consisted of trying to finish the Olympics race and his persistence in trying to make people in his town see he changed from the kid who used to steal to a man who wins trophies.. Receiving the acknowledgement of Hitler, Zamperini realized the outcome of his hard work. This realization helped him build confidence in his abilities. Zamperini’s selflessness throughout the war was another act of heroism. One of the most selfless things Zamperini did was share his water with Mac, who he knew was going to die that night: “Louie was sympathetic to Phil, but he couldn’t bring himself to refuse Mac. He gave him a small sip of his own water” (Hillenbrand 171). Zamperini is compassionate for others on the raft, stranded for 47 days, water was essential and sacred, yet he still gave it to Mac. Countless times, he has committed acts like these which prove he is a true leader. Through Zamperini’s life, I learned the cruelties of life and how to stay strong through the toughest times. He has taught me to be grateful for the things I have and to know that it can all be taken away. I was personally impacted by Zamperini’s life because he served as a reminder that with unbearable living conditions and countless beatings one is still able to show perseverance and selflessness. Therefore showing there is no excuse not to be heroic. There are still some who argue he is not a hero because his traits where only seen because he had been captured. But because Zamperini had “greatness thrust upon him” as Shakespeare once said it caused him to uncover his true self and persistent qualities. During the races Zamperini could have succumb to the pain, but instead he chose to run and push himself. Not a lot of people can deal with hardships thrust upon them, however Zamperini shows us it is possible through his experience in the war. Zamperini illustrates the two main qualities of a hero, selflessness and perseverance by the way he handles this greatness is why he is befitting the name of a true hero.  

Works Cited


Baker, John F. “Hillenbrand to Tell Hero’s Tale.” Publishers Weekly, vol. 251, no. 33, Aug. 2004, p. 14.EBSCOhost,


Warner, Claire. “Why we love superheroes according to psychology.” Bustle, April 6. 2017.


Hillenbrand, Laura. Unbroken: a World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption. Ballantine Books, 2018.


Johnson, Brett. “Louis Zamperini Lives to Talk about Horrific Plane Crash, 47 Days Lost at Sea and POW Camp.” Ventura County Star (CA), 14 Apr. 2013. EBSCOhost,


Rosenberg, Robin. “The Psychology Behind Superhero Origin Stories.” Smithsonian

                      Magazine, February, 2013.

Page created on 5/18/2019 5:46:10 PM

Last edited 5/22/2019 12:06:31 AM

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Related Links

The Louie Zamperini Foundation - This is a learning experience for young adults to obtain the traits Louie Zamperini possessed that made him a hero. This organization includes the curriculum, books, and day camps that reform kids on a path to redemption.
Curriculum Who We Are- Louis Zamperini - This curriculum spreads the word about Louie's accomplishments and encourages students to possess the same traits to lead a better life.
Former Olympian Fundraises for Boys and Girls clubs - This is an organization that raises money for summer programs and summer camp scholarships.
The Louie Zamperini Foundation and Royal Family KIDS alliance - This helps share life lessons in unique ways to help inspire kids and help them find their personal freedoms.