The One-Boy Insurgency
In the predawn darkness of August 26, 1929, in the back bedroom of a small house inTorrance, California, a twelve-year-old boy sat up in bed, listening. There was a sound coming from outside, growing ever louder. It was a huge, heavy rush, suggesting immensity, a great parting of air. It was coming from directly above the house. The boy swung his legs off his bed, raced down the stairs, slapped open the back door, and loped onto the grass. The yard was otherworldly, smothered in unnatural darkness, shivering with sound. The boy stood on the lawn beside his older brother, head thrown back, spellbound.
The sky had disappeared. An object that he could see only in silhouette, reaching across a massive arc of space, was suspended low in theair over the house. It was longer than two and a half football fields and as tall as a city. It was putting out the stars.
What he saw was the German dirigible Graf Zeppelin. At nearly 800 feet long and 110 feet high, it was the largest flying machine evercrafted. More luxurious than the finest airplane, gliding effortlessly over huge distances, built on a scale that left spectators gasping, it was, in the summer of '29, the wonder of the world.
The airship was three days from completing a sensational feat of aeronautics, circumnavigation of the globe. The journey had begun onAugust 7, when the Zeppelin had slipped its tethers in Lakehurst, New Jersey, lifted up with a long, slow sigh, and headed for Manhattan. On Fifth Avenue that summer, demolition was soon to begin on the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, clearing the way for a skyscraper of unprecedented proportions, the Empire State Building. At Yankee Stadium, in the Bronx, players were debuting numbered uniforms: Lou Gehrig wore No. 4; Babe Ruth, about to hit his five hundredth home run, wore No. 3. On Wall Street, stock prices were racing toward an all-time high.
After a slow glide around the Statue of Liberty, the Zeppelin banked north, then turned out over the Atlantic. In time, land came below again: France, Switzerland, Germany. The ship passed over Nuremberg, where fringe politician Adolf Hitler, whose Nazi Party had been trounced in the 1928 elections, had just delivered a speech touting selective infanticide. Then it flew east of Frankfurt, where a Jewish woman named Edith Frank was caring for her newborn, a girl named Anne. Sailing northeast, the Zeppelin crossed over Russia. Siberian villagers, so isolated that they'd never even seen a train, fell to their knees at the sight of it.
On August 19, as some four million Japanese waved handkerchiefs and shouted "Banzai!" the Zeppelin circled Tokyo and sank onto a landing field. Four days later, as the German and Japanese anthems played, the ship rose into the grasp of a typhoon that whisked it over the Pacific at breathtaking speed, toward America. Passengers gazing from the windows saw only the ship's shadow, following it along the clouds "like a huge shark swimming alongside." When the clouds parted, the passengers glimpsed giant creatures, turning in the sea, that looked like monsters.
On August 25, the Zeppelin reached San Francisco. After being cheered down the California coast, it slid through sunset, into darkness and silence, and across midnight. As slow as the drifting wind, it passed over Torrance, where its only audience was a scattering of drowsy souls, among them the boy in his pajamas behind the house on Gramercy Avenue.
Standing under the airship, his feet bare in the grass, he was transfixed. It was, he would say, "fearfully beautiful." He...
Author: Laura Hillenbrand
Laura Hillenbrand is the author of the #1 New York Times bestseller Seabiscuit: An American Legend, which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, won the Book Sense Book of the Year Award and the William Hill Sports Book of the Year award, landed on more than fifteen best-of-the-year lists, and inspired the film Seabiscuit, which was nominated for seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture. Hillenbrand's New Yorker article, "A Sudden Illness," won the 2004 National Magazine Award, and she is a two-time winner of the Eclipse Award, the highest journalistic honor in Thoroughbred racing. She and actor Gary Sinise are the co-founders of Operation International Children, a charity that provides school supplies to children through American troops. She lives in Washington, D.C.
"A master class in narrative storytelling...Extraordinarily moving...A powerfully drawn survival epic." - The Wall Street Journal
"Will you be able to put [Unbroken] down once you poke your nose into it? You will not. ... No one delivers a play-by-play better than Laura Hillenbrand... No other author of narrative nonfiction chooses her subjects with greater discrimination or renders them with more discipline and commitment. If storytelling were an Olympic event, she'd medal for sure..." - Laura Miller, Salon
"Unbroken is wonderful twice over, for the tale it tells and for the way it's told. A better book than Seabiscuit, it manages maximum velocity with no loss of subtlety. [Hillenbrand has] a jeweler's eye for a detail that makes a story live." - Newsweek
"Monumental... as mesmerizing as it is gut-wrenching. Hillenbrand's writing is so ferociously cinematic, the events she describes so incredible, you don't dare take your eyes off the page." - People
"Ambitious and powerful... Hillenbrand is intelligent and restrained, and wise enough to let the story unfold for itself. Her research is thorough, her writing crystalline. Unbroken is gripping in an almost cinematic way." - The New York Times Book Review
"A one-in-a-billion story... seems designed to wrench from self-respecting critics all the blurby adjectives we normally try to avoidL It is amazing, unforgettable, gripping, harrowing, chilling, and inspiring. It sucked me in and swept me away. It kept me reading late into the night. I could not...(it really hurts me to type this)...put it...(must find the strength to resist)... down." - New York Magazine
"A warning: after cracking open Unbroken you may find yourself dog tired the next day, having spent most of the night fending off sleep with coffee refills, eager to find out whether the story of Louis Zamperini, Olympic runner turned WWII POW, ends in redemption or despair..In Hillenbrand's [hands], it's nothing less than a marvel--a book worth losing sleep over." - The Washingtonian
"Zamperini's story is certainly one of the most remarkable survival tales ever recorded. What happened after that is equally remarkable. Do yourself...a favor and buy the book." - Graydon Carter, Vanity Fair
"A tale of triumph and redemption...a clear-eyed tale of yet another underestimated creature who tried hard, ran fast, and miraculously beat the odds. ... Astonishingly detailed.." - O magazine
"Another epic of long odds and unbreakable spirit... Zamperini's story is almost dangerously rich, full of pulpy overheated detail, but Hillenbrand cools and tempers it with precise prose and disciplined eye for facts that ground Zamperini's incredible odyssey in reality." - TIME
"An astonishing testament to the superhuman power of tenacity..." - Entertainment Weekly
"Intense...you better hold onto the reins." - The Boston Globe
"Riveting...so haunting and so beautifully written, those who fall under its spell will never again feel the same way about World War II and one of its previously unsung heroes." - Columbus Dispatch
"Incredible... Zamperini's life is one of courage, heroism, humility and unflagging endurance..." - St. Louis Post Dispatch
"Unbroken is too much book to hope for: a hell ride of a story in the grip of the one writer who can handle it. Killing sharks with his bare hands...outracing Olympic runners...outwitting one of the most notorious fiends to stalk Japan's POW camps -- when it comes to courage, humanity, and impossible adventure, few will ever match "the boy terror of Torrance," and few but the author of Seabicuit could tell his tale with such humanity and dexterity. Laura Hillenbrand has given us a new national treasure." - Christopher McDougall, author of Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Super Athletes, and the Greatest Ra
"Hillenbrand has once again brought to life the true story of a forgotten hero, and reminded us how lucky we are to have her, one of our best writers of narrative history. You don't have to be a sports fan or a war-history buff to devour this book--you just have to love great storytelling." - Rebecca Skloot, author of<