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War hero and NIASHF Inductee passes away

CHICAGO, IL (July 3, 2014) – Louis Silvie Zamperini, a member of the 1936 Olympic track team, National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame inductee, and most notably a Japanese prisoner of war survivor, has died . He was 97 years old. The NIASHF sends its deepest condolences to the Zamperini family, and mourns the loss of a hero that embodied the virtues of family, friends, faith and community.

A prolific runner, Zamperini ran track at the University of Southern California where he set the collegiate record for the fastest mile time of 4:08 in 1938.  In the 1936 Olympic qualifiers, Zamperini tied with American record holder Don Lash and qualified for the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, Germany. With his qualification, he became the youngest American to qualify for that event at the age of 19. Although Zamperini finished last in the 5,000-meter event, his 56-second last lap caught the eye of Adolf Hitler who requested a personal meeting following his finish.

After his collegiate career, however, Zamperini retired from competition and enlisted in the United States Air Force in 1941. While Zamperini was on a reconnaissance mission in 1943, his aircraft crashed with him and his crew on board in Japanese controlled waters. After 47 days adrift at sea, Zamperini made it to shore and was immediately captured by Japanese forces. For two years, Zamperini and one other surviving crewmember were held as prisoners of war until the war ended in 1945.

Celebrated as a war hero, Zamperini was honored in 1998 as he was allowed to carry the Olympic torch as part of the torch relay in the opening ceremonies. In 2013, it was announced that a movie would be made about Zamperini’s life, entitled “Unbroken,” which recollects his struggles as a prisoner of war in World War II. The movie is directed by Hollywood star Angelina Jolie, and is set to premiere on December 25, 2014. He was inducted into the NIASHF in 2008, and was set to be the Grand Marshal of the Rose Parade in January of 2015.


The National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame is a 501(c) (3) non-profit organization dedicated to preserving honorable values through sport.  Founded in 1977 by George Randazzo, the Hall of Fame has 238 inductees. The organization was founded on the values of Family, Friends, Faith, and Community and has been committed to providing support to students and youth of all backgrounds through its charitable programs, Second Wind and A Level Playing Field. The National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame is located in Chicago’s famed Little Italy neighborhood, at 1431 W. Taylor Street, Chicago, IL 60607.  For more information on the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame, please visit



Chris Kwiecinski –, (312) 226-5566