Zamperini, whose harrowing life story inspired the bestselling novel “Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption,” grew up in Torrance and was set to lead the iconic parade down Pasadena’s Colorado Boulevard Jan. 1. He died Wednesday.
A standout track-and-field star at USC, Zamperini competed in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, where he was the top U.S. finisher in the 5,000-meter race.
He retired from running during World War II and joined the U.S. armed forces. While serving as a bombardier on a reconnaissance mission, his aircraft crashed into the Pacific Ocean. He survived 47 days on an inflatable raft in shark-infested waters until being captured by the Japanese.
Zamperini remained in captivity for two years, during which time he was tortured, and was eventually listed as being killed in action by the U.S. government.
The airfield in Torrance is named for him.