Hero, Olympian and Film Inspiration Zamperini Dies

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Louis Zamperini, an Olympic distance runner and former World War II prisoner of war, has died at 97.

His family issued a statement saying he had been suffering from pneumonia.

"After a 40-day long battle for his life, he peacefully passed away in the presence of his entire family, leaving behind a legacy that has touched so many lives," the family said. "His indomitable courage and fighting spirit were never more apparent than in these last days."

During World War II, Zamperini and one other soldier survived 47 days on a raft in the Pacific after their U.S. Army Air Forces bomber crashed during a reconnaissance mission.

When "help" came it was actually from America's enemies, the Japanese. Zamperini then endured more than two years as a prisoner of war, suffering torture in Japanese camps.

Watch Zamperini tell CBN his harrowing account of his time as a POW below:

Zamperini is the inspiration for the best-selling book, Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption, by Laura Hillenbrand.

Universal Studios is making Unbroken into a movie, directed by Angelina Jolie. It is set to be released in December.

Watch a preview of the film below:

"It is a loss impossible to describe. We are all so grateful for how enriched our lives are for having known him. We will miss him terribly," Jolie said in a statement.

Before serving in the war, Zamperini competed in the 5,000-meter run at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. He finished eighth but still caught attention by running the final lap in 56 seconds.

"Having overcome insurmountable odds at every turn in his life, Olympic runner and World War II hero Louis Zamperini has never broken down from a challenge," the family said.

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