War hero and Olympian Louis Zamperini named Rose Parade grand marshal

Louis Zamperini
Louis Zamperini, shown next to some of the Olympic torches he helped carry in past Games, has been named grand marshal of the 2015 Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

Louis Zamperini, an Olympic athlete who went on to become a World War II hero and inspire a bestselling novel, has been named grand marshal of the 2015 Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena.

The 97-year-old war veteran’s life demonstrates “the strength of human spirit,” perfectly representing the parade’s “Inspiring Stories” theme, said Tournament of Roses President Richard Chinen.

“He is the very definition of an inspiring story,” Chinen said.



Louis Zamperini: An article in the May 12 LATExtra section about the selection of World War II hero Louis Zamperini as 2015 Rose Parade grand marshal said his experiences had inspired a bestselling novel. “Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption” is nonfiction. —


A standout track-and-field star at USC, Zamperini competed in the 1936 Summer 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 before 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. A book about his experiences, “Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption,” was a bestseller. A film adaptation directed by Angelina Jolie is scheduled to be released later this year.

In a statement, Zamperini said it was “such an honor” to be named grand marshal.

“Growing up in Torrance, the parade route on Colorado Boulevard is one I have been familiar with my whole life,” he said. “I look forward to sharing the experience with my family and all the fans of the Rose Parade who will be watching.”

Legendary Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully was grand marshal for this year’s parade, which follows a more than five-mile route down Colorado Boulevard.

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