WWII veteran, Olympian to be at restaurant book signing

Louis Zamperini — a former Olympian and World War II aviator who fought for survival on the open waters of the Pacific and in a Japanese POW camp — is the subject of a new book and will be signing copies Thursday night in Newport Beach.

Zamperini, 94, will appear at the Cannery Restaurant's upstairs room from 6 to 8 p.m. to sign "Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption" by Laura Hillenbrand.

The author is well-known for her previous book, "Seabiscuit: An American Legend," which was adapted for the silver screen.

"He is the most amazing human being I have ever met," Cannery owner Ron Salisbury said of his longtime friend, Zamperini. "The things he has accomplished and his life approach is just incredible."

Salisbury, 78, of Newport Beach, has known Zamperini since the older man babysat for him in Los Angeles, when Salisbury was 4 years old and Zamperini was a student and track star at USC.

Salisbury also owns the El Cholo Mexican food restaurant chain, which he inherited from his parents. While at USC, Zamperini regularly ate at the El Cholo, where he befriended Salisbury's folks.

"It just makes me feel really good to share this with him," Salisbury said, referring to the release of Hillenbrand's book.

It tells the story of how Lt. Zamperini endured his wartime hell in the Pacific and in a POW camp following a successful track career in the 1930s at USC, where he broke records. Zamperini also competed in the 1936 Berlin Olympics as a member of the U.S. team.

The new book follows Zamperini as a bombardier on a plane that crashed into the Pacific Ocean in May 1943. He spent 47 days on the open waters, fending off sharks, dehydration and enemy gunfire before being rescued by the Japanese Navy, Salisbury said.

On Feb. 17, Zamperini also signed copies of the book at El Cholo. Salisbury said that Zamperini signed each of the 300 copies placed in front of him for his signature.

"That's just how he treats people," Salisbury said. "He's a role model to everyone. He's lived such a strong and good long life."

The Cannery is at 3010 Lafayette Road, Newport Beach.

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