Cissy Zamperini is one of the most unforgettable athletes of all time. Not just because of her accomplishments on the track and field but also because she has overcome so much adversity in life. Born to Italian immigrant parents, Zamperini grew up in a problematic home. He was forced to leave school early to help support his family, and he was bullied throughout his childhood. But despite all this, Zamperini never gave up on his dream of becoming an Olympic runner. In 1936, at 16, he became the youngest to win a gold medal in the marathon.
Zamperini competed in the Olympics four more times and won two more gold awards. But his accomplishments didn’t stop there. After WWII, Zamperini became a celebrity and embarked on a successful career as an actor and writer. Today, Zamperini is still very active; he recently published his autobiography and is working on a new book about his life story. Whether you know him from the Olympics or his books and movies, there’s no doubt that Cissy Zamperini is an impressive figure who has inspired many over the years. Read on to learn more about this.
Cissy Zamperini was known as an Olympic runner and war hero, but her childhood was largely unmemorable. Born to an Italian immigrant family in 1922, she spent most of her early years moving around the country with her family. When she was nine, they finally settled in Torrance, California. Cissy quickly became a star athlete at local schools, excelling in track and field and soccer. In 1937, she won a gold medal at the Youth Olympics in Berlin.
At the outbreak of World War II, Zamperini joined the U.S. Army Air Corps. After training as a pilot, she was sent to fly bombing missions over Italy. On July 17, 1943, Zamperini’s plane was shot down by German fighter planes over Italy. For 47 days, he survived on wild food and water while being tortured by the Germans before being captured and taken to a prisoner-of-war camp in Germany.
After his release from a prison camp in 1945, Zamperini returned home to find that his mother had died during the war years. He then began a long road to recovery, eventually leading him back to competitive sports and Olympic glory. Zamperini competed in the 1948 Olympics running the marathon and finishing 6th place. He also appeared in several films, including “The Great Race” (1965) and “Unforgiven” (1992). His autobiography “Inferno” (2005) is one of the best-selling books ever written about war captivity
The Race To Escape Pearl Harbor
On December 7, 1941, the USS Arizona was torpedoed and sunk by a Japanese submarine off the coast of Pearl Harbor. Of the 1,177 men on board, 429 perished in one of America’s greatest tragedies.
For 19-year-old Cissy Zamperini, life changed that day. She and her crewmates had been training for months for what they thought would be another routine deployment to defend American soil. Zamperini and her fellow sailors were trapped below decks as water flooded into the ship when the attack began. For nearly two weeks, they remained there without food or fresh water as enemy planes flew overhead, dropping bombs.
Eventually, Zamperini and her comrades were rescued by a U.S. naval vessel. Though she had lost 16 pounds and was covered in cuts and bruises, Zamperini was determined to return to fight. She enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Forces and completed over 200 bombing missions over Europe before being captured by the Germans in 1945.
Zamperini was held at various concentration camps until Russian forces liberated him in May 1945. After spending more than two years as a POW, Zamperini returned home to find his family had moved away while he was away fighting Germany. He eventually found work as a truck driver, but his life spiraled out of control after he suffered from alcoholism and depression. In 1982, at age 52, Zamperini committed suicide after enduring several strokes that left him paralyzed from the waist down.
Zamperini’s Time as a Prisoner of War
When World War II broke out, Cissy Zamperini was just a teenager. She and her brother Angelo were training to become runners, but instead, they found themselves pulled into the conflict.
Zamperini spent the remainder of the war in various POW camps across Europe. Russian troops liberated him on May 5, 1945. He returned home to find that his family had moved to California.
After the war, Zamperini became a successful runner and author. He competed in the Olympics twice – once as part of the American team and once as part of an Italian team – but he never won a medal.
Zamperini’s Return Home
At the ripe age of 97, former Olympian and World War II POW Cissy Zamperini have returned home to his family in Southern California. Zamperini’s improbable journey from near-starvation to international fame began on a bitterly cold day in 1943 when Japanese soldiers captured him after running away from his unit.
Zamperini went back into athletics but found it difficult to compete against his former comrades, who had achieved great success while imprisoned. In 1952, he completed the second fastest time ever for the race from Los Angeles to Tokyo. His story became an international sensation, culminating with an appearance on ABC’s Wide World of Sports, where he recounted his experiences during the war. The report also inspired author Laura Hillenbrand to write her best-selling book Unbroken, which tells Zamperini’s remarkable story from beginning to end.
Now a permanent resident of Southern California, Zamperini has kept himself busy recently by traveling around the country and speaking about his experiences during World War II and post-war life. He is also working on a biography about his father, who also served in World War II and died while trying to return home after the war.
Becoming an Athlete
Being an athlete is a lifestyle that many people aspire to have. It can take years of hard work and dedication, but it can be gratifying. Cissy Zamperini was an athlete who embodied all of the qualities that make being an athlete so exceptional.
Born in 1919, Cissy Zamperini was part of one of the most iconic families in American history. Her father, Angelo, was an Olympic gold medalist and world record holder in the mile run. Her mother, Eleanor, was also a talented athlete and competed in track and field and cross-country events. Cissy and her siblings were constantly running around their family’s estate in Orange County, California.
Cissy began her athletic career at a young age by participating in local track and field competitions. Olympic Team for the 1940 games in London. Army Air Force.
While serving in the military, Cissy continued to train frequently and remained one of the top female athletes in America. In 1944 she set a new women’s record at the Los Angeles Olympics in the 400-meter dash while serving as a crew member of a B-24 bomber squadron based out of Hamilton Field near San Francisco…
The Olympics mark the pinnacle of human achievement; for some athletes, it’s the only chance they have to achieve their dreams. Cissy Zamperini was one such athlete. Born in 1922, Zamperini was a gifted runner who aspired to compete in the Olympic Games. But when World War II began, Zamperini was drafted into the military. In 1943, he was captured by Japanese forces and sent to a prisoner-of-war camp in Japan. For years, he endured torture and starvation at the hands of his captors. But eventually, Zamperini escaped captivity and returned home to America.
Back in America, Zamperini resumed his running career but struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) due to his experiences during the war. However, despite his struggles, Zamperini never lost faith in himself or his dream of competing in the Olympics again. In 1952, at age 36, Zamperini qualified for the U.S. In 1956, just four years after returning home from Japan, Zamperini competed in his second Olympics – this time in Melbourne, Australia – and won a silver medal in the marathon. Less than two years later, at age 40, Zamperini placed third overall in the Rome Olympics marathon race but failed to win a medal.
Zamperini’s Later Years
In the years following his triumphant return from the 1936 Berlin Olympics, Cissy Zamperini struggled to rebuild his life. He moved back in with his father, who had remarried and had a new family. Zamperini spent most of his days working construction jobs or training at a local gym.
In 1943, Zamperini was drafted into the Navy and served in World War II as a bombardier on a bomber squadron based in Hawaii. Unlike many of his fellow service members, Zamperini never suffered a significant injury or loss during his service. He made such an impression on some of his superiors that they nominated him for the Medal of Honor – but he was never given the award because it was not granted for combat actions against enemy forces.
After serving in the war, Zamperini returned to California and resumed his career as a carpenter. He met Nicole Browning while waiting for her bus one day, and they started dating. The two were married in 1955 and had three children together before separating in 1979.
Zamperini later met Kitty Dukakis, who became his second wife. The couple lived together until Dukakis’s death from esophageal cancer in 2004. Zamperini continued to live alone until he passed away at age 98 on July 2, 2014
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