Louis Zamperini

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Louis Zamperini Field (Torrance Municipal Airport) / Zamperini Way

Louis Zamperini was born in Olean, New York, but relocated to Torrance with his family in the 1920s. Louis attended Torrance High School where he excelled in athletics. At the encouragement of his brother, Zamperini joined the Torrance High track team. It was on the track team where Zamperini set a world interscholastic record in the mile; in 1934, he clocked in at an astounding 4 minutes and 21.2 seconds. Zamperini's record lasted over 20 years, and his success on the track earned him a scholarship to the University of Southern California (USC), and eventually led him to be part the 1936 United States Olympic Team.

At the 1936 Berlin Olympics, Zamperini placed 8th in the 5000 meters, but his fast finish prompted a response from Adolf Hitler, who requested to personally meet Zamperini and congratulate him on finishing strong. After the Olympics, Zamperini returned to USC where in 1938, he set a national collegiate mile record that stood for 15 years. Zamperini, since known as the "Torrance Tornado," not only excelled on the track, but is also notable as a WWII hero.

In September of 1941, Louis Zamperini enlisted in the United States Air Force. After flying several missions, on May 27, 1943, his aircraft went down due to mechanical failure. Stranded for 47 days in the Pacific Ocean, Zamperini and the only other surviving crew member (Pilot Russ Philips) were captured by the Japanese Navy. Zamperini was held as a prisoner of war until the end of the war. Zamperini returned home to a hero's welcome.

The Torrance Airport was named in honor of Louis Zamperini, an American and Olympic hero.