A hero has qualities such as being quick-witted, determined, daring and inspirational. Louis Zamperini has been in horrible and traumatic situations that have shaped him into a hero. Mutsuhiro Watanabe (an officer at Ofuna) was one of Louie’s worst enemies. Wantanabe’s treatment of Louie was one of his greatest challenges to overcome. He abused, harassed, and tortured Louie to no end. “Louis’s arms began to waver and go numb. His body shook. The beam tipped. Less and less blood was reaching his head, and he began to feel confused, his thoughts gauzy, the camp swimming around him. He felt his consciousness slipping, until all he knew was a single thought: He cannot break me” (Hillenbrand, 301). Due to his strong will and his daringness to prove Wantanabe wrong, he held the beam above his head for thirty-seven minutes.
Louie was forced to hold a six-foot-long wooden beam over his head as a punishment from Wantabe and even as he lost strength, his only thought was not to let Wantanabe win. Louie was incredibly determined and refused to let Watanabe diminish him and would do anything to prove him wrong. Fed up with their treatment at Ofuna, Louie and his friends, Tinker and Harris decided to escape. A major part of the plan was to find out who was winning the war. Louie demonstrated cleverness, and quick thinking by figuring out a way to communicate with a new prisoner of war. “ The captive was standing naked, holding a pan of water and washing as the guard stood by. Then the guard stepped away to light a cigarette. “ If we’ve taken Saipan drop the pan,” Louie whispered. The pan clattered to the floor.” ( Hillenbrand, 229) Thanks to Louie’s quick thinking, he was able to extract crucial information in a short period of time. After the war, Louie started a Nonprofit Victory Boys Camp. “ Louie was happily walking the world, telling his story to rapt audiences in everything from grade school to stadiums.” ( Hillenbrand 390) He dedicated the rest of his life as an inspirational speaker and forgave those who hurt him.
Like Louie, Francis McNamara also exhibits the characteristics of a hero. Mac was altruistic, although not in the beginning of their journey on the raft. “The realization that Mac had eaten all the chocolate rolled hard over Louie. In the brief time that Louie had known Mac, the tail gunner had struck him as a decent, friendly guy, although a bit of a reveler, confident to the point of flippancy. The crash had undone him…a rescue search was surely under way” ( Hillenbrand, 138). Mac experienced a panic attack and ate all their chocolate that was supposed to last them until they were found. After this, he began to slip into a “dreamy state” of mind weaving in and out of consciousness. Their dire situation put a heavy strain on their mental health. Phil and Louie kept themselves distracted while Mac slipped into his own thoughts.“ As Louie and Phil grilled each other, Mac usually sat in silence. Sometimes he’d ask Louie to describe a recipe, and occasionally he would interject, but getting him to fully participate was rough going. He shared a few memories, and though the other two encouraged him, he couldn’t imagine a future.
To him, it seemed, the world was too far gone.” (Hillenbrand, 154) Although all of them were starting to get depressed, Mac had severe depression and no longer found reasons to live. “Though all three men faced the same hardships, their differing perceptions of it appeared to be shaping their fates. Louie and Phil’s hope displaced their fear and inspired them to work towards their survival, and each success renewed their physical and emotional vigor. Mac’s resignation seemed to paralyze him, and the less he participated in their efforts to survive, the more he slipped. Though he did the least, as the days passed, it was he who faded the most.” (Hillenbrand, 155) Mac’s mental health situation was dire but when it really mattered the most, he saved Louie Zamperini’s life. This is one of the main reasons Mac is considered a hero. He did not stop to think of his own weakness and injuries when he sprung into action.“ Louie was recoiling when he saw an oar swing past, sending the animal backward into the ocean. To his surprise, it wasn’t Phil who had saved him. It was Mac. Louie had no time to thank him…Louie and Mac sat side by side, clubbing each shark as it lunged at them…Mac had reclaimed himself.” (Hillenbrand, 168) Mac seemed to snap out of his daze and come to life when Louie’s was at stake. Mac did not think twice about his own safety and weakness when he knew his friend needed him. When Mac succumbed to their situation, the boys showed their gratitude by praying for him. They cared so much for him that even Louie prayed for the fallen to rest in peace.
A hero has characteristics that make them stand out. Both Louie Zamperini and Francis McNamara are heroes but they have a set of different characteristics. Louie is quick-witted, determined, daring, and inspirational. Mac had a rough start but ended up being brave and quick to act. What made them heroes were the situations and hardships they had to overcome. Louie had to overcome Mutsuhiro Watanabe and alcoholism and Mac had to overcome severe depression and illness. Mac overcame his obstacles of fighting himself and jumped into action when Louie needed him the most. Louie overcame his obstacles by forgiving the people who wronged him and started a foundation to inspire young boys that wanted to change.
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