The USC Trojan Marching Band will perform a special halftime tribute to the late Trojan track star and World War II hero Louis Zamperini at today’s football game against Notre Dame at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
The tribute will be introduced via video by Angelina Jolie, the director of the film “Unbroken,” which chronicles Zamperini’s life and will be released Christmas Day.
The tribute will illustrate Zamperini’s life with music, illustrative formations on the field and clips from the movie on the Coliseum’s video board.
At the conclusion of the presentation, members of Zamperini’s family and the star of the film, Jack O’Connell, will be honored on the field.
“I’m thrilled to salute a great Trojan and a great person,” said Arthur Bartner, now in his 45th football season as leader of the USC Trojan Marching Band. “I first met him when he was brought in to talk to the leadership of the band, and he attended many of our events over the years.”
A video announcing a text-to-give campaign for the Louis Zamperini Endowed Scholarship will be shown on the Coliseum’s video board in the first half. The scholarship will be awarded annually to the USC male or female track and field athlete who best epitomizes Zamperini’s talents and spirit.
Zamperini, who died July 2 at the age of 97, finished eighth in the 5,000 meters in the 1936 Summer Olympics, shortly after graduating from Torrance High School. He ran the final 400 meters in 56 seconds, prompting Adolf Hitler to request a personal meeting with him.
Zamperini was a three-year USC track letterman and a co-captain of its 1940 team, which won the sixth of nine consecutive NCAA championships.
Zamperini was a bombardier in the Army Air Corps during World War II.
His plane was shot down over the Pacific Ocean in 1943, and he was stranded on a life raft for 47 days before being captured. He was a prisoner of war for 2 1/2 years, enduring hunger and torture from his Japanese captors.
Suffering from post traumatic disorder, Zamperini found solace in 1949 when he became a born-again Christian after attending a Los Angeles crusade led by evangelist Billy Graham. He eventually became an inspirational speaker preaching the power of forgiveness.
Zamperini practiced what he preached in 1950, when he went to Sugamo Prison in Tokyo, where Japanese war criminals were being held, and met with some of his torturers to offer them forgiveness.
In 1998 when he was 81, Zamperini ran a leg in the torch relay for the Winter Olympics in Nagano. During his visit, he attempted to meet with his most brutal wartime tormentor, Mutsuhiro Watanabe, but Watanabe, who escaped prosecution as a war criminal, refused to see him.
“Louis Zamperini was one of the greatest Trojans of all time, as well as a true American hero,” USC athletic director Pat Haden said. “He was the embodiment of the USC motto, ‘Fight On.”’