WWII War Hero Louis Zamperini Breathes His Last at 97 on Fourth of July Eve

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By Sounak Mukhopadhyay | July 4, 2014 12:17 PM EST

American War Hero Louis Zamperini has passed away at 97. He was a WWII veteran and a distance runner at the Olympics.

Zamperini suffered from pneumonia, according to a family statement released on June 3.

REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
An American flag is seen blowing in the wind as lightning brightens raindrops in the sky along Main Street in Port Washington, New York July 3, 2014.

"After a 40-day long battle for his life, he peacefully passed away in the presence of his entire family, leaving behind a legacy that has touched so many live. His indomitable courage and fighting spirit were never more apparent than in these last days," the family statement said.

He was a track star in high school and university. The University of Southern California student took part in the 1936 Berlin Olympics and finished eighth in the 5,000-meter run. It was Adolf Hitler who appreciated the way he ran his last lap.

He worked as a bombardier for the U.S. Air Forces during the World War II as the 1940 Olympics was canceled due to war. His bomber crashed into the Pacific while he was on a reconnaissance mission.

He had to survive on a raft for 47 days in the shark-infested sea. He, along with another crew member, was captured by Japanese forces. He survived Japanese prison camps for a couple of years.

Later, Laura Hillenbrand wrote her best-seller "Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption" based primarily on Zamperini's days in the prison camps. Universal Pictures is in the process of making a movie on the book. The movie is being directed by Angelina Jolie and is scheduled to release on Christmas 2014. Jolie later issued a statement on Zamperini's death. "It is a loss impossible to describe. We are all so grateful for how enriched our lives are for having known him. We will miss him terribly," her statement said.

Michael Moses, the spokesman for Universal Pictures, confirmed the death as well.

"Louis was truly one of a kind. He lived the most remarkable life, not because of the many unbelievable incidents that marked his near century's worth of years, but because of the spirit with which he faced every one of them," the studio statement added.

The war hero won't be there to celebrate the Independence Day of the country which is very proud of him. The country is going to remember him with pride anyway.

Contact the writer: s.mukhopadhyay@IBTimes.com.au

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(Photo: REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton / )
An American flag is seen blowing in the wind as lightning brightens raindrops in the sky along Main Street in Port Washington, New York July 3, 2014.
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