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Louis “Louie” Zamperini

The novel’s protagonist, Louie transforms from a rebellious boy who gets in trouble with the law into a record-breaking Olympian and resilient war hero. Stranded on a raft in the Pacific Ocean with his friend… (read full character analysis)

Mutsuhiro “The Bird” Watanabe

The novel’s antagonist and the epitome of evil, Watanabe is the cruel and psychopathic prison guard who singles out Louie for emotional and physical torture. Driven by a desire to feel powerful, Watanabe derives sexual… (read full character analysis)

Russell Allen “Phil” Phillips

Louie’s pilot and dependable best friend during the war. One of the survivors of the plane crash, he remains confident and good-spirited on the raft. Despite not bearing any responsibility for the crash, Phil’s strong… (read full character analysis)

Francis “Mac” McNamara

The only other survivor of the plane crash, Mac is a new army recruit and almost immediately loses all hope for survival on the raft. Mac’s hopelessness and selfishness endanger Louie and Phil’s lives… (read full character analysis)

Cynthia Applewhite

Louie’s kind, beautiful, and fiercely independent wife whom he meets and marries after the war, Cynthia comes from a wealthy, respectable family. Their marriage disintegrates when Louie, affected by PTSD, begins to drink heavily and… (read full character analysis)
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Pete Zamperini

Louie’s older brother, Pete is always responsible and mature. As a boy, Pete was wise beyond his years, guiding Louie out of his youthful rebellion, focusing Louie towards the running careers that would ultimately bring… (read full character analysis)

Kunichi “Jimmie” Sasaki

A Japanese immigrant, Jimmie befriends Louie at college over their shared love of track. Mysterious and always shifting his allegiances, Jimmie might have spied for the Japanese but he also provided Japanese military secrets to… (read full character analysis)

Louise Zamperini

Louie’s mother, Louise is the novel’s embodiment of belief, giving the rest of her family the conviction that Louie was alive even after the army announced his death. Like Louie, she has a love of… (read full character analysis)
Minor Characters
Sylvia Zamperini
Louie’s loving and devoted sister, Sylvia never gives up the belief that her brother is still alive. She takes a job as a dental assistant in a military hospital to learn information about the war and about Louie.
Anthony Zamperini
Louie’s caring father, Anthony has a quiet self-assurance about him. Like the rest of the family, he believes that Louie is alive.
Billy Graham
A handsome and prominent Christian evangelical preacher whose frank and emphatic sermons renew Louie’s faith in religion.
A Christian Japanese guard on Execution Island who offers kindness and compassion to Louie and Phil.
Frank Tinker
Louie’s friend and a fellow prisoner at the Ofuna labor camp. He, Louie, and William Harris make an escape plan.
William Harris
Another prisoner at the Ofuna camp. He helps form the escape plan with Louie and Frank Tinker. The Quack almost beats Harris to death when he finds a map in his possession.
Glenn Cunningham
A famous Olympic track star who taught himself to walk again after receiving severe burns in a house fire as a kid. Louie admires him for his resilience and determination.
Don Lash
An Olympic runner who most sports commentators thought was American’s best chance for the gold at the 1936 Olympics. Louie beats him in the race.
Payton Jordan
Another Olympic runner and Louie’s best friend at college.
Yukichi Kano
A kind Japanese prison guard at the Omori prison camp who tries to protect the POWs from the abusive guards.
John Fitzgerald
A confident and capable U.S. commander who is a POW. After the war, he takes it into his own hands to arrange for a train to pick up the POWs at the Naoetsu prison camp.
Charleton Hugh Cuppernell
Louie and Phil’s friend and co-pilot. A jovial ex-football player, he dies in Green Hornet plane crash.
Stanley Pillsbury
The top turret gunner of the Super Man, Stanley Pillsbury shoots down a Zero but receives a serious leg wound in the process.
Adolf Hitler
The leader of the Nazi Party in Germany who congratulates Louie on his “fast finish” at the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games.
The Quack
The abusive doctor at the Ofuna prison camp, he nearly beats William Harris to death. He is sentenced to death for his crimes.
Clarence Douglas
The waist gunner of the Super Man who shoots a Zero down.
Prince Yoshitomo Tokugawa
An influential Japanese dignitary who, after hearing of Watanabe’s abuse of prisoners, removes him from the Omori prison camp.
Harry Brooks
A crewman on the Super Man who dies during the fight against the Zeros.
Shizuka Watanabe
Mutsuhiro “The Bird” Watanabe’s loving mother.
Cecile “Cecy” Perry
Phil’s devoted fiancé. They marry after the war.
Fred Garret
A friend of Louie’s from the war who suffers from Post-traumatic Stress Disorder.
Cissy Zamperini
Louie and Cynthia’s first child.
Draggan Mihailovich
A TV producer who makes a movie about Louie.