A troubled youth who spoke no English and got caught stealing beer went on to become an Olympic athlete, World War II hero, track star at USC and have a movie made documenting his life. And a strong football team held back by sanctions went on the road to beat the odds, and the Ducks, in a memorable matchup. Those are the subjects of this week’s ARTCAST and Classic Spirit of Troy Halftime.
Urged by his brother to compete in track to stay out of trouble, Louis Zamperini went on live a life that inspires others to this day. His life was captured in “Unbroken,” a biopic directed by Angelina Jolie. In honor of Veteran’s Day, this week’s Spirit of Troy Classic halftime is dedicated to service men and women and replays the 2014 performance that recapped Zamperini’s incredible life.
After winning the mile run in the California high school state championships in 1934, Zamperini received a scholarship to USC, and then qualified for the 5,000-meter event in the 1936 Olympics, where he finished eighth. Following the Olympics, he returned to USC where he set a national collegiate record for the mile run that stood for 15 years.
In 1941, Zamperini enlisted in the United States Army Air Force, serving as a bombardier in the Pacific theater. While on a search and rescue mission in 1943, mechanical difficulties caused his plane to crash, with Zamperini and two crewmembers surviving in a liferaft. After 47 days at sea, he reached the Marshall Islands, only to be taken prisoner by the Japanese and remaining a POW until the war ended.
He would later return to Japan in1988, just before his 81st birthday, to carry the Olympic Torch in the relay preceding the Nagano Olympics. Zamperini attended USC football games into his 90s, and befriended quarterback Matt Barkley. Today his memory lives on at Louis Zamperini Plaza on the USC campus.
And speaking of Barkley, in this week’s ARTCAST Dr. Bartner takes us back to the sanctions era, recalling the Trojans’ 2011 football game against Oregon. In what Bartner says might have been Coach Lane Kiffin’s greatest victory, the Trojans upset No. 4-ranked Oregon in Eugene, stunning the Ducks and snapping their 21-game home winning streak. Barkley talks about the thrill of leading the band on the road after a hard-fought victory. The Traditions segment focuses on the band’s international exploits, including “conquering” the Great Wall of China and the time the Secret Service booked the TMB in Prague. How many bands can say they’ve played at both the Los Angeles Coliseum and the Roman Colosseum.
You can find it on the TMB’s YouTube page.