War Hero Louis Zamperini Named Grand Marshal of 2015 Rose Parade

Louis Zamperini, World War II prisoner of war survivor and the inspiration behind the bestseller “Unbroken,” will be the grand marshal for the 2015 Rose Parade, the Pasadena Tournament of Roses announced on Friday.

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Louis Zamperini seen in a photo released by the Pasadena Tournament of Roses.

“It is such an honor to be the Grand Marshal of the 126th Rose Parade,” Zamperini, 97, stated in a news release from the Tournament of Roses. “Growing up in Torrance, the parade route on Colorado Boulevard is one I have been familiar with my whole life. I look forward to sharing the experience with my family and all the fans of the Rose Parade who will be watching.”

The theme of the 2015 Rose Parade is “Inspiring Stories,” which Zamperini’s life illustrates in many ways, according to the news release detailing his life story.

Zamperini became a track star by the time he graduated high school and qualified to run in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin.

He was America’s top finisher in the 5000 meter run, after which, Adolf Hilter requested a personal meeting.

During World War II, Zamperini became a bombardier in the U.S. Armed Forces. He and a crewmate survived 47 days in shark-infested waters after his plane crashed in the Pacific Ocean.

Zamperini eventually drifted into a Japanese-controlled region where he was held and tortured for another two years.

After returning to America, Zamperini became an inspirational speaker. He sought out and forgave the Japanese military guards who tortured him.

Zamperini’s story was documented in the New York Times best-selling book, “Unbroken.” A movie adaptation of “Unbroken” was set to be released in December.

Each year, the Rose Parade features floral floats, marching bands and equestrian units along the 5 1/2 mile route down Colorado Boulevard.

Along with riding in the New Year’s Day parade, the grand marshal also tosses the coin before the Rose Bowl football game.

KTLA is a media partner of the Rose Parade and will air the annual event on Jan. 1.

The 2014 grand marshal was the Los Angeles Dodgers’ longtime announcer Vin Scully.