Character List

Major Characters

Louis “Louie” Zamperini The son of Italian immigrants, Louie grew up in Torrance, California. He became an Olympic runner and military aviator in WWII. He survived being lost at sea and years of horrific abuse as a POW in Japan. After the war, he returned to California, where he married and raised a family. He struggled with alcoholism and PTSD until a religious conversion helped him to recover. He lived into old age, running a nonprofit organization and traveling worldwide as an inspirational speaker.

Pete Zamperini Louie’s older brother. In high school, Pete was an avid athlete. He helped rescue Louie from juvenile delinquency by forcing his little brother to join the high school track team. During WWII, Pete served stateside as a navy training officer. After WWII, he had a long, successful career as a football and track coach in California. He married, raised three children, and lived to be 92.

Russell Allen “Phil” Phillips The pilot on Louie’s bomber crew in WWII and one of Louie’s best friends in the army, Phil was captured with Louie by Japanese forces and enslaved in POW camps. He was liberated at the war’s end and returned to America, where he married Cecile “Cecy” Perry and became a high school teacher in Indiana.

Mutsuhiro “The Bird” Watanabe A psychopathic, mentally unstable guard given free reign over POWs as the Omori POW camp’s designated “disciplinary officer.” A sadist who freely admitted that beating prisoners aroused him sexually, Watanabe administered crippling punishments on a whim, delighting in devising new ways to degrade and torture the prisoners. After WWII, Watanabe went into hiding until the United States finalized amnesty for all war criminals. In postwar Japan, he made millions as a business owner, married, had children, and lived comfortably until his death in old age.

William “Bill” Harris A marine and fellow prisoner with Louie at the Ofuna interrogation center and the Omori POW camp, Harris often encouraged POWs by making clandestine war maps copied from stolen newspapers. Along with Louie and Frank Tinker, he plotted an escape that never came to fruition. At Ofuna, he was beaten so severely that he almost died. A war hero, he was rescued from Omori and stood at General Douglas MacArthur’s side when Japanese officials signed the documents of surrender. After WWII, he fought for America again in the Korean Conflict. He disappeared during battle and was never seen again. It’s assumed that he died as a POW in Korean captivity.

Cynthia (Applewhite) Zamperini Following WWII, when she was 20, Cynthia met Louie and married him against her family’s wishes. She became a victim of domestic violence, which resulted from Louie’s struggle with PTSD, and decided to divorce Louie. However, she changed her mind about the divorce after a religious conversion at a Billy Graham crusade. She was responsible for bringing Louie to hear Billy Graham, where he, too, underwent a religious conversion that saved their marriage. Louie and Cynthia remained married to each other for the rest of their lives.

Minor Characters

Anthony Zamperini Louie’s father.

Louise Zamperini Louie’s mother.

Francis “Mac” McNamara The tail gunner on the Green Hornet’s ill-fated search-and-rescue mission, he survives the crash but later dies adrift with Louie and Phil.

Bob Martindale The American commander imprisoned and forced into slave labor with Louie in the Omori POW camp.

Cecile “Cecy” Perry The fiancée of Russell Allen “Phil” Phillips, who sang in the choir at Phil’s father’s church and married Phil at the war’s end.

Commander Arthur Maher The highest-ranking POW and commanding officer of the prisoners at the Ofuna interrogation center.

Commander John Fitzgerald The second-ranked commanding officer among the POWs at the Ofuna interrogation center. He was cruelly tortured—his fingernails were ripped out by Japanese interrogators—and was later imprisoned with Louie in the Omori and Naoetsu POW camps as well.

Frank Tinker An American dive-bomber pilot (and opera singer) imprisoned with Louie at the Ofuna interrogation center and at the Omori and Naoetsu POW camps. A friend of Louie’s, they plotted an escape that was unsuccessful.

Fred Garrett An American B-24 pilot from Burbank, California, whose plane was shot down. His Japanese captors amputated much of his leg in unnecessary surgery. He was imprisoned with Louie at Ofuna.

Harry Brooks Radioman and waist gunner on Louie’s B-24 flight crew. At age 22, in 1943, he was killed by enemy fire during the raid on Nauru.

Sylvia (Zamperini) Flammer Louie’s younger sister and wife of Harvey Flammer.

Harvey Flammer Sylvia Zamperini’s husband, a firefighter. He was wounded in a tank battle during WWII but survived and returned to his home in the United States.

Kunichi James “Jimmie” Sasaki A Japanese émigré who claimed to be a student at the University of Southern California (USC), but was really an undercover spy for the Japanese military, he was a track fan and friend of Louie Zamperini.

Payton Jordan Louie’s best friend on the track team at USC and a sprinter with Olympic aspirations.

Reverend Billy Graham The Christian evangelist whose preaching led Louie to a religious conversion that Louie credited with saving his life, health, and marriage.

Shithead A perverted and abusive guard at the Ofuna interrogation center, who beat the POWs and also killed the camp’s pet duck in a public act of sexual bestiality.

Shizuka Watanabe Mother of Mutsuhiro “The Bird” Watanabe.

Sueharu “The Quack” Kitamura The pitiless medical officer at the Ofuna interrogation center. He enjoyed torturing and mutilating the POWs. Afterward, he “quizzed them on their pain.”

Tom Wade The British commander imprisoned and forced into slave labor with Louie at the Omori and Naoetsu POW camps.

Virginia Zamperini Louie’s youngest sister.

Yuichi Hatto A Japanese accountant at the Omori POW camp and one of the few humane workers who occasionally tried to help the American POWs.

Yukichi Kano A private in the Japanese military and an interpreter at the Omori POW camp; one of the few humane workers at the Omori POW camp who was credited with frequently trying to help the American POWs.

Pop Quiz!

Why did young Louie take up running as a sport?

Back to Top