Summary and Analysis Part I Chapter 4: Plundering Germany


Earning a spot on the United States Olympic track team is a heady experience for a teenager like Louie. He is suddenly in the company of legendary runners such as Jesse Owens and Glenn Cunningham. They all board the luxury steamship Manhattan and crossed the Atlantic to compete in the 1936 Olympics. It is a happy-go-lucky time for Louie, filled with “souvenir collecting” (thefts of towels, ash trays, et cetera), overeating, and training by running around the first-class deck. Arriving in Germany 12 pounds heavier, Louie finishes eighth in the 5,000 meter finals and starts thinking about preparations to win at the 1940 Olympics in Tokyo, Japan.


Away from the stabilizing influence of Pete and his Torrance supporters, Louie’s old bad habits return, though in a milder form. On the luxury steamship Manhattan, he steals simply because he has the opportunity to do so. He pranks other athletes out of boredom. His emotional insecurity shows up again through overeating, which compromises his athletic training and adds unwanted weight to his runner’s frame.

In Germany, he performs respectably, but the obvious question is, “What if…?” What if Louie Zamperini had stayed focused on the task before him? What if he’d trained aboard the steamship with the same intensity that he did when Pete was nearby? He can perform better, and he knows it. Still, he thinks the 1940 Tokyo Olympics will be his chance at runner’s redemption—a chance that will never come true.

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