You can now read 5 articles in a month for free on BostonGlobe.com. Read as much as you want anywhere and anytime for just 99¢.

Louis Zamperini, war hero and Olympian chronicled in ‘Unbroken,’ dies at 97

Louis Zamperini aboard a bomber in 1943.

AP File

Louis Zamperini aboard a bomber in 1943.

Nick Ut/AP

Zamperini spoke at a news conference in May.

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Louis Zamperini, an Olympic distance runner and World War II veteran who survived 47 days on a raft in the Pacific after his bomber crashed, then endured two years in Japanese prison camps, has died. He was 97.

Zamperini’s death was confirmed by Universal Pictures studio spokesman Michael Moses. A family statement released early Thursday said Zamperini had been suffering from pneumonia.

Continue reading below

‘‘After a 40-day long battle for his life, he peacefully passed away in the presence of his entire family, leaving behind a legacy that has touched so many lives,’’ the family statement said. ‘‘His indomitable courage and fighting spirit were never more apparent than in these last days.’’

Zamperini is the subject of Laura Hillenbrand’s best-selling book ‘‘Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption,’’ which is being made into a movie directed by Angelina Jolie and is scheduled for a December release by Universal.

‘‘It is a loss impossible to describe,’’ Jolie said in a statement. ‘‘We are all so grateful for how enriched our lives are for having known him. We will miss him terribly.’’

A high school and University of Southern California track star, Zamperini competed in the 5,000-meter run at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. He finished eighth but caught attention by running the final lap in 56 seconds.

In World War II, he was a bombardier on a US Army Air Forces bomber that crashed in the Pacific Ocean during a reconnaissance mission. He and one of the other surviving crew members drifted for 47 days on a raft in shark-infested waters before being captured by Japanese forces. He spent more than two years as a prisoner of war, surviving torture.

In May, Zamperini was named grand marshal of the 2015 Rose Parade in Pasadena, California, which next New Year’s Day will feature the theme ‘‘Inspiring Stories.’’

In accepting the honor, Zamperini, wearing a USC cap, recalled that Hillenbrand, in researching the book, asked to interview his friends from college and the Army.

‘‘And now after the book was finished all of my college buddies are dead, all of my war buddies are dead. It’s sad to realize that you've lost all your friends,’’ he said. ‘‘But I think I made up for it. I made a new friend — Angelina Jolie. And the gal really loves me, she hugs me and kisses me, so I can’t complain.’’

Subscriber Log In

We hope you've enjoyed your 5 free articles'

Stay informed with unlimited access to Boston’s trusted news source.

  • High-quality journalism from the region’s largest newsroom
  • Convenient access across all of your devices
  • Today’s Headlines daily newsletter
  • Subscriber-only access to exclusive offers, events, contests, eBooks, and more
  • Less than 25¢ a week
Marketing image of BostonGlobe.com
Marketing image of BostonGlobe.com
Already a subscriber?
Your city. Your stories. Your Globe.
Yours FREE for two weeks.
Enjoy free unlimited access to Globe.com for the next two weeks.
Limited time only - No credit card required!
BostonGlobe.com complimentary digital access has been provided to you, without a subscription, for free starting today and ending in 14 days. After the free trial period, your free BostonGlobe.com digital access will stop immediately unless you sign up for BostonGlobe.com digital subscription. Current print and digital subscribers are not eligible for the free trial.
Thanks & Welcome to Globe.com
You now have unlimited access for the next two weeks.
BostonGlobe.com complimentary digital access has been provided to you, without a subscription, for free starting today and ending in 14 days. After the free trial period, your free BostonGlobe.com digital access will stop immediately unless you sign up for BostonGlobe.com digital subscription. Current print and digital subscribers are not eligible for the free trial.