Trojan legend Louis Zamperini honored at Rose Parade

USC mascot Traveler walks as riderless horse, the traditional symbol of a fallen soldier

January 01, 2015 David Medzerian

Trojan legend Louis Zamperini was honored in dramatic form during today’s Tournament of Roses.

Two of the horses that portray USC mascot Traveler walked side-by-side near the start of the parade, followed by Zamperini family members in a classic Packard.

Traveler VII walked as the riderless horse, the traditional symbol of a fallen soldier. Traveler IX, carrying his Trojan rider, accompanied Traveler VII.

Honoring a hero

Zamperini, Olympic track standout and war hero, was selected in May as grand marshal for the 126th Tournament of Roses. After Zamperini died July 2, parade officials announced they would still honor Zamperini during the New Year’s Day event.

The theme of this year’s parade was “Inspiring Stories.” The USC mascot and the Zamperinis were in the parade’s first segment, titled “Courage and Honor.”

A legendary life

Zamperini was a high-school track star in Torrance when he was awarded a full scholarship to USC. A three-year letterman, he co-captained the 1940 Trojan squad and was a member of three NCAA championship teams. As a 19 year old, he was the youngest American to qualify for the 5,000-meter run in the 1936 Summer Olympics.

After graduation, Zamperini joined in the military and in 1943 his plane went down in the Pacific Ocean. He spent 47 days adrift at sea before being rescued by enemy troops. He was detained and tortured as a prisoner of war for two years. He later became a successful businessman and motivational speaker, eventually traveling to Japan and making amends with his former captors.

Zamperini’s amazing story was told in Laura Hillenbrand’s best-seller Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption, on which the current film Unbroken is based.