A standout track athlete at USC, Zamperini (center) competed in the 1936 Berlin Olympics, finishing eighth in the 5,000m. Two years later, in 1938, he set a national collegiate record in the mile that stood for 15 years. He enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps shortly after the U.S. entered World War II and was a bombardier on a B-24 in 1943 when his plane malfunctioned and crashed into the Pacific Ocean. The military believed the entire crew was dead — and declared them so — but Zamperini subsisted for 47 days on rainwater and fish until he and the other remaining survivor were captured by the Japanese. Zamperini spent the rest of the war in POW camps until he was liberated along with other POWs at the close of the war.