It got even worse. His fame back home led to hours of torture and beatings at the hands of a sadistic guard nicknamed The Bird. "I couldn't bear to look at his eyes. I just couldn't do it. To me, they were that sadistic," he said.
When he wasn't being beaten, he was starved, like most of the Americans held by the Japanese. But somehow, he survived.
Louis Zamperini returned home a hero. There were TV appearances, including "This Is Your Life." His life appeared to return to normal.
But the war years, while gone, were anything but forgotten. Haunted by nightmares, he turned to alcohol.
Then, in a last-ditch effort to save his marriage, and perhaps his life, Zamperini joined his wife Cynthia at a prayer service led by a young Billy Graham. Graham's sermon touched on the power of forgiveness.
"That was the first night in two-years-and-a half that I didn't have a nightmare, and I haven't had one since," recalled Zamperini. He said forgiveness "was the complete healing factor in my life."
Which is why Zamperini decided to commit himself to a lifetime of forgiveness.
And that meant he had to go back to Japan, to see the prison guards who'd tried so hard to destroy him.
"The most important thing in my Christian life was to know that I not only forgave them, verbally, but to see them face-to-face and tell them that I forgave them."
That was more than 60 years ago -- and our story would end there, were it not for the book "Unbroken."
He became a celebrity all over again. Readers clamored to see him, to hear him, to applaud his life.
Reid asked, "When you finished reading that book, what did you think?"
"It put me back in prison," he replied, "and I had to stop and look out the window and make sure I wasn't back in prison."
Did he ever imagine it would be a bestseller? "Well, she's a great writer," Zamperini said.
"She" is author Laura Hillenbrand. Her last book was the bestseller "Seabiscuit." "Unbroken" took her seven years to research and write. But in all that time, you may be surprised to learn that the author and the subject of her story never met, not even once.