May 9, 2014, 2:37 PM EDT
Louis Zamperini, the 1936 Olympian and World War II prisoner of war, will be the grand marshal of the Rose Parade in Pasadena, Calif., on New Year’s Day 2015, the Tournament of Roses said Friday.
“It is such an honor to be the grand marshal of the 126th Rose Parade,” Zamperini, 97, said in a press release. “Growing up in Torrance, the parade route on Colorado Boulevard is one I have been familiar with my whole life. I look forward to sharing the experience with my family and all the fans of the Rose Parade who will be watching.”
Zamperini placed eighth in the 5000m at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. In 1943, as an Army bombardier, he survived 47 days in the Pacific Ocean with two other men after their military plane crashed and then two years at a Japanese prisoner of war camp.
His story is the subject of the best-selling book, “Unbroken,” which is being made into a film directed by Angelina Jolie that was scheduled to be released later this year.
“I made a new friend — Angelina Jolie,” Zamperini, wearing a red USC Trojans cap and navy blue U.S. Olympic Team jacket, said Friday. “The gal really loves me. She hugs me and kisses me ’til I can’t complain.”
Past Rose Parade grand marshals include Olympic champions Carl Lewis and Shannon Miller in 1997.
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