Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption

Hillenbrand, Laura

Random House, 2010

pp. 179 - 181

Louis Zamperini and his remaining crewmates were captured by the Japanese and imprisoned in a filthy, degrading POW camp, made all the worse by the Japanese appalling treatment of them. Beatings were merciless. There was almost no drinking water, and what there was, wasn’t clean. All their Red Cross food rations were siphoned off and sold at handsome profit to starving Japanese civilians. Rats everywhere. There was terrible treatment: a prisoner would beg for water and the guard would approach with a cup of scalding water, and throw it in their faces. Prisoners were always being degraded–shoved, bombarded with lit cigarette butts, their faces pushed into latrines. They were kicked, clubbed, whipped in the face with belts. They had to bow to Hirohito, wash the floors of their filthy barracks, waddle in front of guards who prodded and swatted them, perform calisthenics till they collapsed. Part of the problem was that the prisoners knew no Japanese and nothing of Jap culture. Miscommunication exasperated their captors and prompted abuse. When the guards were shoving or kicking their prisoners they amused themselves with them, poking at them with sticks in their cells and chuckling at the prisoner’s contortions as they tried to evade. Or the guards would force prisoners at gunpoint to dance, watching with amusement as the prisoners staggered through the Charleston. They forced Louie to “whistle and sing” or “pelted him with fistfuls of gravel” or “taunted him as he crawled around his cell to pick up bits of rice.”