World War II, Japan
and the Pacific Ocean
World at War
on the conflict in the Pacific during World War II. We don't
get many behind the scenes looks at Hitler's machinations
or global politics though, and instead the story mostly focuses on Louie's life
in the barracks (decorating the walls of his room with pin-ups, for example)
and the absolutely harrowing conditions of the POW camps he has to suffer
through. These camps are dirty, and the guards are bent on humiliating the
prisoners until "their dignity had been obliterated" (5.34.13).
Yup—sounds like Word War II to us.
WWII might be the darkest time in human history. Unbroken briefly
touches on the atomic
bombing of Hiroshima and
Nagasaki, and includes a quote
from a POW who believes "the end probably justified the means"
Like the rest of the world, Louie has to heal from the
horrors he suffers during war. They're both mental and physical: "The
physical injuries were lasting, debilitating, and sometimes deadly. […] The
emotional injuries were much more insidious" (4.35.6, 4.35.7). This is a
time period before PTSD was common knowledge, and many of the soldiers are
suffering from experiences that most people do not understand.
But Louie, many of his companions, and even some of the
Japanese, manage to recover and move on. One of the most moving images in the
book shows us that just because the U.S and Japan were on different sides of
the war, doesn't mean that they have to be enemies. When the U.S. soldiers are
released, "The POWs' last sight of Naoetsu was a broken line of Japanese,
the few civilian guards and camp staffers who had been kind to them, standing
along the side of the track. Their hands were raised in salute" (4.32.42).
This image gives the world hope.