Study Guide

Unbroken Quotes

  • Perseverance

    The men had been adrift for twenty-seven days. […] The men's bodies were pocked with salt sores, and their lips were so swollen that they pressed into their nostrils and chins. (Prologue.2)

    Ouch—this is painful. And the prologue only <em>hints </em>at the situations Louie and his pals are going to have to push through in order to survive. But this is enough to know that this is about as far from <em>Gilligan's Island</em> as we're going to get. 

    Confident that he was clever, resourceful, and bold enough to escape any predicament, [Louie] was almost incapable of discouragement. When history carried him into war, this resilient optimism would define him. (1.1.22)

    Well, it doesn't get much more black-and-white than that. "Resilient optimism" is perhaps the best trait to have when you are trying to persevere through difficult times. 

    To expand his lung capacity, [Louie] ran to the public pool at Redondo Beach, dove to the bottom, grabbed the drain plug, and just floated there, hanging on a little longer each time. Eventually, he could stay underwater for three minutes and forty-five seconds. (1.2.12)

    Once again, we see how Louie's teenage perseverance serves to save his life later on in the war. If he hadn't been so persistent as a teen, he probably would have drowned when the <em>Green Hornet </em>crashed.

    [Louie] trained so hard that he rubbed the skin right off one of his toes, leaving his sock bloody. (1.3.9)

    Um, ouch. Louie <em>really </em>has to push through the pain if, as a runner, he's running with bloody feet. 

    Louie could feel his feet cooking: the spikes on his hoes were conducting heat up from the track. (1.3.20)

    Here we see the mind-over-matter attitude that Louie embodies during his track career, a method of pushing away pain that will come in handy when he's at war. 

    "I can fly this thing anywhere," Phil said, turning the plane into the storm. (2.8.12)

    Phil's perseverance can sometimes come across as arrogance. But it's not arrogance if you always succeed, is it?

    It was likely, they all knew, that they'd crash on landing, if not before. Whatever thoughts each man had, he kept them to himself. (2.9.55)

    The battle to keep the <em>Super Man </em>from crashing into the ocean is more of a battle of wits and wills than the fight against the Japanese is. And thanks to the crew's perseverance and ingenuity, they survive. 

    Somewhere in those jagged days, a fierce conviction came over Louise. She was absolutely certain that her son was alive. (3.13.49)

    Here we get a glimpse of where some of Louie's perseverance comes from: his family. They too persevere while Louie is at war, and never once does Louise cave into the thought that her son might be dead. 

    The same attributes that had made [Louie] the boy terror of Torrance were keeping him alive in the greatest struggle of his life. (3.14.34)

    This quote is a reiteration of quote (1.1.22), the main attribute here being the aforementioned "resilient optimism." A boy terror needs that belief that he will never be caught and, if he does, that he can get out. 

    Louie wrote to Cynthia almost every day, and every morning at ten-thirty, he sat waiting for the mailman to bring him a pink envelope from Cynthia. (5.33.41)

    Even after the war, Louie remains single-mindedly focused on his goals. When he sets his eye on Cynthia, he won't stop until he earns her hand in marriage. 

  • Suffering

    [Louie] was a marked boy. Bullies, drawn by his oddity and hoping to goad him into uttering Italian curses, pelted him with rocks, taunted him, punched him, and kicked him. (1.1.27)

    This isn't only sad, but it also serves as important foreshadowing for the similar treatment he'll receive in the Japanese POW camp. 

    When the train doors slid open in New York, Louie felt as if he were walking into an inferno. It was the hottest summer on record in America, and New York was one of the hardest hit cities. (1.3.13)

    We see many instances in the book of Louie's teen training paying off in the future. His experience during this New York City heat wave must help him build up some tolerance for the extreme weather conditions he'll face during the war. 

    A lifetime of glory is worth a moment of pain. (1.4.20)

    If Louie were a teen today, he'd probably have this tattooed on his neck. While in the war, this is basically his motto, although just <em>living, </em>even without the glory, is worth all the pain he goes through. 

    [A coach] told Louie that some of his rival coaches were ordering their runners to sharpen their spikes and slash him. (1.5.10)

    This actually happens. We thought the most painful part of trying to be a track star would be all the running, <em>not </em>the other runners.

    Phil felt as if he were on fire. (3.14.1)

    The men suffer so much while lost at sea, and the combination of sunburn and dehydration is almost deadly for Phil. 

    The men grew thinner. Phil was gradually regaining his strength after his initial state of concussed exhaustion; Mac's body grew weaker, following his broken spirit. (3.14.45)

    These guys can handle a lot, but this whole stranded-on-the-ocean business is unrelenting.

    Their hunger dimmed, an ominous sign. They had reached the last stage of starvation. (3.16.34)

    Salt sores. Sun burn. Shark attack. All of this pales in comparison to what starvation does to the men. It causes them to suffer physically <em>and </em>mentally.

    [Louie's] diarrhea became explosive, and cramps doubled him over. (4.18.8)

    There isn't a phrase in the English language that evokes suffering more than "explosive diarrhea." Louie and his fellow prisoners sometimes had to live with dysentery and other ailments for weeks at a time. 

    The extremely low caloric intake and befouled food, coupled with the exertion of the forced exercise, put the men's lives in great danger. (4.19.40)

    There isn't a single aspect of the Japanese POW camp that could be viewed as appealing in any way. 

    [Louie] was condemned to crawl through the filth of a pig's sty, picking up feces with his bare hands, and cramming handfuls of the animal's feed into his mouth to save himself from starving to death. (4.28.45)

    Sometimes the suffering Louie experiences is merely painful—and pain passes—but being forced into humiliating situations like this one isn't just painful, the damage to his dignity causes lasting emotional scars. 

  • Friendship

    As Louie and Phil wrestled over a beer, they crashed into the flimsy partition separating their room from the next. The partition keeled over, and Phil and Louie kept staggering forward, toppling two more partitions before they stopped. (2.7.2)

    The atmosphere on the base feels a lot like a frat house as these young men bond far away from home.

    For each day in the air, the crew got a day off. They played poker, divvied up Cecy's care packages, and went to the movies. (2.7.12)

    The men are more than just soldiers; they're friends. This makes off-time fun, but it also makes it that much harder when their friends die during the war. 

    Louie was shaken. He'd been in Hawaii for only two months, yet already several dozen men from his bomb group, including more than a quarter of the men in his barracks, had been killed. (2.8.6)

    See? This is what we're talking about. The losses are more than just statistics to Louie—they're friends he lived with. 

    The dead weren't numbers on a page. They were their roommates, their drinking buddies, the crew that had been flying off their wings ten seconds ago. Men didn't go one by one. A quarter of barracks was lost at once. There were rarely funerals, for there were rarely bodies. (2.8.38)

    This really emphasizes the point we're trying to make, and drives it home by reminding us that the living aren't even given an opportunity to mourn. They have to keep going and fighting the good fight. 

    The bombs fell clear, and Louie yelled "Bombs away!" and turned the valve to close the bomb bay doors. In the cockpit, the bomb-release light flicked on, and Phil took control of the plane. […] In the top turret, Pillsbury pivoted backward and watched a vast cloud of smoke billow upward. (2.9.25)

    These men are an incredible team. There are about ten men on one of these bombers at any given time, and they operate with an almost psychic efficiency. 

    "I find it hard to get used to such a thing. Just the other I drove them all to Kahuku and around—kidded around with them but now they're probably dead! […] That's the way it has to be played because that's the way it is—it's an everyday occurrence!" (3.13.26)

    This is an excerpt from a crewman's diary, showing how difficult it is for the soldiers to mourn the death of their friends. It seems easy from the outside, but they're all just pretending that everything is okay—it isn't really. 

    All three men were indispensable. Had there been only two, they couldn't have pumped, patched, and repelled the sharks. (3.15.30)

    Louie, Phil, and Mac make a great team—someone's on pump duty, someone's on patch duty, and someone's on shark-punching duty. Being on a plane together for so long enables them to work in unison with little friction, like they're a well-oiled machine themselves.

    Slipping between cool, clean sheets, their stomachs full, their sores soothed, they were deeply grateful to have been received with such compassion.<em> </em>Phil had a relieved thought: <em>They are our friends. </em>(3.17.26)

    It doesn't take much to make a friend in war. Sometimes an act of kindness is all it takes, because in war these acts, especially between warring nations, are few and far between. 

    Kawamura could do nothing to improve the physical conditions in which the captives lived, but his kindness was lifesaving. (4.18.38)

    Kawamura is one of the few Japanese guards who are friendly toward the prisoners. Even the smallest gestures go a long way.

    From across the room, they looked like three ordinary men. (5.35.1)

    <em>Three Ordinary Men </em>would be a good title for a play based on this scene, featuring three <em>extra</em>ordinary men: Louie, Phil, and Fred Garrett, reuniting two years after war's end. To a passerby, they look like normal friends, but together they share so much horrible history. 

  • War

    On the first of August, Louie and the other Olympians were driven through Berlin for the opening ceremonies. Every vista suggested coiled might. Nazi banners had been papered over everything. (1.4.10)

    The Berlin Olympics seem to be less about feats of athleticism and more about stoking the fire of German nationalism in preparation for war.

    The slavish nationalism was a joke to the Americans, but not the Germans. The Gestapo paced the stadium, eying the fans. (1.4.13)

    This is one of those hindsight is 20/20 jokes, like when Don Draper jokes about there being a machine that will just reproduce paper on its own before copiers are invented. The Gestapo is definitely <em>not </em>a laughing matter after World War II. 

    As Louie blazed through college, far away, history was turning. In Europe, Hitler was laying plans to conquer the continent. […] Central to the Japanese identity was the belief that it was Japan's divinely mandated right to rule its fellow Asians, whom it saw as inherently inferior. (1.5.16)

    War will eventually sweep up Louie, and Hillenbrand makes sure to give us historical context where important. It's also interesting to see the similarities between Hitler's beliefs and Japanese beliefs. 

    In the Army Air Forces, or AAF, there were 52,651 stateside aircraft accidents over the course of the war, killing 14,903 personnel. […] In the three months in which Phil's men trained as a crew, 3,041 AAF planes—more than 33 per day—met with accidents stateside, killing nine men per day. (2.6.56)

    In one of the more startling statistics in the book, it seems that you were almost more likely to be killed by your own piece-of-junk plane than by a rival soldier during WWII. 

    With the dawn of 1943 and the success at Wake, the men felt cocky. It had all been so easy. One admiral predicted that Japan might be finished within the year, and Phil overheard the men talking about going home. (2.7.43)

    Without the benefit of history books, it's impossible to know when the war will end. At times the men feel like it could end any day, but when the chips are down, it feels like the war will <em>never </em>end. 

    A lost plane, unequipped with radar, tried to find the island. "We just sat there and watched the plane pass the island, and it never came back. […] I could see it on the radar. It makes you feel terrible. Life was cheap in war." (2.8.18)

    This illustrates two things: the fact that inferior technology is sometimes more deadly than combat, and the fact that watching people disappear, and being unable to do anything about it, is intensely hard to deal with. 

    Search planes appear to have been more likely to go down themselves than find the men they were looking for. (2.8.32)

    Maybe getting captured by the Japanese was the best thing that could have happened to Louie and Phil. Can you imagine being rescued only to die in a plane crash? Good grief. 

    Dignity is as essential to human life as water, food, and oxygen. (4.18.24)

    The spoils of war can often include wealth, land, oil, and other resources. However, <em>people</em> rarely gain any dignity during war. Instead, they often lose it. Ugh.

    Japanese policy held that camp commanders could not, under any circumstances, allow Allied forces to recapture POWs. […] POWs were to be executed. (4.19.44)

    The Japanese <em>do not </em>play fair. Their tactics are severe and brutal, and unfortunately, we bet most of the guards would participate in the mass execution if they were ordered to. 

    The 1929 Geneva Convention, which Japan had signed but never ratified, permitted detaining powers to use POWs for labor, with restrictions. […] Virtually nothing about Japan's use of POWs was in keeping with the Geneva Convention. (4.23.19-4.23.20)

    Once again, we see how Japan shirks the rules of war. But isn't it odd that war has "rules" like this in the first place? Should "no war" be the first—and only—rule?

  • Competition

    [Louie] hated running, but the applause was intoxicating, and the prospect of more was just enough incentive to keep him marginally compliant. (1.2.5)

    Louie isn't the type of person to run for fun and fitness in the morning listening to his iPod (you know, if iPods existed back then). He only runs for the thrill of victory. 

    After [Louie] flew past the finish, rewriting the course record, he looked back up in the long straightaway. Not one of the other runners was even in view. Louie had won by more than a quarter of a mile. (1.2.17)

    This line further characterizes Louie's competitive spirit. He doesn't watch the other runners (and not just because they're behind him, eating his dust). He wants to be the fastest <em>he </em>can be, and he doesn't care about anyone else. 

    If the sharks were going to try to eat him, [Louie] was going to eat them. (3.16.9)

    Sometimes Louie's competitive spirit reaches a ridiculous high, like here where the guy wants to compete with sharks in their own habitat. The craziest part of this is that he succeeds, and manages to kill a shark with his own bare hands. And a screwdriver.

    Louie woke to a tremendous crash, stinging pain, and the sensation of weightlessness. His eyes snapped open and he realized that he, Mac, and Phil were airborne. […] Something had struck the bottom of the raft with awesome power. (3.16.19)

    After Louie, Mac, and Phil manage to kill a shark, it seems like the leader of their group, a great white, takes revenge. Is it possible that the sharks are smart enough to play games, albeit games with life-or-death consequences, with the men?

    Louie looked ahead at the Japanese runner and realized that he had it within himself to pass the man. (4.20.39)

    Even as a POW, Louie doesn't lose his competitive spirit. The first time he's forced to race someone at the camp, he gathers all his energy and kicks the man's butt. 

    Louie was ready to him [another runner] too, but before the race, the runner spoke to him kindly, in English, offering to give him a rice ball if he'd throw the race. (4.20.41)

    This might be one of the harder things Louie has to do while he's POW, and that's including all the manual labor, malnutrition, and torture. He has to swallow his pride and his competitive spirit in order to throw a race. 

    At the work sites, Omori's POWs were waging a guerilla war. At the railyards and docks, they switched mailing labels, rewrote delivery addresses, and changed the labeling on boxcars, sending tons of good to the wrong destinations. (4.24.14)

    The men turn sabotage into a game, not just to pass the time, but to boost their own morale and restore some of their dignity. 

    "It's finished," [Louie] said, his voice sharp. "I'll never run again." (4.33.23)

    This is a sad moment for Louie, who has to admit to quitting an athletic activity he loves. Up until the war, competition was his life, and now Louie's not sure how he'll go on without it. 

    Louie's bad leg felt passably sound, and he finally felt healthy. He began testing himself with long hikes, borrowing a dog for company. The leg felt sturdy, the body strong. July of '48 was more than two years away. Louie began training. (5.34.47)

    After the end of the war, Louie feels like his competitive nature isn't just his best quality—he feels like it's his <em>only </em>quality. He doesn't know which career path to go down, so he returns to competition. 

    Running wasn't the same. Once he had felt liberated by it; now it felt forced. (5.35.22)

    Continuing from the last quote, competition just isn't the same to Louie anymore. Why do you think this is? Could it be that in his college days, running gave him a high, but after the war, he can't ever feel an adrenaline rush like <em>that </em>again? 

  • Admiration

    Louie idolized Pete, who watched over him and their younger sisters […] with paternal protectiveness. (1.1.24)

    Pete is able to utilize Louie's admiration of him to shape his brother from boy terror into boy wonder, influencing him to join the track team.

    After watching [Louie] from the Torrance High fence, cheerleader Toots Bowersox needed only one word to describe him: "<em>Smoooooth.</em>" (1.2.14)

    Louie's running skills don't just cause other runners to idolize him—girls admire him too. They think he's a smooth as a Carlos Santana song.

    "There's the next mile champion," [Cunnigham] said, leveling his eyes across the room. "When he concentrates on this distance, he'll be unbeatable." (1.5.7)

    Louie once idolized Cunningham, but he gets to be so good that Cunningham starts admiring <em>him. </em>The student has become the master. 

    The plane had saved him and all but one of his crew. He would think of it as a dear friend. (2.10.25)

    Super Man really lives up to its name. It's like the weird kid who suddenly becomes a hero at the end of the story (*cough*Neville Longbottom*cough*) surprising everyone. 

    Garrett had spend much of his time mulling over [Louie's] name on the wall, perhaps thinking that if this man had survived, so might he. (4.20.35)

    This is an instance of admiration saving lives. Fred Garrett is kept in a cell that Louie was once kept in, and Louie's true story of survival gives Garrett the strength to push through what may be the most difficult time of his life. 

    From the moment that Watanabe locked eyes with Louie Zamperini, and officer, a famous Olympian, and a man for whom defiance was second nature, no man obsessed [Watanabe] more. (4.23.36)

    Watanabe (a.k.a. the Bird) experiences the dark side of admiration for Louie. Because he envies Louie's strength and determination, Watanabe is determined to destroy it. 

    The Radio Tokyo men were back at Omori, smiling. Hat a lovely voice Louie had, what a brilliant job he had done. (4.26.1)

    While the propaganda men at the radio admire Louie's speaking voice, this is because they believe they can use it to spread whatever message they want to the people. 

    When the Zamperinis heard of it, they were upset: the race was to be called the Louis S. Zamperini Memoria Mile. Out of respect for the family, the name was changed to the Louis S. Zamperini Invitational, but that did little to lift the spirits of those involved. (4.28.5)

    Is naming a race after Louie a sign of admiration, or is it merely exploiting his memory, the way the Radio Tokyo men are doing?

    With his Odyssean saga featured in newspapers, magazines, and radio shows, [Louie] was a national sensation. (5.34.26)

    While Louie deserves all the accolades he gets, we'd argue that Pete, with Cecy patiently waiting for him at home for years, is the true Odysseus of this tale. 

    Over the years, [Louie] received an absurd number of awards and honors. (Epilogue.5)

    So many people love Louie that he has trouble finding enough time in his schedule to receive all the awards and accolades. (If only Google Calendar was around then.) He even carries the Olympic torch before five different games. 

  • Language and Communication

    Realizing that the white church would stand out brilliantly on the dark atoll, a marine named Fonnie Black Ladd ran in and yelled at the natives to get out. When they wouldn't move, he drew his sidearm. They scattered. (2.10.7)

    Waving a gun in someone's general direction is the universal symbol for <em>get the shmoop out</em>

    One of the Japanese opened his shirt and pointed to his chest. He seemed to want the Americans to do the same. As Louie opened his shirt, he braced himself, expecting to be shot, but no shot came. The man had only wanted to see if they were armed. (3.17.13)

    Because of the language differences between the Japanese and their prisoners, there is a lot of communication done with only gestures. Sometimes, this causes a lot of anxiety as to what these gestures actually <em>mean.</em>

    The pretext for many of the outbursts was miscommunication. The captives and their guards came from cultures with virtually no overlap in language or custom. (4.18.20)

    Miscommunication in any instance can be frustrating. Add a prisoner/guard dynamic and weapons to the mix though, and miscommunication can be downright dangerous.

    <em>Ohio </em>was a greeting, used by the occasional civil guard. Though Louie soon knew what it meant, his stock reply was "No, California." (4.18.21)

    Louie employs a little bit of language-difference humor to lighten the mood just a fraction. In a POW camp, every little thing you can do to lighten the mood counts. 

    A couple of captives sat on other benches across the compound, hiding their hands from the guards' view and gesturing to each other in Morse code—fists for dots and flat hands for dashes. (4.19.19)

    This is an ingenious method for the POWs to communicate secretly with each other. Morse Code becomes a third language, in addition to English and Japanese, to use. 

    The boldest captives would walk up to the guards, look straight at them, and speak in English, using a querying tone. (4.20.11)

    Because many of the Japanese guards don't understand English at all, the POWs can say whatever they want to them as long as they use an appropriate tone of voice. It's yet another small act of rebellion the POWs use to stand up for themselves. 

    In the other [book], [Harris] had begun creating an elaborate Japanese-English dictionary. Inside, he had written sentences in Japanese and English—"I feel like eating melon," "Don't you intend to buy a piano"—followed by notes on proper phrasing, verbs, and tenses. (4.20.18)

    While we admire Harris's resolve, we're not sure exactly what he hopes to achieve by chatting with guards about melons and pianos. The translations of military terms—like tank and bomber—that he keeps track of later seem a lot more useful. 

    [Stephan] address it using contact information typed in the message, misunderstood as Louise Vancerini, 2028 Brammersee Street, Terence, California. (4.24.34)

    Miscommunication doesn't always mean an act of rebellion or a cause for anger, and in this case, it causes a delay in the transmission of information. If the person who heard the radio broadcast had been a native English speaker, the message likely would have reached Louie much faster.

    Kano was arrested and jailed as a suspected war criminal. […] Perhaps the explanation was that his last name was similar to those of two vicious men, Tetsuharo Kato […] and Hiroaki Kono. (5.35.17)

    It's sad that there can be a miscommunication among people that speak the same language, especially one like this, that causes a man to be unfairly jailed.

    [Louie] begun a new life as a Christian speaker, telling his story all over America. (5.39.2)

    In the end, Louie harnesses his strong communication skills and uses them to inspire people across the country. Yay.

  • Family

    [Louie's] father, Anthony, had been living on his own since age fourteen. […] His mother, Louie, was a petite, playful beauty, sixteen a marriage and eighteen when Louie was born. (1.1.9)

    The more you learn about Louie's parents (which, admittedly, isn't much), the more you see where his tenacious nature comes from. Louise may have been "petite" and "playful," but she was also fierce with a rolling pin. 

    Every morning, through all that lay ahead for her, Louie would pin the [airman's wings] to her dress. Every night, before she went to bed, she'd take them off her dress and pin them to her nightgown. (2.6.48)

    Like all good heroes, Louie loves his momma. And his momma loves him. The airman's wings are a way for them to stay connected, despite being separate by thousands of miles. 

    On The weekend after the crash, Pete, Virginia, and Louise Zamperini made an impromptu visit to the home of Cuppernell's parents, who lived in Long Beach. It was a merry meeting, and they all talked of their boys. (3.13.34)

    The families have no idea that tragedy has befallen their sons/brothers at this point. But even once they do find out, they behave in the same way: keeping hope alive. 

    Upon hearing that her brother was missing, Sylvia became hysterical, sobbing so loudly that her neighbor ran to her. (3.13.42)

    It isn't just the parents who miss their sons, it's the siblings too. Sylvia has a difficult time with Louie's disappearance, because she and Louie are so close.

    In Torrance, Anthony Zamperini remained stoic. Louise cried and prayed. From the stress, open sores broke out all over her hands. Sylvia thought her hands looked like raw hamburger. (3.13.48)

    The stress of losing a family member (or perceiving him as lost) manifests itself in different ways. Not that we're quantifying love (okay, we are)… but maybe Louie's mom loves him the most out of anyone, since her stress and grief present themselves physically. 

    Louie had often boasted to Phil about his mother's cooking, and at some point, Phil asked Louise to describe how she made a meal. […] Soon, Louise's kitchen floated with them: Sauces simmered, spices were pinched and scattered, butter melted on tongues. (3.14.25)

    Memories of the past help keep the men alive when they are lost at sea. Mom's cooking is so potent, it practically gives them real nutrition.

    They, like the Zamperinis, refused to conclude that their boy was dead. (4.21.25)

    While many other people believe Louie dead (one group even organizes a Louie Zamperini memorial run) his family—a.k.a. his biggest support group—<em>never </em>loses hope. 

    By the spring of 1944, the mothers of the <em>Green Hornet </em>crewmen, as well as other family members, had begun to correspond. (4.21.30)

    When the families of the lost men start to band together, they end up forming one giant family, which is the best support group a person can have. 

    "September 9 is going to be Mother's Day to me, because that's the day I learned for sure my boy was coming home to stay." (4.33.29)

    Not that we'd rank happiness among family members as Louie returns home, but… okay, that's exactly what we're doing. And as you'd expect, the person happiest for Louie to come home is his beloved momma. 

    Pete was gaunt, and he'd gone largely bald. The brothers fell together, eyes shining. (4.33.53)

    Pete and Louie finally see each other again after years apart. Both of them may look different since when they last saw each other, but they'll always be brothers, no matter what they look like. 

  • Drugs and Alcohol

    [Louie] began drinking one night when he was eight; he hid under the dinner table, snatched glasses of wine, drank them all dry, staggered outside, and fell into a rosebush. (1.1.13)

    We're tempted to look at this two ways: alcoholism starting at an early age, or a kid just getting into trouble. Seeing what a troublemaker Louie is in general, we're settling on the latter interpretation of this event. 

    In an automat, they discovered German beer. The serving size was a liter, which took Louie a good while to finish. (1.4.29)

    Louie wasn't always a boozehound—before the war, he only drinks while he's having fun and playing pranks. 

    And like everyone else, Louie and Phil drank. After a few beers, Louie said, it was possible to briefly forget dead friends. (2.8.42)

    We honestly can't really blame them for drinking at this point, but this reliance on alcohol sets a bad precedent for men who survive the war and <em>still </em>have to remember all their dead friends. How else are they supposed to cope?

    Back On Hawaii, [Louie] sunk into a cold torpor. He was irritable and withdrawn. Phil, too, was off-kilter, drinking a few too many, seeming not himself. (2.10.29)

    As the war progresses, the drinking gets worse, and it's only understandable that Phil would lose himself in the bottle after having a near-death experience in the <em>Super Man.</em>

    Just before he left, Louie scribbled a note and left it on his footlocker, in which he kept his liquor-filled condiment jars. <em>If we're not back in a week, </em>it read, <em>help yourself to the booze. </em>(2.11.5)

    The booze might just be Louie's most valuable possession. It's no surprise then that when Louie <em>does </em>go missing, so does the booze he left behind shortly thereafter. 

    A conga line of crazy drunk POWs wrapped around the camp and through the barracks, and one partier did a striptease, flinging off his clothes to reveal an emphatically unattractive body. (4.32.5)

    This is what happens when you drink too much: you end up in a conga line of emaciated POWs. If that isn't reason enough to quit, we don't know what is. 

    All afternoon, drunken POWs staggered off the train, but the train didn't stop for them. They had to find their own way. (4.33.2)

    After the war the men are so desperate to both forget and have a good time, that they'll take every opportunity they can to drink themselves into oblivion. 

    Louie and Fred hit the town. Seemingly everyone they met wanted to take them somewhere, feed them, buy them drinks. (4.33.47)

    These men are war heroes, and people want to find a way to show their appreciation. And what better way than booze? Maybe if they had bought Louie cheeseburgers, he would have been morbidly obese instead of having a chronic drinking problem. 

    The alcohol had brought him a pleasant numbness. […] When the harsh push of memory ran through Louie, reaching for his flask became as easy slapping a swatter on a fly. (5.34.31)

    It's hard for us to blame Louie for drinking so much. We just <em>read </em>about all the horrible things he lived through and we're already looking to forget a few chapters. 

    One day Cynthia came home to find Louie gripping a squalling Cissy in his hands, shaking her. […] Appalled at himself, Louie went on bender after bender. (5.37.22)

    Louie's alcoholism is a dangerous cycle. He gets so drunk that he shakes his own baby daughter, then to cope with this, he drinks even more. It spirals down from there.