Young Louie Zamperini is the troublemaker of Torrance,
California, stealing food, running like hell, and dreaming of hopping on a
train and leaving town for good. His beloved older brother, Pete, manages to
turn his life around, though, translating Louie's love of running from the law
into a passion for track and field. Louie breaks high school records, goes to
the Olympic Games in Berlin in 1936, and trains to beat the four-minute-mile.
His running career is put on hold when the Second World War breaks out. Louie enlists in the army air corps and becomes a bombardier. He
and his crew, including pilot "Phil" Phillips, have a harrowing air
battle in their plane, the Super
Man. But Phil's pilot skills and Louie's ingenuity enables them
to land the plane, even though it's riddled with over five hundred bullet
With the Super
Man succumbed to its kryptonite, the men are transferred to the Green Hornet—a
less-reliable plane, the Hornet
is shot down over the Pacific. Only three men survive: Louie, Phil, and Mac.
Phil wrestles with his guilt about crashing, Mac kind of goes nuts, and Louie
wrestles a shark from the ocean with his bare hands and eats its liver. (We are
not making that up.) Unfortunately, Mac dies at sea.
Louie and Phil survive for forty-six days, but only to be
captured by the Japanese and holed away in a terrible POW camp. The men are
shuffled from camp to camp, each one almost worse than the last, until the war
ends. Louie survives, despite being pursued by a sadistic guard nicknamed the
Bird, punched over two hundred times, and forced to clean a pigsty with his bare
Back home, Louie reunites with his family and marries his
love-at-first-sight: Cynthia. They have a daughter and, well, a drinking
problem. Louie is haunted by the horrors of war and turns to alcohol to forget.
He is directionless, unable to run or find a new career; he dreams of going to
Japan and killing the Bird. The newlyweds' life reaches a low point when Cynthia catches Louie shaking the baby. She files for divorce.
Cynthia changes her mind when Billy Graham (yes, the Billy Graham) comes to
town. She manages to convince Louie to attend one of his tent preaching
sessions. Louie remembers a bargain he made with God while on the raft, and the
relative peace he felt that day at sea. Finding faith enables him to quit
drinking and become a motivational speaker.
Years later, Louie forgives all the men who wronged him
during the war. When it turns out that the Bird is still alive, Louie hopes to
meet the man and forgive him in person—the Bird refuses, but Louie sends him a
letter. In 1998, Louie carries the Olympic torch past Naoetsu, where he was
once imprisoned, and he puts his dark past behind him.
- It's June 1943, and Louie Zamperini and two other crewmen are on a raft in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
- It must be Shark Week because they are surrounded by toothy beasts from the deep.
- A plane flies overhead, so Zamperini fires off a flare and shakes some orange dye (a packet of Tang?) into the ocean.
- Unfortunately, the plane is not there to rescue them—it's a Japanese plane, and it opens fire.
- They have to hide under the raft, deciding to take their chances with sharks instead of bullets.
- On August 26, 1929, a twelve-year-old Louis Zamperini looksoutside to see a massive object blocking out the sky.
- No, it's not the Death Star—it's the Graf Zepplin, a German dirigible.
- Louie is impressed with it, as any young boy would be at the time (i.e. a time before iPads).
- This kid is quite the troublemaker in his spare time, and he steals food, able to run like a bat outta heck to get away from his pursuers.
- However, even though he was in awe of that dirigible, planes scare him—he sees one land and wants "nothing to do with airplanes" (1.1.21). (Shmoopers, this is what we call irony and foreshadowing.)
- Louie has a handsome older brother, Pete, whom he idolizes. Pete pulls the same stunts Louie does; Pete just doesn't get caught.
- Because Louie is always getting into so much trouble, his parents are frustrated and worried that his lack of ambition will affect him in high school.
- Louie worries about this too. He reads western novels and dreams of running away from home.
Run Like Mad
- Louie learns that any key has a "one-in-fifty chance"(1.2.1) of fitting in any lock.
- He almost gets suspended from school when he helps a bunch of students sneak into the gym free of charge for a basketball game.
- Pete convinces Louie to join track. Louie hates running, but he's good at it, and he likes when people clap for him. (He lives for the applause, applause, applause.)
- At one point, however, Louie actually does try to run away from home, but he gets kicked off a train and has to walk home over the course of two days.
- After that epic fail, Louie devotes his time to running the mile and starts breaking records.
The Torrance Tornado
- Charlie Sheen best sums up Louie's track career: winning.
- He runs a mile in 4:21.3, which breaks high school records, and starts training for the Olympics.
- Unfortunately, even with his obsessive training, Louie worries that he won't make it: "He was heartbroken" (1.3.7).
- However, after running in the Compton open—and almost winning—he gets invited to the Olympic trials.
- With a suitcase labeled "TORRANCE TORNADO" (1.3.12), Louie sets off to New York with fellow runner Norman Bright.
- They have to train despite the record-breaking heat in the Big Apple.
- In order to stay cool, Louie buys tickets to movies and sleeps through the shows. ("What I'd give for a twelve-hour Twilight marathon.")
- Louie manages a photo finish at the trial, and although the radio announces that Louie wins, they're mistaken.
- Still, he made the team. Hooray! He's "The youngest distance runner" (1.3.33) to ever do so.
- Louie boards the luxury steamer Manhattan to Germany, which is the closest thing you could get to a Disney cruise in 1936.
- On the ship, Louie eats so much that he gains twelve pounds.
- At the Olympic Village, Louie rooms with famous athlete Jesse Owens and gets to mingle with other athletes and Hitler Youth.
- Yes, we said Hitler Youth.
- Hitler is really excited about Germans rocking the Olympics, and German nationalism is at all-time high.
- They're not the only competitive ones though, and Louie has to deal with people dashing in front of him and throwing elbows during his runs.
- Despite the fisticuffs (which cause him to come in seventh place), he breaks a final-lap record in the Olympic 5,000, running his last lap in 56 seconds, a feat which entitles Louie to a brief visit with Der Fuhrer.
- After the Olympics are over, the Olympic Village is transformed into military barracks (and its designer, Wolfgang Fürstner, hangs himself).
- Back home, Louie sets his sights on the 1940 Games in Tokyo.
- At the University of Southern California, Louie makes some friends: Payton Jordanand Jimmie Sasaki.
- We're told that Jimmie is some sort of Japanese spy or something: His "attempts to pass as a student were apparently an elaborate ruse" (1.5.5). Like 21 Jump Street, we guess.
- Louie sets an NCAA record by running the mile in 4:08.3, and he even does it with bleeding shins and an impaled toe caused by a fellow runner kicking him with his cleats. These guys play nasty.
- Unfortunately, the Olympics get canceled because of a little thing called World War II.
- In 1941, Louie joins the Army Air Corps, but drops out because of airsickness.
- He ends up working as an extra in the film They Died with Their Boots On and is drafted.
- Unfortunately, Louie hadn't read his papers when he resigned from the air corps: he'd agreed to rejoin them. So now Louie's gonna be a bombardier.
- After Pearl Harbor is bombed, America is at war.
The Flying Coffin
- Louie finds one perk to being a flyboy: "women found the flyboy uniform irresistible" (2.6.8).
- As a bombardier, it's Louie's job to spot targets, program the bombsight that takes over flying the plane toward the target, and yell "Bombs away" when the bombs are, in fact, away. Then the pilot takes over control of the plane again.
- Louie graduates from training in August 1942. He takes one last photograph with his family and gets on the train to leave, wondering if he'll ever see them again.
- At the air base in Ephrata, Washington, Louie meets his pilot, Russell Allen Phillips.
- Phillips is cool, calm, and collected (good qualities for a pilot) and engaged to a girl in Terre Haute, Indiana named Cecy.
- Other men of note on the bomber crew: Stanley Pillsbury (the gunner), Clarence Douglas (the engineer), Robert Mitchell (navigator), Frank Glassman (radioman), Ray Lambert (tail gunner), George Moznette, Jr. (copilot), and Harry Brooks (girl magnet).
- The men are set to fly a B-24 Liberator, a plan nicknamed "'the Flying Brick,' 'the Flying Boxcar,' and 'the Constipated Lumberer'" (2.6.27)—and, unlike a B-52, it doesn't know any of the words to "Love Shack."
- It seems like the men are more in danger of being killed by their flying deathtrap of a plane than by the Japanese.
- The men are taught how to survive a water landing.
- Louie and his crew must be super lucky, because "their plane never failed them" (2.6.41)—it's ugly and quirky, but "a noble thing" (2.6.41), just like Benicio del Toro.
- They name their plane Super Man, and draw a cartoon of Superman on the plane that is so bad, it makes the Brandon Routh Superman movie look good.
- Before their first flight, Louie starts keeping a war diary and he sends his mother a pair of airman's wings, which she pins to her dress every day.
- On November 2, 1942, Louie, Phil, and the crew of the Super Man are ready for war.
"This Is It,
- The crew is stationed in Kahuku, Hawaii, and Louie and Phil spend their days drinking, wrestling, and decorating their barracks with nudepinups, calling it the "pornographic palace" (2.7.3).
- Moznette, the copilot, is transferred and replaced by Charleton Hugh Cuppernell, a "jovial ex-football player" (2.7.4).
- Everyone is pretty much a badass at training. Their accuracy rate is three times the squadron average.
- When they're not kicking butt, they're playing pranks on each other, like clogging up the "piss pipe" (2.7.10) with chewing gum or attacking one another with fire extinguishers.
- Three days before Christmas, they get their first dive bombing mission. They're headed for Midway, and from there ordered to bomb a Japanese base on Wake Atoll that night. It would take sixteen hours, "the longest combat flight the war had yet seen" (2.7.18).
- In honor of his friend Payton Jordan, who just wed, Louie writes "Maggie and Payton Jordan" on a bomb, because what is a better wedding gift than the explosive death of hundreds of people?
- They bomb Wake, not knowing that there are ninety-eight American POWs on the base.
- The mission is a success and, surprisingly, all the American captives survive.
- Louie and his crew feel pretty cocky, thinking that the war will be over soon.
Laundry Knew How Scared I Was"
- On January 8, 1943, George Moznette, the Super Man's former copilot, dies in a plane crash.
- It's only been two months, and Louie already knows men who have died.
- Seventy percent of men killed between November 1, 1942 and May 25, 1945 die in "operational aircraft accidents" (2.8.9)—in other words, these planes crash more than an Xbox 360.
- If just flying the plane isn't dangerous enough, there are the Japanese fighter planes, "the swift, agile Zero" (2.8.19) to contend with.
- Evasive action is impossible when the bombsight is controlling the plane, making a bomber a very dangerous place to be.
- Also, bombers collide with each other a lot.
- When a plane goes down, the men have to hope that their air vests, called "Mae Wests" after the busty movie star, inflate.
- Then they have to hope they're found. Locating a plane in the 1940s is harder than locating a missing Malaysian Air jet today—only thirteen percent of men are rescued, and search planes go down more often than they find the men they're searching for.
- If they're captured, they have to worry about being taken to the atoll of Kwajalein, which Americans call "Execution Island."
- Although there are tons of statistics, the men aren't statistics to Louie (remember him? We've barely heard about him this chapter)—they're roommates and drinking buddies.
- Speaking of drinking, Louie drinks a lot, unwinds by listening to music, and just hopes he won't die.
Five Hundred and
- Another past time amongst the airmen: throwing grenades into sharks' mouths and watching them blow up. (No wonder those sharks are circling Louie in the prologue. Want revenge much?)
- Japan seizes the island of Nauru in August 1942, and the Super Man is ordered to bomb the phosphate works on the island.
- They get into an intense air battle. Their left wing is hit, but Louie stays focused and hits his targets.
- When Phil takes control, they're surrounded by nine Zeros. (You do the math: 9 x 0 = DEATH.)
- Super Man escapes the fray, but it's wounded, "trying to fly up and over onto its back" (2.9.25) like a dying goldfish circling its bowl.
- Their plane is perforated by bullets as the gunners do their best to defend the craft.
- Men are hit by shrapnel and gunfire and lie bleeding all over the plane.
- Harry Brooks is covered with blood and the wall behind him is splattered with purple fluid.
- No, his peanut butter and jelly sandwich isn't mortally wounded—it's hydraulic fluid. The plane has no brakes.
- Louie and Cuppernell tend to everyone's wounds as fast as they can.
- As Louie is bandaging Stanley Pillsbury's foot, Pillsbury manages to blast a Zero out of the sky.
- Despite being in critical condition, the Super Man survives the battle. Not one Zero makes it back to Nauru.
- Now it's time for Phil to land the plane. Funafuti is five hours away, and Super Man has no brakes. Um… this situation never came up in any of our flight simulators.
- Louie ties a parachute cord to each man to serve like a seatbelt, keeping them from being ejected from the plane.
- Phil touches down at 110 miles per hour. The left tire is flat, and the plan spins around in a crazy circle… but it stops.
- There are 594 holes in the plane.
- Unfortunately, Harry was bleeding inside his skull and died.
The Stinking Six
- Even though Phil managed to land it safely, Super Man will never fly again.
- To make matters worse, while Louie and the crew of Super Man are recovering from their injuries, bombs fall on Funafuti.
- Poor Stanley Pillsbury is forgotten in the infirmary and is too weak to stand on his own.
- Phil and Louie hide under a hut that is up on flood stilts.
- Two bombs strike the B-24s, which causes a chain reaction of machine gun fire and bomb explosions.
- Someone managed to drag Pillsbury to safety, but his injured foot isn't healing, and he needs a rudimentary skin graft.
- Somehow the Super Man also escaped unscathed (not a single bullet hole added to its 594) and Phil is hailed "as a miracle worker" (2.10.25) just like Anne Bancroft.
- Pillsbury and Lambert are retired from war, and Louie, Phil, Mitchell, and Cuppernell are sent back to Hawaii.
- At the base, Louie watches They Died with Their Boots On, the movie he was an extra in, and he holes up in his room listening to music. How emo. He must be listening to whatever the 1940s version of Bright Eyes is.
- Louie takes a short ride on the Green Hornet, a plane which he dubs "the craziest plane" and "hope[s] he'd never have to fly in it again" (2.10.32)… Which is pretty much a guarantee that he will.
to Live Through This"
- As we predicted, Louie and his crew are put on the Green Hornet and sent on a search mission.
- Before he leaves, Louie leaves a note on his locker: "If we're not back in a week […] help yourself to the booze" (2.11.5), and he gives a letter for his best friend, Payton Jordan, to a crewman to mail.
- The Green Hornet sets out with the Daisy Mae, but is such a crappy plane it can't keep up.
- Just like the Seth Rogen movie of the same name, the Green Hornet bomber fails fast.
- The engines are burning fuel unequally and quickly fail.
- They try to save the plane by "feathering" the engines, but that tactic doesn't work—the men prepare to crash.
- When the plane hits the water, Louie is sucked under.
- He gets tangled in cords and debris and passes out momentarily.
- When he wakes up, he's floating inside the fuselage, in water filled with blood, gasoline, and oil.
- His USC ring catches on something and cuts his finger, but he realizes that he's stuck to the window, which orients him.
- He kicks away from the sinking plane and bursts out of the water, into the sunlight.
- "He had survived" (2.11.36).
- Phil and Mac, the tail gunner, are the only other two crewmen who have survived the crash.
- They all managed to clamber aboard a raft and tie it to another.
- Phil is woozy from two cuts on his forehead, and Louie makes a compress out of a wet t-shirt.
- Once they're stabilized, they hear the sound of a man drowning, but they can't figure out who it is. He doesn't surface.
- The supplies are pitiful: too little water, a mirror, a flare gun, dye, fishhooks, fishing line, two air pumps, a patch kit, and a screwdriver, which on a rubber raft is like having mayonnaise at an ice cream stand.
- The raft doesn't even have a radio or navigation instruments. They might as well name this raft the S.S. SOL.
- Mac starts freaking out almost immediately, screaming, "We're going to die!" (3.12.16) and prompting Louie to backhand him.
- As if that wasn't bad enough, sharks begin circling the raft.
Missing at Sea
- When Phil Deasy, pilot of the Daisy Mae, returns to Palmyra and discovers that the Green Hornet never came back, he says "Holy smoke!" (3.13.1) That's a direct quote, which means people outside of comic strips actually said that once upon a time.
- A search party is sent out to find them.
- The next day, Louie wakes up and discovers that Mac has eaten all the survival chocolate.
- Louie is disappointed, but understands that Mac acted in panic.
- A B-25 passes overhead. Louie shoots up a flare, but the bomber doesn't stop for them.
- Later, the Daisy Mae also flies overhead, but does not see them; everyone starts to lose hope.
- Meanwhile, the last letters of all the men are reaching their families and friends, who do not yet realize the men are missing.
- After a week, the search is abandoned, and the men's things in the barracks are catalogued. Louie's liquor is gone, of course.
- Louie is officially reported missing on May 27, 1943, but his family is "absolutely certain that [he is] still alive" (3.13.49).
- Over on Samoa, Pillsbury and Douglas are still in the hospital—Douglas with a wounded shoulder and Pillsbury with his bleeding leg (and sore stomach from being poked over and over again)
- When they find out that the crew of the Green Hornet is missing, they hang a flag in their memory.
- The men on the raft are covered in sunburns and salt sores, and their water cans are empty.
- Luckily, it starts to rain. Louie realizes that the air pumps are stored in canvas cases, and he uses the cases to catch water.
- Unfortunately, when a wave splashes inside, the water is ruined by salty ocean water—so Louie sucks the water from the cases and spits it into the canteens.
- When the rain stops, they realize the canvas cases make excellent hats too.
- While they may not be thirsty now, they're definitely hungry.
- An albatross lands on the raft, and Louie catches the bird and snaps its neck.
- The inside of the bird is too stinky to eat, but they use the meat as bait and catch a few small fish to eat raw.
- Phil worries that the dead albatross will bring them bad luck, like in the poem "Rime of the Ancient Mariner." But Louie thinks that after a plane crash, how could things get any worse? (A sure sign that things are about to get worse)
- The men spend their days lying on the raft and sniffing their earwax, because "the scent of the wax was curiously refreshing" (3.14.18). Okay…
- To try to stay sane, the men quiz each other constantly, tell each other stories of their pasts, and hum "White Christmas."
- After two weeks, the rafts are decomposing and the men look grotesque.
- Will they resort to cannibalism, like the 1820 whaling ship the Essex?
- No, they won't—instead they resort to prayer.
- Another albatross comes, giving them more meat for fishing.
- Louie also puts fish hooks on his fingertips and plays Wolverine, reaching his claws in the water to catch fish.
- They have to go six days without water. Louie prays to God to quench his thirst, and if he does, he'll dedicate his life to him.
- God loves a bargain like that, and on the seventh day, the sky opens up and rain falls down.
Sharks and Bullets
- On the 27th day, Louie fires a flare at a plane overhead.
- Big mistake. It's a Japanese bomber, and it swoops down and opens fire.
- They're safer with the sharks, so the men hide under the raft.
- Louie punches a shark in the face to keep it away from him.
- The men survive, unshot and unsharked, but unfortunately the rafts are in bad shape. One of the two rafts is slashed in two, and the other is rapidly deflating.
- Louie, Phil, and Mac work together to reinflate the raft—there's no way it could have been done with only one or two men.
- They also end up using the shredded raft as a canopy to shield them from the sun.
Singing in the Clouds
- The sharks are getting daring. One of them leaps out of the water at Louie, so Mac steps in and whacks it with an oar.
- Louie decides to declare war against the sharks, as though he's in a production of West Side Story.
- In something straight out of the Worst Case Scenario Survival Handbook, Louie reaches into the water and snatches a shark out with his bare hands.
- Then, proving that having a screwdriver on a rubber raft actually is useful, he stabs the shark in the eye with the screwdriver. (No amount of italics can do justice to this insanity.)
- Only the liver of a shark is edible, so they eat the shark's liver (hold the onions).
- The sharks are not happy about this, and at night on the thirtieth day at sea, a great white rams the bottom of the raft and tries to tip them over. Thankfully, it fails.
- Unfortunately though, Mac never regains his strength and dies. They drop his body into the sea, where "The sharks let him be" (3.16.31).
- As Louie and Phil continue to waste away, Louie's mind experiences a strange sense of near-death clarity, and he remembers things that he never knew had happened to him.
- He also sees human figures singing to him from the clouds.
- Phil says he saw nothing.
- On the forty-sixth day, they see an island. Land ho, yo.
- As Phil and Louie are rowing to the island, a Japanese boat draws alongside the raft and brings them onboard.
- They're tied up, blindfolded, and pistol whipped. Yikes.
- Phil and Louie are transferred to another boat, where they're actually fed and treated nicely.
- Unfortunately though, the boat is en route to Kwajalein, a.k.a. Execution Island.
- There, Louie and Phil are placed in separate cells.
- In Louie's cell, the names of nine marines are carved into a wood board.
- Louie knows he's going to die here, and he starts to cry.
A Dead Body Breathing
- Louie has to survive on hardtack (Bisquick's evil twin) and small cups of tea.
- Even though his track achievements make him kind of a celebrity (some of the natives know his name), Louie receives no special treatment.
- His cell is infested with mosquitoes, lice, and rats—oh my.
- The guards humiliate Phil and Louie, forcing them to whistle and sing while having rocks chucked at them. They're stripped of their dignity.
- One day Louie is pulled from his cell and he assumes he's going to be executed.
- Luckily though, he's only interrogated. Louie lies to them, but Phil tells them about how a B-24D works. However, Phil believes that the Japanese are desperate for information because they're losing the war.
- Later, a guard named Kawamura shows up a Louie's door. He's nice, and he teaches Louie some Japanese.
- When one of the cruel guards pokes Louie in the face with a stick, Kawamura beats the man up.
- Three weeks later, Louie and Phil are injected with a mysterious substance. The Japanese are testing chemicals to be used in biological warfare. Good thing they're not very good at it, so Phil and Louie both survive.
- Unfortunately, Louie comes down with dengue fever. Just like being sick doesn't get you out of dodge ball in middle school though, his illness doesn't exempt him from continued stonings.
- One day, Louie caves to interrogation and shows the Japanese where American bases are. However, the "bases" he shows them are fake airfields.
- On August 24, Louie and Phil are finally shipped off Execution Island to a POW camp in Yokohama.
Two Hundred Silent
- After three weeks, the ship docks at Yokohama. From there, the men take a Chevy to the POW camp, where they are greeted by… wait for it…
- Jimmie Sasaki. (Remember him? Louie's fake college friend from Chapter 5.)
- Sasaki literally says, "We meet again" (4.19.16), as though this is a James Bond movie—one of the bad ones.
- Sasaki tells Louie that he's head interrogator of all POWs in Japan (is he telling the truth?).
- All the POWs are super skinny, like models at a Versace fashion show, and communicate in Morse code like they're Charlie's Angels.
- It turns out that this isn't a POW camp—the Japanese call it a "secret interrogation center" (4.19.20) as a loophole around the Geneva Convention. (A loophole that might end up around someone's neck…)
- Louie is forbidden to speak to anyone but the guards, and not allowed to make eye contact with the other captives. Basically, the same conditions as being on tour with Katy Perry.
- Phil and Louie are put in cells far away from one another.
- Each day, the men have to do intense exercises and eat a breakfast of fetid slop.
- The men are also beaten daily. One of the routine sayings is "Iron must be beaten while it's hot; soldiers must be beaten while they're fresh" (4.19.30).
- The most feared man in the camp is Sueharu Kitamura, also known as "the Quack" or "the Butcher" (4.19.35).
- However, there is also a nice guard named Hirose, who tells the men to scream and only pretends to beat them.
- When they're not eating slop, they're eating rancid rice and other food infested with rat droppings, maggots, and sand—the men call this food "all dumpo" (4.19.39) (though we'd call it Hot Pockets).
- Many of the men get a disease called beriberi, which sounds cute but leads to numbness, confusion, paralysis, death, and giant testicles.
- Under no circumstances is a POW to be saved or escaped, and Louie knows it's only a matter of time before they are all executed.
Farting for Hirohito
- Louie meets a few other POWs, including one man who was tortured: clubbed, penknives under the fingernails, and water-boarding.
- Louie mostly hangs out with William Harris, another man who made a miraculous escape only to be captured in the end. He has a photographic memory like Cam Jansen.
- Another of Louie's friends is Gaga the duck, who follows the soldiers around and cheers them up.
- Jimmie Sasaki frequently visits Ofuna, and Louie suspects that Sasaki is using his influence to protect him.
- Captives do what they can to defy the guards: passing around war news, calling the guards things like "Turdbird, Flange Face, the Weasel, Liver Lip" (4.20.12), and farting when forced to bow to Emperor Hirohito.
- One day, a one-legged captive named Fred Garrett hunts down Louie. It turns out that Louie added his name to the list of names on the board, and Garrett asked around, hearing that Zamperini had survived. The name had given him hope that he, too, would live.
- Later, a Japanese civilian is brought in to race Louie.
- Louie, malnourished and practically on death's door, actually beats the man, and then gets beat himself… by a club to the head.
- The next time Louie is made to race, he's offered a rice ball if he throws it. He does, and collects his food as payment.
- In March, Phil is taken away to Ashio, a camp north of Tokyo.
- He says goodbye to Louie. In Ashio, he writes a letter home, but someone burns it instead of delivering it. Phil finds the charred remains and vows to deliver it someday in person.
- Back in Torrance, California, Louie's sister Sylvia slips into depression.
- The family receives a telegram announcing Louie's disappearance, which makes matters worse.
- Phil even has a letter to Louie returned to him marked "Missing at Sea"and "CASUALTY STATUS VERIFIED" (4.21.8). Ugh.
- Louise, Louie's mom, develops a weird rash that won't go away.
- On October 6, Louie's army trunk arrives, but the family never opens it.
- In early 1944, America seizes Kwajalein, and someone finds the splinter of wood with Louie's name on it.
- Joe Deasy, the pilot of the Daisy Mae, realizes that Louie and Phil are still alive, although he has no clue where they might be.
- Cecy, Phil's fiancée, also holds onto hope that Phil is alive. Why? Because a fortune teller tells her so, and also says that Phil will be found by Christmas.
- The mothers of the men of the Green Hornet build a support group and start talking to each other.
- Louie is officially declared dead on May 28, 1944, but no one believes it.
- In the summer of 1944, Louie, Tinker, and Harris decide they should try to escape.
- There are a few problems, though: Harris has beriberi and Louie is doing odd jobs around the camp (like starching shirts and shaving guards) to earn food.
- The men are being starved and beaten severely, and the guard they call Shithead "open[s] his pants and violate[s]" (4.22.23) Gaga the duck, then kills him.
- Louie and his bros decide they can get over the barbed wire fence, commandeer a plane, and get out of Japan.
- However, they can't disguise themselves as Japanese guards because they're much taller than all the guards.
- The day before they plan to try it anyway, they're told that if anyone escapes, the Japanese will kill people in the camp. So they suspend the plan.
- Instead, the sneak into the Quack's office to find information about how the war is going.
- They recover a map from his office, which Harris copies onto a strip of toilet paper.
- His work is discovered, and Harris is severely beat in front of everyone; when he recovers consciousness, he doesn't know who any of his friends are.
- In September, Louie is transferred to a different camp called Omori.
- Louie, Tinker, and the other POWs from Ofuna are greeted at Omori by a corporal named Mutsuhiro Watanabe.
- And by greeted, we mean they have the snot beat out of them.
- "This man, thought Tinker, is a psychopath" (4.23.9).
- Watanabe flies into a rage at the slightest provocation, and he singles out Louie as the subject of his wrath for some reason.
- But sometimes he also brings them candy and cigarettes.
- And, of course, other times he threatens to behead them.
- The camp accountant, Yuicho Hatto, believes that Watanabe is a sexual sadist who gets pleasure from punishing the men.
- The men nickname Watanabe "the Bird" (4.24.2) because it's an innocuous name that can't get them into any trouble.
- The Bird likes to run around screaming "Keirei!" (4.24.3) and clubbing people who fail to salute.
- Louie is forced to empty benjos with a ladle, which is like emptying porta-potties with a spoon.
- Once again, the men do what they can to sabotage the camp and regain their dignity: stealing sugar, shredding clothes, stuffing dirt in gas tanks.
- Some of the guards are nice though, and they sneak food and blankets to the POWs and make sure they get adequate medical treatment.
- Poor Louie can't get a break from the Bird though, and being bullied by him brings back memories of childhood bullying. Louie dreams about killing the Bird.
- Meanwhile, unbeknownst to Louie, the Japanese create a fake propaganda broadcast with a message from Louie, saying that he is "uninjured and in good health" (4.24.33).
- A man in South Africa hears the broadcast and sends a card to Louie's parents, but he gets the address wrong and it takes months for the card to arrive.
- Pushing a wheelbarrow into Tokyo, Louie sees the phrase "B Niju Ku" (4.25.3) scrawled on a wall: B-29.
- It's a new American bomber—ironically named the Tokyo Rose—that has been flying over Japan.
- The bomber flies over the camp and gives the POWs hope.
- Unfortunately though, this angers the Bird, and he beats Louie with a belt buckle, rendering him temporarily deaf in one ear.
- In November, Louie is driven to Radio Tokyo studios and given the opportunity to tape a message for broadcast, which will correct the NBC radio broadcast announcing his death.
- A woman named Lynn Moody, who was with Louie at USC in 1940, hears the broadcast and contacts his parents.
- They're worried the broadcast is fake, but when they hear it being re-aired, they know it's his voice.
- Plus, he asks them to take care of his guns. Louie grew up hunting, and his family knows that's not a detail the Japanese would have known.
- They finally know that Louie is still alive.
- Radio Tokyo propositions Louie again, but this time to read a message they wrote.
- Louie doesn't want to be made into a propaganda tool, so he refuses—then they threaten to send him to a punishment camp, as though Omori wasn't punishment enough.
- Back at camp, the Bird is going crazier and crazier (like a loon…) as B-29s cross overhead every day.
- Meanwhile, Phil and one-legged Fred Garrett have been transferred to Zentsuji, which is every bit as posh as Omori (all the amenities you've come to expect: contaminated rice, dysentery, abuse) but Phil is allowed to send letters home and tell his family that he's still alive.
- Back at Omori, the men discover a theatre trunk and put on a production of Cinderella. (What is this, Slaughterhouse-Five?)
- After Christmas, a dignitary arrives and is told about the Bird's abusive behavior. The Bird is ordered to leave Omori, and Louie is ecstatic to watch him leave the nest.
- Life is good with the Bird gone. Well, as good as life in a POW camp can get.
- Bill Harris is transferred to Omori, but he still has trouble with his memory after repeated beatings at the hands of the Quack.
- In February, an air battle breaks out over Omori, and the Japanese planes are decimated. The Americans bomb Tokyo, and Louie is to be transferred to another POW camp.
- Louie says goodbye to Bill Harris, and will never see him again.
- The transfers are put on a train and taken through the snow-covered Japanese countryside.
- Instead of arriving at Hogwarts though, they arrive at Naoetsu—and instead of being greeted by Dumbledore, it's much, much worse.
- "Keirei!" (4.27.27) It's the Bird.
- Not only is the Bird present to terrorize the POWs at Naoetsu, but the conditions are terrible—the barracks don't even have floorboards, because prisoners have pulled them up and burned them for heat.
- Louie is somewhat lucky that he gets regularly beaten by the Bird since it keeps him from the difficult labor that often works other men to death.
- Eventually, though, even Louie is expected to participate in this back-breaking work, shoveling coal and salt and anything else that needs shoveling.
- One day, Louie falls off the barge where he's been shoveling salt, tearing something in his ankle and knee.
- Unable to work, his rations are halved.
- He begs the Bird for work, and the Bird gives him a job: clean the pig sty… with only his hands.
- You may have heard the phrase happy as a pig in… we'll let you finish that one, but suffice it to say that Louie is about as unhappy as can be.
Two Hundred and
- The POWs decide they need to kill the Bird.
- They manage to poison his rice with dysentery, and he gets sick, but recovers after ten days.
- One day, Louie, Tinker, and Wade are blamed for the theft of some fish, and orders are given for every man to punch them in the face.
- They're each punched about 220 times.
- There's one small ray of light at least: American victory in the war is getting closer.
- The downside is that everyone in the camp will probably be executed on August 22.
The Boiling City
- Louie's job as pig man is over, but the Bird continues to torture him.
- He puts him in charge of a goat, saying, "Goat die, you die" (4.30.4).
- Surprising no one, the goat dies.
- Louie is ordered to hold a six-foot-long wooden beam over his head, and a guard is told to whack Louie with his gun if he drops his arms.
- Louie is only jabbed once, and manages to hold the beam up for thirty-seven minutes.
- This just angers the Bird more, and he runs toward him and beats the snot out of him.
- The Bird continues torturing Louie, saying he's going to kill him.
- So the men renew their plans to kill the Bird, and he gets paranoid.
The Naked Stampede
- The men at the camp hear about something atomic wiping Hiroshima and Nagasaki off the map.
- A week before the August 22 kill-all date, the Bird leaves the camp… and Louie gets beriberi.
- Weirdly, later that day, all the Japanese guards leave—the men believe "The war is over" (4.31.15).
- Meanwhile, up in the mountains, Phil, Fred Garrett, and the other POWs at Rokuroshi are led into the mountains with no explanation given.
- Back at Naoetsu, the Bird returns, looking like a different person.
- The camp commander, Kono, tells the men "The war has come to a point of cessation" (4.31.29).
- The men strip naked to bathe in the river; bomber planes fly overhead and drop rations of food, clothing, and magazines.
- At some point that day, the Bird slips away into the countryside and disappears.
Cascades of Pink
- The men feast on food falling from the sky as they wait to be rescued.
- Louie is almost squished by a drum full of shoes (delivered by Amazon's drone program?) but other than that everything is going fine.
- Finally, on September 2, 1945, Japan signs a formal surrender: "The Second World War was over" (4.32.27).
- "All Louie felt was rapture." (4.32.29) Cue second Blondie video in two chapters.
- After two-and-a-half years, Louie is finally going home. On September 5, a train comes to take the POWs away.
- The train stops at almost every town so the soldiers can glug sake and whatever else they can get their hands on.
- Louie is eventually brought to an airfield to be flown to Okinawa.
- In Okinawa, it finally sinks in that most of the men Louie knew are now dead.
- Also, he's examined in the hospital and realizes that he'll "never run again" (4.33.23).
- On September 9, Louie's family finds out that he's finally coming home. "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), says his mom. Aw…
- Phil, one-legged Fred, and the others of Rokuroshi get to go home on September 11. In Yokohama, before they ship out, they're fed pancakes and greeted by a band playing "California, Here I Come."
- On the way home, Louie flies over Kwajalein, which has pretty much been wiped off the face of the map.
- On October 16, Phil arrives home, and gets to marry Cecy four weeks later.
- Louie finally gets transferred to Letterman General Hospital in San Francisco in October.
- Pete meets him there and brings him home, finally reuniting the Zamperini family.
The Shimmering Girl
- The Zamperinis have a huge homecoming party for Louie.
- And it's a miracle: as soon as Louise found out Louie was coming home, her rash disappeared.
- Unfortunately, Louie is haunted by memories of war, and he sees the Bird every time he tries to sleep.
- Back in Japan, the Bird is on the run—Japanese military men are being arrested for war crimes, and the Bird is in hiding.
- The police trail his mother, hoping she'll lead them to the Bird, but the search is futile.
- Back home, Louie becomes a national sensation, like an American Idol contestant.
- To cope with fame, and the loss of so many friends, he starts drinking.
- In March 1946, Louie meets Cynthia Applewhite at a bar and the two hit it off beautifully.
- Cynthia is an artsy-fartsy type "dressed in bohemian clothes, [she] penned novels, painted, and yearned to roam forgotten corners of the world" (5.34.37).
- After only two weeks, Louie talks Cynthia into marrying him. Her parents are not happy.
- But he tries to convince her parents to like him, and starts training for the 1948 Olympic Games.
- Although Cynthia tells her parents she won't marry Louie until the fall, they have a secret ceremony on May 25.
- That night, Cynthia cries on the phone all night with her mother, and Louie drinks himself to sleep.
- In late 1946, Louie and Cynthia meet Phil and Cecy and Fred Garrett for dinner.
- Unfortunately, Fred starts screaming hysterically when the waiter brings them a plate of white rice (he really wanted brown).
- Louie, too, is suffering from flashbacks and PTSD, in a time before "PTSD" is a term.
- He also has trouble finding a regular career.
- His training for the Olympics fails when he exacerbates his ankle injury.
- His solution is just to drink more and more, and he becomes obsessed with the idea of going to Japan and hunting down and killing the Bird.
The Body on the
- Back in Japan, a man from the Ministry of Home Affairs knocks on a door and interrogates the family inside—a farmer, his wife, and their live-in laborer—about Mutsuhiro Watanabe.
- He has no idea that the laborer he is talking to is Mutushiro Watanabe.
- Watanabe is living under an alias (Jennifer Garner) and has grown a moustache to avoid detection.
- He's having trouble sleeping, but more because he's being pursued than because he actually feels remorse.
- One day he tells the farmer who he really is and the farmer advises him to keep his mouth shut.
- Meanwhile other men, like Shithead and the Quack (if you need a good name for your punk band, there you go), are being tried for war crimes.
- Even Jimmie Sasaki is sentenced to six years' hard labor.
- The next summer, Watanabe helps the father's son sell leather straps around the countryside. (Did he put "beat American POWs with a belt" on his resume under relevant experience?)
- He manages to sneak away and visit his family.
- Detectives arrive while he's there, and he hides in the closet.
- Leather strap sales fail (they just don't beat people like they did during the war), so the farmer's son opens a coffee shop and makes Watanabe his waiter.
- A woman falls in love with him, but he doesn't want to marry her, seeing himself as "a burden which would make her unhappy" (5.36.33).
- In 1946, two bodies are found at the base of a mountain. The woman isn't identified, but the man is Mutsuhiro Watanabe. He killed himself.
- Here's what Louie's life looks like: drinking, falling prey to scams, losing all his money, drinking some more, plotting to find and kill a man in Japan.
- One night he even gets so disoriented that he can't find his way home.
- His relationship with Cynthia turns abusive—she throws dishes at him, and he chases after her and grabs her by the neck.
- When Louie can't pay for his car, he thinks that God is toying with him, and he forbids Cynthia from going to church.
- Cynthia ends up pregnant, and Louie realizes that he has to take responsibility.
- However, one night he wakes up from a dream in which he's strangling the Bird, and he's actually strangling Cynthia. Yikes.
- Baby Cynthia, nicknamed Cissy, is born at the end of December.
- Louie's a great dad… except for that time Cynthia walks in and finds him shaking the baby. Cynthia files for divorce.
- Meanwhile in Japan, Shizuka Watanabe opens the door to find her supposedly dead son, the Bird, standing on her doorstep.
A Beckoning Whistle
- Billy Graham (yes, that Billy Graham) pitches his tent in Los Angeles.
- Cynthia goes to see him, and when she comes home she says she's not going to divorce Louie.
- He's relieved about this, but angry that she's had a religious awakening.
- She manages to drag Louie to one of Billy Graham's sermons, but when it comes time to pray, Louie leaves. That night, he has another nightmare about the Bird.
- Cynthia gets Louie to go to another sermon, and Louie remembers a still day he experienced on the raft with Phil: "That day, he had believed that what lay around them was the work of infinitely broad, benevolent hands, a gift of compassion" (5.38.33).
- When they're asked to pray, Louie tries to leave again, but he has a flashback to his time on the raft.
- He says, "If you will save me, I will serve you forever" (5.38.40).
- It is the last flashback he has—he comes back to reality, and walks toward Billy Graham a saved man.
- He realizes that "He was not the worthless, broken, forsaken man that the Bird had striven to make of him" (5.38.56). Instead he is… unbroken. Boo ya.
- He dumps out all his alcohol when he gets home, and feels like "a new creation" (5.38.46).
- Louie becomes a Christian speaker and, in 1950, travels to Japanto face the guards accused of war crimes.
- He's told that Mutsuhiro Watanabe, the Bird, has died.
- Louie no longer hates the man; he feels compassion for him now.
- Forgiveness is quite the feeling of peace. For Louie, "the war was over" (5.39.16). Finally.
- Louie opens up the Victory Boys Camp to help juvenile delinquents.
- Later in life, Louie receives tons of awards and honors, has places named after him, and carries the Olympic torch in five different Games.
- He hikes and skateboards in his seventies.
- Everyone loves him.
- Phil becomes Allen again, and he lives a generally happy life with Cecy and their two children.
- He's often recognized as "that guy who was with Louie during the war," but manages to live free of resentment toward Louie.
- Allen dies in 1998 of diabetes and heart disease.
- Bill Harris stays with the marines and disappears in Korea in 1950. No one knows what happened to him.
- Louie's brother, Pete, marries a woman named Doris and assembles a scrapbook of Louie's life.
- Pete dies in 2008. Cynthia dies in 2001.
- In 1996, Louie gets a call from Draggan Mihailovich, a CBS producer—in preparation for the 1998 Winter Olympics, he wants to do a profile on Louie, who will be running the torch past Naoetsu.
- But Mihailovich has a startling revelation: "The Bird is alive" (Epilogue.30).
- He'd been in hiding for seven years, only to resurface when the arrest order for war criminals was lifted. He's married and has two kids.
- In 1995, at seventy-seven years old, Watanabe speaks to a reporter at the London Daily Mail. He apologizes, and says that former prisoners can come beat him if they want to.
- Although he doesn't want to beat him, Louie does want to meet him.
- In 1997, CBS producers meet with Watanabe, saying they have a message from Louie Zamperini. He agrees to an interview, but this time seems a lot less remorseful about the beatings he dealt out at the camp.
- When Louie goes to Japan to carry the torch, he carries with him a letter to Watanabe. In the letter, he tells the Bird that he stripped him of his rights and his dignity, but that he has forgiven him.
- Watanabe refuses to meet Louie.
- Louie sends the letter, but if Watanabe receives it, he never replies.
- Watanabe dies in 2003.
- In 1998, Louie carries the Olympic torch past Naoetsu, "through the place where cages had once held him" (Epilogue.84).
- But the cages are gone, and Louie is simply an "old and joyful man, running" (Epilogue.84).