All I can say is wow.
How do you describe such a book as Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand?
Louie Zamperini was the son of Italian immigrants who moved from the east coast to the west for the sake of their son's health. Louie repaid his parents by doing his utmost to be the most dreaded hood of his neighborhood. When he wasn't getting into fights, he was stealing from the neighbors. When he was doing neither of those he was playing pranks on everyone.
This might have led Louie straight to a juvenile detention center if his older brother Pete had not stepped in. Pete determined that Louie was going to be a runner. The first section of this book details how a two bit delinquint from a small town in Cailifornia made his way to the Olympics in Germany in 1936. He was the youngest runner there. He didn't win but he knew he had another chance in 1940.
Only he didn't.
WWII broke out and Louie found himself as a bombadier on a B-24. The second section of the book gives us an exciting description of Louie's life in the Army Air Corps. This section is fascinating for its detail of life as a soldier during the war if nothing else.
But there is something else.
Louie's plane crashed in the ocean. He and two others survived on a raft for a month and a half. I could hardly read this section it was so intense. When the men weren't being scorched by the heat and starved, they were trying to avoid being shot at by strafe shooters or attacked by sharks. Louie described feeling the backs of the sharks as they swam underneath the rafts.
Two sharks about eight feet long, were placidly circling the raft....Curious, he dropped a hand into the water and laid it lightly on a passing shark, feeling its back and dorsal fin as it slid beneath him. Beautiful, he thought.....
He was kneeling there, perched over the edge of the raft, when one of the sharks that he had touched leapt from the water at terrific speed, mouth wide open, lunging straight at his head....(pg. 160, 161)
You'll have to read the book to find out how that resolves. Hee, hee.
Finally, the raft makes it to an island and the two surviving men (one died on the raft) collapse in relief on the shore.
But not for long.
The island is occupied by Japanese soldiers. This next section is the most dreadful portion of the entire book. Louie now embarks on the darkest hours of his life. I'm sure he believed that he had descended into hell.
As I read these chapters of Louie's life as a POW and how he was mercilessly tormented by the Japanese guards I couldn't help but think of a children's book that is in school libraries. It's titled, One Thousand Paper Cranes. It's a story about a Japanese girl who develops Leukemia as a result of the Atomic bomb radiation from Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It's a very sad and touching story and also a very effective piece of propaganda calculated to make Americans feel that we were wrong to bomb Japan in WWII.
Well, I suggest all those people who have had their emotions manipulated by that book read Unbroken. You won't feel responsible for anyone in Japan getting cancer due to an act by America that effectively ended a war that had already left millions dead.
In its rampage over the east, Japan had brought atrocity and death on a scale that staggers the imagination.. Japan held some 132,000 POWs...of those, nearly 36,000 died, more than one in every four. More than 37% of American POWs died. By comparison only 1 percent held by Nazis and Italians died.
In accordance with the kill-all order, the Japanese massacred all 5,000 Korean captives on Tinian, all of the POWs on Ballale, Wake and Tarawa... they were evidently about to murder all the other POWs and civilian internees in their custody when the atomic bomb brought their empire crashing down. (pg. 314, 315)
Then the aftermath.
Hillenbrand, in the penultimate section of her book, writes in heart-rending detail the challenges the POWs faced in learning how to live a normal life back home after being treated like an animal for four years.
Well, it doesn't happen. No one goes back to normal. Normal is gone.
Louie deals with it by drinking heavily and being abusive. He falls in love and gets married but that doesn't make his nightmares go away.
But that's not the end of the story.
The last part of this book is, to me, the most powerful and most moving. I don't want to give it away, but once again, God shows how his transforming love changes despair to hope, hatred to love, and the desire for vengeance into the ability to forgive.
I highly recommend this book and NO publisher gave it to me for my honest review. I bought it myself and I recommend you do too.
For more reviews on WWII:
The Navajo Code Talkers
The Secret Holocaust Diaries
On Hitler's Mountain and In My Hands
Post Script: I wrote this blog before the terrible disaster occurred in Japan this last week. Let's keep the Japanese in our prayers as they deal with this horrible catastrophe.