Summary and Analysis
Part IV Chapter 18: A Dead Body Breathing
Weakened from their ordeal at sea and imprisoned on Kwajalein, Louie and Phil endure squalid conditions, illness, and abuse from their Japanese guards. One day, Louie hears angelic singing again. Although he can’t see the singers, he recognizes them as the same voices he heard while adrift on the ocean. After a week on Kwajalein, Louie and Phil are subjected to repeated interrogations by their captors. Louie also learns that nine missing marines have been executed on this island. On August 26, 1943, Louie and Phil are stripped, washed, and loaded on a ship supposedly bound for a POW camp in Yokohama, Japan.
This time, Hillenbrand treats Louie’s description of heavenly singing only briefly but with more empathy, emphasizing how it brings Louie new hope. Perhaps this otherworldly singing is simply another hallucination. Or perhaps real angels are taking the time to sing comfort and hope to Louie in his personal hell. Regardless, this is the last time Louie will experience any kind of near-miracle until the final days of the war.
Additionally, in this chapter, Hillenbrand begins to focus more deeply on the theme of dignity as essential to human life. “To be deprived of it is to be dehumanized,” she writes. Hillenbrand will return to this theme often.