Summary and Analysis
Part IV Chapter 24: Hunted
Out of all the POWs at Omori, Louie receives The Bird’s special attention. The Bird immediately commences beating Louie for any reason—even for no reason at all. Additionally, unlike other POWs, Louie isn’t allowed to register with the Red Cross; Japanese authorities are keeping his captivity a secret. The camp holds 900 dysenteric men but has only eight outdoor toilets. The Bird forces officers, including Louie, to empty those toilets each day. When Louie resists The Bird’s treatment, he is beaten more severely. He learns to stand and take the punishment, hating and fearing The Bird the entire time. Meanwhile, the other POWs wage a mostly-unnoticed war of minor sabotage and small thefts against their captors.
The way The Bird grossly abuses his total control over Louie and the other POWs is a grim reminder of the age-old maxim, “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.” In this private hell, there is no escape for Louie; all he can do is suffer and try to survive.
There is, however, one minor redemption: The POWs’ subtle thefts from their captors become a form of resistance that, in small ways, helps Louie and the others to maintain shreds of human dignity and hope. “In risking their neck to sabotage their enemy,” Hillenbrand writes, “the men were no longer passive captives. They were soldiers again.”