Summary and Analysis
Part IV Chapter 29: Two Hundred and Twenty Punches
In May 1945, 400 new POWs are transferred to Naoetsu, bringing news of Germany’s fall. Everyone recognizes that Japan won’t last much longer and wonders if the “kill-all” order will be enforced. The Bird splits his time between Naoetsu and Mitsushima, another POW camp. At Mitsushima, the POW officers conspire to poison The Bird but only manage to make him ill. At Naoetsu, as collective punishment for the theft of a fish, The Bird forces Louie, Tinker, and three other officers to receive 220 punches to the face from other prisoners. August 22, 1945 is set as the date for all the Naoetsu POWs to be killed.
Unexpected hope arrives at Naoetsu in the form of 400 sick, emaciated men, POWs transferred from other camps. The news that Germany has fallen to Allied forces means that it’s only a matter of time before Japan falls as well. The great hope of an American victory also brings with it great fear: Will the impending doom of Japan mean freedom for the captives? Or will it mean death for the POWs under the standing “kill-all” order that’s in force in Japanese camps?
America’s victory over Germany and aerial power over Japan is offset by the absolute helplessness Louie experiences at the hands of The Bird in Naoetsu. In spite of the obvious signs of his coming demise, The Bird tightens his grip on his captives, delivering imaginatively sadistic abuse, such as making every prisoner punch Louie in the face as punishment for another man’s theft of a fish. Truly, The Bird is Louie’s personal devil.