Summary and Analysis
Part V Chapter 36: The Body on the Mountain
In Japan, the hunt for The Bird continues fruitlessly. A nationwide search to apprehend Mutsuhiro Watanabe sometimes gets achingly close to finding the war criminal but ultimately yields nothing. The Bird takes work as a live-in laborer for a rural farmer, and there he stays hidden. Thousands of other war criminals are caught, tried, and convicted, including Louie’s college buddy and Japanese spy, Jimmie Sasaki. In the summer of 1946, The Bird makes a secret visit to his family in Tokyo, barely escaping capture. He returns to hiding and becomes a waiter at a coffee shop. A dead body found on a mountain is thought to be his: The Bird is declared dead.
The postwar life of The Bird is interesting in that it doesn’t provide satisfying closure or any lasting judgment of the human embodiment of the figurative devil who wrecked Louie Zamperini’s life. The Bird escapes justice, living a quiet and simple life in rural Japan. He’s named a war criminal but avoids being captured—even once when in the same room as his pursuers. And events conspire to protect him as well: A dead body is declared to be his and ends the hunt for him even though he is still very much alive and well.