Summary and Analysis Part V Chapter 38: A Beckoning Whistle


The Bird continues to visit his mother once a year, on October 1, meeting her at a restaurant in Tokyo. Shizuka Watanabe guards the secret that her son is alive with determined silence amid an array of rumors about The Bird’s life, death, and whereabouts. Meanwhile, in America in September 1949, Cynthia attends a Reverend Billy Graham revival in Los Angeles. She comes away changed. She decides against divorce and instead talks Louie into going to hear Graham. Louie resists but eventually gives in, always leaving the church service early—and angry. Then one night after hearing Graham preach, he feels as though Christ is reaching out to him, and Louie becomes a Christian. He, like Cynthia, is changed.


Redemption has been a constant theme in the life of Louie Zamperini. As a boy, he was redeemed from juvenile delinquency by athletics, with Pete playing the role of “savior.” As an aimless young man, he was redeemed with new purpose in military service. Lost in an ocean “purgatory,” he was redeemed by staying alive—and helping Phil to do the same. As a POW trapped in hellish captivity, he was redeemed by joining a symbolic resistance and, eventually, by his rescue at the hands of the American B-29 pilots.

All these redemptions, though, were incomplete and temporary. They were limited in their scope and ability to save the man. According to Zamperini, he needs something more, and he finds it in Christ. The spiritual redemption he experiences in September 1949 changes him from the inside out, and in the end, that changes everything.

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