Summary and Analysis Part II Chapter 9: Five Hundred and Ninety-four Holes



During February 1943, Louie and the Super Man crew are briefly stationed on the island of Canton, from which they carry out raids on the Japanese-occupied islands of Makin and Tarawa, in the Gilbert Islands. On a reconnaissance flight, their plane is grazed by antiaircraft fire. Their fuel is low, and below them are hundreds of sharks. They barely make it back to Canton before Super Man’s engines quit. In April 1943, the Super Man crew participates in a bombing of the island of Nauru. Japanese Zero planes defend the island, pelting Super Man with gunfire, killing crewmate Harry Brooks, and wounding others. In the end, Super Man takes 594 bullet holes, but Louie survives.


Returning to the story of Louie Zamperini, Hillenbrand delves deeper into the specific dangers men like Louie faced during WWII. Louie is sent out on several missions into enemy territory. His life has been redeemed by military service and now it’s placed at great risk by the same thing that redeemed him. The bombing of Nauru, related by Hillenbrand with exquisite detail, is testimony both to who Louie is and who he has become.

During the Nauru bombing run, Louie is again the best version of himself: He is not the same self-centered, lazy boy who once stole food in Torrance or who dropped out of college because he couldn’t run in the Olympics. He is a man of action and imagination, ready to sacrifice himself for the good of his crewmates and for the sake of his country. War is hell, evident by the death of Harry Brooks, who stood beside Louie in battle. But within that fire, Louie proves himself in a positive light. And so far, he’s managed to survive.