Summary and Analysis
Louis “Louie” Zamperini spends the rest of his days in Christian service. He starts Victory Boys Camp, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping at-risk boys, which becomes his life’s work. He also travels the world as an inspirational speaker and carries the Olympic torch before five different Games. Russell Allen “Phil” Phillips returns to a quiet life in La Porte, Indiana, where he becomes a high school teacher. He and his wife, Cecy, raise two children. William “Bill” Harris fights for the United States in the Korean Conflict and disappears on December 7, 1950; it’s assumed he died in a POW camp in Korea. Mutsuhiro “The Bird” Watanabe comes out of hiding in 1952 after amnesty for war criminals has been finalized. He marries, has children, makes millions in the insurance business, and keeps a vacation home on Australia’s Gold Coast. Louie tries to meet with Watanabe once in Tokyo, but The Bird refuses. Watanabe dies in April 2003, more than 50 years after his war crimes.
The epilogue of Hillenbrand’s biography serves as both the closing section and the final evidence that she has written a true, historically accurate account. In wrapping up the details of the lives of Louie and Cynthia Zamperini, “Phil” Phillips, Bill Harris, and Mutsuhiro Watanabe, she provides verifiable facts that any researcher can corroborate.
Additionally, the information about The Bird’s final postwar years attests to the veracity of Louie’s story as related in Unbroken. Were this simply an inspirational tale, The Bird would meet his much-deserved judgment and demise, but that never happened: The Bird lived a long and successful life after his days ruling POW camps ended. He escaped punishment, became very wealthy and important in Japanese society, and died in old age.