Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Unbroken: Unraveling a Mystery

Zamperini the Bombardier

Unbroken is the story of the remarkable life of Louis Zamperini.  It’s an exciting view of one man’s life in World War II.
For me, it brought up a mystery about the Japanese people.

Louie’s Story:  He started out as a tough, undisciplined, unmanageable boy in a loving Italian American family.  The family lived in Torrance, California, near Los Angeles, and Louie could easily have gone on to be another hard luck story of a kid always in scrapes, stealing and cheating, on the wrong side of the rest of society. 
            Perhaps the speed young Louie needed to escape the cops was the element that began his salvation, because he found he could run, fast and hard.  He ran, and he ran, becoming an Olympic athlete who went to the 1936 Berlin Olympics. 
            Louie was dreaming of winning a gold medal in the 1940 Olympics, but World War II began, and there were no 1940 Games.  Louie joined the U.S. Army Air Corps and became a young officer, a bombardier on a B-24.

            Flying in the early part of America’s war against Japan in the Pacific, Louie saw a lot of action, both in the air, bombing Japanese targets and being shot at by Japanese Zeroes, and on the ground, being bombed by the Japanese.  Then on one mission to search for another missing bomber crew, his bomber crashed.  He, his pilot, and a crewman were the sole survivors.
            The story of their ordeal in a life raft would be more than most people ever experience in a lifetime, with no water, no food, sharks following and rubbing up beneath their raft, blazing sun, cold, and waves, waves and more waves. And finally an aircraft appears, and there’s hope.  But no, it’s a Japanese plane which shoots at the sunbaked airmen.  Bullets punch through their raft, but don’t hit the men. 
            The ordeal goes on.  You know that Zamperini survives this so you want this raft ordeal to be over with, because you are starting to feel like you are in that raft with the three men.
            Finally, after the raft has drifted over 1000 miles to the west, and just after the crewman, a sergeant, has died, they find themselves in an atoll, and soon, captives of the Japanese. 

“The Bird” Watanabe

            Louie and Phil, his pilot, go from one prison camp to another, with brutal, fiendish treatment by their Japanese captors.  All too soon, Matsuhiro Watanabe, nicknamed “The Bird” appears.  Although an enlisted man, he is the master of torture at the prison camp, and seems to single out Louie the Olympian as his prime target. 
            Laura Hillenbrand, whose book,  Seabiscuit, won her great acclaim, and became a very popular film, has done her research in Unbroken.  The brutal treatment that the Japanese inflicted upon thousands of prisoners of war is a well-documented fact, and her research digs up a tremendous story about this mere Japanese Army corporal who seems to be the Devil incarnate.
            The ordeal of Louie and his fellow prisoners, of torture, starvation, beatings, clubbings, miserable sanitation, slave labor and incredible humiliation until many are literally worked to death, goes on and on.  It finally ends, several days after Japan has surrendered. 
            Watanabe is the personification of evil, and Hillenbrand tells the story of his escape, his sentencing to be hanged along with Tojo and the other national leaders, and his life on the run. 
            Louie finds his way back to Torrance, to a family that was told long before by the War Department that he was dead. there is euphoria, and Louie is a hero. He marries a wonderful girl.
But-- there is what we today call post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  Louie’s life is a nightmare.  Watanabe and his beatings and humiliation inhabit his mind day and night. There is drinking, and more drinking. 
Louie is the boy saved from a life of crime by running, who becomes an Air Corps bombardier, then a survivor of an ordeal on a raft, then survivor of Japanese prison camps, but can he survive now, as he slides into alcohol?
Yes!  His wife Cynthia drags him to hear an inspiring young evangelist named Billy Graham, and gradually Louie remembers the pledge he made to God on that raft, and pulls his life out of the abyss, and becomes an inspiration for all who get to know him.
Zamperini goes on to live an exemplary life, helping others, starting a camp for disadvantaged and at-risk youth.  In fact, on January 26, 2012 Louie will celebrate his 95th birthday.

How to reconcile all this?  

I spent three years living in Japan, working daily with Japanese people, interacting with officers of the Japanese Self-Defense Forces, as commander of an American base that was formerly one of the primary bases of the Imperial Japanese Navy.
I regularly visited with the Mayor of the city of Sasebo, with a population of 250,000 people. I accompanied American Admirals and senior civilian officials on calls on local Japanese military and civil leaders. 
We attended social events with Japanese people.  We realize it would take a lifetime to truly understand the Japanese people, because their culture is so different from ours.   
We worked hard to maintain excellent relations between our countries, and we were tremendously supported by the American Ambassador, former Senator Mike Mansfield. His oft-repeated statement was "The U.S.- Japanese relationship is America’s most important bi-lateral relationship, 'Bar none!'"
When I read in Unbroken about the widespread horrors inflicted upon American and Allied prisoners by the Japanese it was a shock, even after all these years, since 1945, and then since I was there in 1983-86.  It was hard to take. 

Of course, I had heard about all this before, but Hillenbrand’s description of the horrors was so detailed, so graphic, that it was hard for me to reconcile. 

The Japanese Army installed a hateful culture that we saw played out in their invasion of China, and the Sino-Japanese war that began in 1937.  It was this culture, a mixture of the virtues of the Samurai warrior with absolute cruelty, and an attitude toward any prisoner of war that completely violated international codes of conduct.    This hateful culture thrived on men like “The Bird”, and he and others like him flourished as they made life miserable for their captives. 

While this brutality was widespread, there were Japanese people who did not get caught up with it, and some actually helped the prisoners.
In the end, I believe, the answer we see in Unbroken comes from Zamperini’s encounter with Billy Graham in 1949, and the very voice of Jesus Christ.  It comes from the absolute forgiveness that Louie showed his Japanese captors, even Watanabe.
It comes from American forgiveness of the Japanese, as led by General Douglas MacArthur and President Truman as we buried our hatchets after World War II.
There will always be evil people, and Louie saw more than his share of them in Japan.  Certainly we saw the same evil carried out in the Holocaust by Nazis in Auschwitz and other death camps.
And we can point to evil in every country, in every time, and including America.
However, we can always hope that we are a part of the good that comes with living honest lives, and forgiving. 
The message of Unbroken, I think, is this forgiveness, and the redemption it brought to Louie, and to all who truly believe.

Unbroken: a World War II story of survival, resilience, and redemption
By Laura Hillenbrand - Random House (2010) - Hardback - 473 pages - ISBN 1400064163

The Personal Navigator offers these books and papers:

Frontispiece and Title Page: Moubray on Breeding, Rearing and Fattening

Moubray: Practical Treatise on Breeding, Rearing, and Fattening all kinds of Domestic Poultry, Pheasants, Pigeons, and Rabbits and Instructions for the Private Brewery. Sixth Edition        . 1830   London, England: Sherwood, Gilbert and Piper, Paternoster-Row. John Lawrence, using the pseudonym Bonington Moubray, Esq. Devotes nearly 80 pages of this book on livestock to making beverages like mead, beer, porter, perry, stout and cider. Frontispiece features fine colored engravings of Spanish cock and hen, Suffolk Milch Cow and Oxford Dairy Pig. This edition adds more wood cuts and articles on cheese and cider. In discussion on gamecocks, Moubray tells about Ardesoif of Tottenham whose famous cock refused to fight, so he roasted the bird alive. His friends objected, which made Ardesoif so agitated that he died on the spot. Note Moubray's advice on the dairy: "The dairy must be the seat of the most exquisite and punctilious cleanliness, in every part of its management. Hence all sluts, snuff-takers, and daudles -- away to the dust-hole and cinder heap!"   368 pp. 11.5 x 19.7 cm. Cloth on board, title label pasted on spine, back cover sunfaded, some pages unopened, very good. (2528)  $160.00 . Farming/Brewing/Veterinary                                                                                                     

Advice to a Young Christian on the Importance of Aiming at an Elevated Standard of Piety, w/ intro by Rev. Dr. Alexander; third edition, revised and corrected 1830 New York, NY: G.&C.&H. Carvill, 108 Broadway "The age in which we live (1830) demands a high standard of Christian character," writes author in preface. Consists of series of letters to young people. 196 pp. 9 x 14 cm. Paper on board, with leather spine. Bumped and rubbed. Owner inscr. on ffep, dated 1830. Very good. (1329) $39.00. Religious.

American Baptist Magazine and Missionary Intelligencer, May 1820, Vol. 2 No. 9 Boston, MA: Baptist Missionary Society of Massachusetts. Memoir of Rev. Henry Jessey. Review of sermon delivered at the ordination of Rev. Stephen Chapin by Jeremiah Chaplin, Professor of Divinity in the Maine Literary and Theological Institution, at North Yarmouth. Extract of letter from Missionary College, Serampore by W. Ward. [Note: Ward was among founders of this College in India in 1818. It still exists in 2011.] College is open to all denominations of Christians, and to as many heathen scholars as choose to avail themselves of its exercises and lectures. Letter from Pomare, King of Otaheite, Society Islands. Report on efforts to Christianize American Indians of the Oneida and Stockbridge; letter signed with marks by Oneida Indians asking to embrace Christianity. 34 pp. 15 x 24 cm. Paper periodical, edges frayed, page corners curled, poor. (6399) $34.00. Religious/Missionary

American Baptist Magazine and Missionary Intelligencer, September 1820, Vol. 2 No. 11 Boston, MA: Baptist Missionary Society of Massachusetts. Frontispiece engraving of Rev'd James Manning Winchell, A.M. late pastor of the First Baptist Church in Boston. Memoir of the death of Mrs. Tamma Winchell, Rev. Winchell's widow. Tribute on death of Rev. Edward W. Wheelock, who, dying of consumption, left Rangoon for Calcutta, and died at sea. Letter from Mrs. Colman on the Burman Mission, mournfully relates last days of Rev. Wheelock. In letter to her sister she chides her for not answering for "nine long months" and goes on to tell her about revival of Buddhism in Burma, and building of pagodas.  32 pp. 15 x 24 cm. Paper periodical, edges frayed, page corners curled, poor. (6400) $34.00. Religious/Missionary

American Baptist Magazine and Missionary Intelligencer, January 1821, Vol. 3 No. 1 Boston, MA: Baptist Missionary Society of Massachusetts. Reflections on the New Year, 1821. Memoir of Rev. Andrew Fuller, Late Pastor of the Baptist Church and Society in Warren, Maine. Extracts from Mr. Judson's Journal--Burman Mission. Judson writes of traveling in Burmese rowing boat with ten rowmen to visit monarch in New Ava, or Ahmarapoor, 350 miles from Rangoon. Visit to Pagan. Disappointing audience with the emperor. They presented him an elaborately decorated Bible, which he flung to the ground. Necessity of Christianity to India; about the Hindoos; ritual of dying and the Ganges. Mr. Ward and the Mission at Serampoor. Missionary college at Serampoor will accept a Krishnu, a Sebuk-Ram, or a Ram-Mohun for 45 dollars a year. 40 pp. 15 x 24 cm. Paper periodical, edges frayed, page corners curled, fair. (6401) $34.00. Religious/Missionary

American Messenger, August 1856; "Behold I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people." Luke 2:10. Vol. 14. No. 8 New York, NY: The American Tract Society. Americans eagerly awaited this monthly religious paper. National news, religious commentary. Missionary news. Letter from a Slave--Thanks for  the American Messenger! Report of Mexicans in Metamoras (sic) who are willing to read. Progress in the North-west, among Romanists who have renounced Popery and then united with Protestant churches. 4 pp. 38 x 56 cm. Newspaper,  very good. (5363) $20.00. Religious/History

American Messenger, September, 1856; "Behold I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people." Luke 2:10. Vol. 14. No. 9 New York, NY: The American Tract Society. Americans eagerly awaited this monthly religious paper. National news, religious commentary. Missionary news. Story about lumbermen on the head waters of the Kennebec River in Maine, one who swore that God Almighty is not quick enough to kill me with a tree. The next day, while felling their first tree, a small branch was thrown with fatal  aim, as by the hand of the Almighty, and killed him. Story of brutal Indian swinging festivals honoring Shiva near Calcutta. 4 pp. 38 x 56 cm. Newspaper,  top edge ragged. very good. (5364) $20.00. Religious/History

Andrew P. Peabody: Three Sermons preached at the South Church, Portsmouth, NH December 25, 1859 and January 15, 1860 by Peabody, Andrew P., D.D. 1860 Portsmouth, NH: James F. Shores, Jun. & Joseph H. Foster. Andrew P. Peabody became famous at the South Church when he stormed against the American victory in the Mexican-American war in 1847. A lifelong pacifist Unitarian preacher, Peabody was a champion of abolition. These three sermons, preached just before the start of the War Between the States, display his eloquence, religious fervor and absolute dedication to the Gospel of Christ. His last sermon is a Vindication of Unitarianism. 32 pp. 14 x 22 cm. (6441) $31.00. Religious/Unitarian

Annual Election Sermon, Preached before His Honor Samuel T. Armstrong, Lieutenant Governor, at the Annual Election, Wednesday, January 6, 1836 by Rev. Andrew Bigelow,  1836 Boston, MA: Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Stirring, nearly two-hour-long sermon begins with Moses parting the Red Sea to escape from Egypt; makes pitch for increased emphasis on Christian education of all in the Commonwealth. Note that this annual sermon before the Legislature has been conducted since 1631. Table in back of booklet lists preachers who performed this act since John Cotton in 1634, including Increase and Cotton Mather and many other respected men of the cloth. Footnote observes that presiding officer is acting governor AND newly elected mayor of Boston, at the same time.  Gov. Everett will be sworn in one week later. 78 pp. 14.3 x 23.6 cm. Paper booklet, ex-library, marked "dup." 4 and 7 cm tears in front cover at spine, dampstain, good. (6193) $24.00. Religious/History

Ballou's Sermons: Select Sermons Delivered on Various Occasions from Important Passages of Scripture by Hosea Ballou, Pastor of the Second Universalist Society in Boston 1844 Boston, MA: A. Tompkins. Twenty-five sermons delivered between 1818 and 1829.  Christ our Example. Rich Man and Lazarus. False Teachers Compared to Foxes. Sinner meets with deserved punishment. The New Birth. The End of the World. Divine Truth, as represented by Tithes.  The Golden Calf. Evil of Striving Against God. Book belonged to Library of Rev. Eli Ballou, a prominent Vermont Clergyman. 350 pp. 12 x 19 cm. Cloth on board, blindstamped design, Small bookplate shows "Rev. Eli Ballou's Library". Endpapers torn out, leaving only edges. Except for that, appearance and condition very good.    (1757) $40.00. Religious

Beecher, Henry Ward: Life Thoughts, Gathered from the Extemporaneous Discourses of Henry Ward Beecher by one of his congregation; fifteenth thousand. 1858 Boston, MA Phillips, Sampson & Co. 299 pp. 12 x 20 cm. Edna Dean Procter collected these notes from two seasons of sermons by Beecher. Wonderful thoughts, just as valuable today."Mr. Beecher's best thoughts are not usually those which are beforehand committed coolly to paper; they are those which spring from the inspiration of the moment, and have no record save in the memory of his hearers."  "There is an anger that is damnable; it is the anger of selfishness.  There is an anger that is majestic as the frown of Jehovah's brow; it is the anger of truth and love." p. 156 f. "It takes a man to make a devil; and the fittest man for such a purpose is a snarling, waspish, red-hot creditor." p. 206. f. "The pulpit should be like the key-board of an organ, and the church like the pipes. It is my business to press down on the keys here, and it is yours to respond out there." Cloth on board, faded and stained on cover. Text block foxed and dampstained. Good. (2425) $22.00. Religious/Philosophy.

Bible: Polyglott Bible, English Version, containing the Old and New Testaments with the marginal readings 1834 Brattleboro', VT: Fessenden & Co. and Peck & Wood. Bible has illustrations of scripture, critical introduction to scripture, many other study aids. Contains family record of Raymond family, married 1834. 9 cm. thick, 17 x 27 cm. Calf on board with gold lettering and design, scuffed and worn. Marbled endpapers. Pages foxed. Bible is 4 inches thick. Good. (2575) $45.00. Religious.

Boston Investigator, The; Devoted to the development and promotion of universal mental liberty. Boston, Massachusetts, June 2, 1869 Seaver, Horace, Editor 1869 Boston, MA: Josiah P. Mendum. Unique newspaper, now in its 39th year, dedicated to Rationalism, fighting bigotry and superstition. Originally founded by the noted atheist Abner Kneeland, J.P. Mendum carried on the cause of fighting religion and religiosity. Editorial on benefits and advantages of Atheism. "Why should we not applaud the heroism of Atheistical martyrs... who were burnt by their Christian enemies?"  Paganism: "It would be difficult to prove that Paganism contained a greater mass of absurdities, follies, immoralities, madness, and fanaticism than modern Christianity." Report of circulation of the Gospel and the Holy Bible in Spain. Upwards of 5,000,000 tracts have been given away, and on Good Friday the Puerta del Sol resembled a vast reading room. Report of Indian fight. Seven companies of the Fifth Cavalry, led by General Carr, while moving from Kansas toward Fort McPherson, struck a camp of about 500 Cheyennes, and a big fight ensued, in which the Indians were badly defeated. The YMCA of Milwaukee has decided to leave its reading rooms open on Sunday, and Lake Michigan has not risen its banks and inundated the town. 8 pp. 36 x 42 cm. Newspaper, tiny holes in intersection of folds; letter "c" pencil on about five articles. Good. (7402) $49.00.  Religious/Atheism

Calendar Change Threatens Religion by Haynes, Carlyle B. ca. 1944 Washington, DC: Religious Liberty Association. Describes a "highly financed scheme which would abolish religious days, directly affecting Catholics, Protestants, and Jews." New World Calendar will abolish Sunday and Sunday observance. The last day of 1944 would be lopped off, and called no day.  But it IS a day. Cover shows bombers, one marked "Blank Day" dropping bombs on a town filled with churches.  24 pp. 12 x 19 cm. Paper booklet. Very good. (5533) $20.00. Religious.

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