Summary: Chapter 20, Farting for Hirohito
The chapter begins with information about the setting of Ofuna, including the occupants and the culture. Louie befriends William Harris, a highly intelligent marine officer with a photographic memory. Periodically, Jimmie Sasaki calls Louie into his office but does not try to save Louie. Gaga, a peg-legged duck, provides some amusement to the men. Louie discovers that a whole system of communication exists beneath the seeming silence of the camp. This includes the use of Morse code made with hand gestures or whispered sounds. They also find ways to be defiant, including by saving up intestinal gas and “farting for Hirohito” during the forced bowing for the Japanese emperor. Louie keeps a secret diary. The men find ways to steal newspapers. Harris creates a Japanese-English dictionary.
In the winter months, food becomes so scarce that the men can barely move. Cold temperatures and dysentery make survival extremely hard. Some kitchen workers and soldiers help Louie survive the winter by passing him off scraps of food.
When guards learn of Louie’s Olympic running history, they stage a race between him and a Japanese runner. When Louie can barely run, the soldiers mock him. In the spring, Louie is forced to race again, and he is beaten when he beats the Japanese runner.
The men are allowed some freedoms to talk more at the end of 1943. Soon after, Louie meets a new prisoner whose hometown is not far from Louie’s hometown of Torrance. It turns out that this soldier, Fred Garrett, had been held in the same Kwajalein cell where Louie had been held, and had seen Louie’s name engraved on the wall. Louie also befriends Frank Tinker. Garrett and Tinker experience the same mental clarity Louie had experienced when he first experienced starvation.
Phil is told he is being sent to a POW camp called Zentsuji, where he hopes for better treatment. In fact, he is sent to Ashio, where enlisted men were enslaved and forced to mine for copper. When he tries to write a letter home, he later finds burned remains of the letter.
Summary: Chapter 21, Belief
Hillenbrand offers information about Louie’s family members in Torrance during 1943, in the months after the telegram that had announced Louie’s disappearance. While saddened and worried, the family members believe that Louie is still alive. Pete’s stress causes him to be especially thin, even as he trains Navy recruits in San Diego. When Sylvia’s husband leaves for war, she experiences anxiety. Louie’s mother Louise develops a severe rash on her hands that began as soon as she learned of Louie’s disappearance.