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The Bird seems ecstatic about having Louie and the others at his camp, which he says he will run the same way he ran Omori. The three hundred or so POWs here are mostly Australian. The barracks are not equipped for the frigid weather, with a frozen river just below the building, holes in the roof, and a vermin infestation. Cremated remains of dozens of Allied soldiers spill out of boxes against one wall.
Louie learns that the Bird (Wanatabe, whom the Aussies call “Whatabastard”) had brought Louie and the men to him on purpose, with the intention to torment Louie. Louie was partly saved from his wrath by working outside the camp eighteen hours a day. When the spring starts to come, Louie and others become farm laborers. On April 13, they see the first B-29 on that coast, the first sighting of such a plane by the Australians. The Bird reacts badly to this and sentences the officers to hard labor. They will load coal onto barges.
The men survive this slave labor with small acts, including reciting speeches by Shakespeare and Churchill and by stealing food and other items. One day Louie is knocked off a ramp by a guard. He badly injures his leg and is forced to stay in the camp with the Bird. Sickened and starving, he begs the Bird for work and is given a new assignment. He must clean up the pig’s sty with his bare hands.
On May 5, 1945, a B-29 circles Naoestsu. Inside the mill where the POWs are working the furnaces, there is a crash, which the foreman says is a transformer blowing. It was, in fact, a bomb dropped by the B-29. Soon after, four hundred POWs arrive from slave camps in Kobe and Osaka, where bombs had already hit. The new arrivals inform Louie and others that Germany had fallen, and that the Allies are now entirely focused on Japan.
The Bird starts to work in another camp as well, called Mitsushima, where soldiers nickname him “the Knob” and plot to kill him. They successfully sicken him, but he recovers and returns to Naoetsu. When some fish is stolen, the Bird accuses Louie and other officers and orders them to punch each other in the face. The Bird watches all of this with pleasure. Louie, already weakened and sick, is punched over two hundred times and for several days can barely open his mouth.
As he has done before, Louie keeps hope alive by daydreaming of the Olympics and by praying. Food is extremely scarce. Around him, Louie sees that the Japanese civilians are also sick and starving.
To Louie and others, it was already clear that Japan had lost the war, even if they did not surrender. The soldiers are aware of the danger of a kill-order order. At other POW camps, men are separated and taken to remote areas, where they expect they will be killed. Dates are given when the men at Naoetsu might be killed.
In Dante’s Inferno, the lowest level of hell is not a place of heat and fire. Instead, it is a place of cold and ice. This is where Satan can be found. In Louie’s journey through hell, he has reached the bottom, which is also a place of cold and ice. Louie described Naoetsu as the worst location of all those he experienced in the war. He experiences frigid temperatures, ravaging sickness, forced exercise, and limited food. Chapter Twenty-Eight once again illustrates the way that, just when things have reached a horrible point, they can get worse. Louie was a slave laborer, but at least he could walk. Then he injures his leg and cannot even walk. Louie also comes close to death and reaches a point of desperation. He even begs his oppressor, the Bird, for work, so that he can have enough food to survive.
The physical experiences, including the labors of Louie and the other men, are also reminiscent of the physical experiences Dante witnesses in his journey through hell. The men are forced to work in extremely dangerous situations for eighteen-hour workdays. Transferring coal between ships close to a mile offshore is extraordinarily risky. The Bird uses his power to control Louie and to attempt to reduce him further. He renders Louie less human, as Louie is reduced to eating the pig’s food with hands that have been cleaning up after the pig. Louie reaches a breaking point, even after so much suffering. This portion of his life almost destroys him. He is almost out of hope.
Forms of communication, and the presentation of information and misinformation, continue to be strands running through the story. The Japanese try to feed the men “false news” at the same time as the men “read” signs that speak otherwise. The Japanese lie to the men about a sound that is actually made by an Allied bomb. The men have limited access to information that will inform them of what is truly going on with the war. On the west coast of Japan, the men are cut off from the kinds of information they had at Omori. However, the men resourcefully share what little information they have, and continue to work together as “allies.”