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This chapter begins at the Rokuroshi POW camp on August 22. Phil and Fred Garrett still do not know that the war is over until the Japanese commander returns from a five-day absence and announces it to the ranking American soldier at the camp. Following this announcement, the men hold a giant celebration. They decide to wait at the camp for rescue.
At Naoetsu, food and other supplies do not come as quickly as originally promised. When Fitzgerald threatens the Japanese for failing to send his request for food, the commander manages to get a delivery of rations delivered. Soon after, planes start delivering more supplies. The men receive all sorts of fruits, vegetables, shoes, and more. Planes drop so many supplies that the men have to be careful to escape being hit by them. The men eat to their heart’s content.
The men are grateful to the soldiers who drop the supplies. Gratitude is felt on both sides of these drops. Louie feels gratitude, love, and even forgiveness. As the men wait to be rescued, they celebrate by eating, sharing their bounty with Japanese civilians, and by engaging in other adventures. When September 4 arrives, Commander John Fitzgerald orders a Japanese ten-carriage train to be ready for them the next day.
Hillenbrand details the final surrender on September 2, 1945 and explains how all over Japan, B-29s drop food and other supplies for soldiers in POW camps. While the Naoetsu POWs do not lose their lives under a no-kill order, they came close to doing so, as their guards seemed prepared to do it. Elsewhere, under such an order, we are told that Japanese killed thousands of Koreans on Tinian and tens of thousands of POWs.
The Naoetsu POWs begin a celebratory train ride to Yokohama. As the ride continues, the men are sobered by the sights of the bombed cities, one after another. In Yokohama, the men are greeted by Red Cross nurses, and the celebration begins again. There, a journalist encounters Louie and captures his full story. Louie hoards items and boards a plane for Okinawa. There, men are stunned to find him alive. They had believed him to be dead. Louie learns the statistics about soldiers, including former athletes, who died during the war.
Meanwhile, back home Louie’s family has not received any news since the radio broadcast ten months earlier. Then, on September 9, Pete is awakened by a friend showing him the newspaper headline: “ZAMPERINI COMES BACK FROM DEAD.” The entire family quickly learns the news and ecstatically awaits Louie’s return.
In Rokuroshi, Phil and Fred have to wait for rations and then to be transported to Yokohama. Back home, Phil’s mother has to wait before learning that Phil is alive.
Louie decides to stay in Okinawa a little longer, with the excuse that he does not want his mother to see him so thin. He eats, drinks, and celebrates. He sleeps on a real bed with sheets for the first time in years. When Louie decides to return home, he is anxious to be transported in an overloaded B-24. They land on Kwajalein, and Louie feels some joy to be there as a free man.
The American military decides to hospitalize Louie and the other POWs in Honolulu. There, Louie rooms with Fred Garrett, rests, and celebrates. On October 16, Phil arrives in Indiana via train. His family and his beloved Cecy greet him. Cecy and Phil are wed four weeks later. Pete learns that Louie has been transferred to a San Francisco hospital, and he goes AWOL in order to see his brother. In October, Louie returns home to his family.
Chapter Thirty-Two reflects the rules of war and how quickly power can shift. In victory, the Allied forces show strong character and have to maintain their endurance. Once the war is won, the Japanese must surrender powers to the POWs. At first, some try to hide the victory, but eventually the Japanese do admit the surrender. After so much humiliation and other suffering, the American soldiers display emotional strength and kindness when victory comes. They do not seek retribution. Even when the war is over, the soldiers still have to exercise patience in getting rescued and home. While their spirits are high at the war’s end, their bodies and minds have suffered extreme trauma.
As she does elsewhere in this book, Hillenbrand blends narration with historical information that contextualizes Louie’s experience within a larger scope of perspective. She further emphasizes the historic moment by offering statistics of POWs held and of soldiers who died.
Hillenbrand, a cinematic writer, offers a zoomed-out perspective, editing quickly among many locations to show the movement of people toward one another. From many points on the map, the reader watches soldiers moving across Japan, each movement taking them closer to their climactic reunions with their families. After an epic war journey, the soldiers are now on their journey home. Chapter Thirty-Three shows how the war’s end was a gradual experience for many people—for the soldiers who needed to recover from the physical ravages of war, and for their families who had to wait for the return of their family members.
Hillenbrand also presents emotional mapping. The war had brought so much grief and suffering to so many people. When POWs ride past bombed-out cities, including even Hiroshima, they feel the destruction of life, of place, of culture, of history. Yet in the context of war they also register acknowledgement that this destruction had brought about their salvation. Hillenbrand explains that virtually all POWs believed that the bombing of the city had saved their lives. While Chapter Thirty-Three focuses on the happy endings and reunions of Louie and of Phil, in the background are the statistics and shadows of all the soldiers who did not survive and who did not return, and all the families that suffered those losses.
The end of the war also brings a joy. Louie attempts to forget so much of his suffering as he experiences life again. He takes in every pleasure and shows that his playful personality was not entirely destroyed by the war. Louie relishes every moment of his well-deserved journey home. He seems to be grateful for each stop in his trek towards home, especially because of the ways in which these stops redeem the painful experiences of the first half of his journey.