Louie still thinks about the Bird, but these thoughts hang at the edges of his mind and dreams. Back from their honeymoon, Louie and Cynthia live temporarily at the house of Harry Read’s mother. Cynthia does not feel comfortable there, and Louie wants to secure a proper home for them. Louie does not yet have a regular job, but he makes enough money to be able to rent a small apartment in a part of Hollywood. When the Bird returns to his dreams, Louie puts his energy into training for the Olympics. One day, with Cynthia timing him, he pushes too hard and realizes the limits of his injured ankle. He must face the fact that he will not be able to return to the Olympics.
Louie returns to bad habits, including smoking and drinking. He starts to feel and to express rage. He soon experiences his first flashback. At Cynthia’s suggestion, he sees a counselor but soon quits when he does not feel any better. Louie starts to become consumed with thoughts of taking revenge on the Bird by killing him.
In the falling action of the war and of Louie’s story, the reader expects some people to be punished for the ways they abused the POWs. Hillenbrand puts this in historical context and Louie’s emotional conflict with the Bird is still not resolved, and neither is the larger political conflict with the Bird. He is still at-large. The feelings that Louie had right after the war have been replaced by anger and a need for revenge. Even though Louie is not still in Japan, he is still in conflict with the Bird. He has a murderous desire to find him and to kill him.
Chapter Thirty-Four captures the emotional scars the war leave on Louie and on the ways he medicates himself with alcohol. His family members had not known about the horrors Louie had experienced and were not prepared for Louie’s reactions. Today, there is a stronger understanding of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and doctors would likely recognize Louie’s reaction to the record as a symptom of this. Soldiers today would also likely be encouraged to seek counseling, but at this point Louie tries to push down the emotions. He is able to do this while inebriated and while awake, but at night, he cannot stop his dreams. The pressures and attention of being a celebrity might have exacerbated Louie’s problems, because he tries to put on a face to match the image America has of him.
Hillenbrand underscores this with the grim statistics regarding the scars of war. She skillfully infuses blunt statistical information about the emotional and physical toll of war. The facts are startling but true. Many soldiers suffered horribly after the war, and many experienced a desire for revenge. Many soldiers simply could not recover from their wartime experiences. Fred’s trauma is triggered by the sight of white rice. In this era, the psychology of war was not understood as well as it is today. Many soldiers suffered even more because of the misunderstanding with which their symptoms were interpreted and treated.
After presenting this context, Hillenbrand returns to narration with information about the initial peace Louie feels with Cynthia. Louie is able to keep his demons at bay for a time, with the bliss of new marriage and then with training for the Olympics. But once Louie is no longer able to train, and he is deeper into his marriage, his demons return. Louie is not yet done with the war. He now faces an internal war, with his raging emotions in control.