Summary: Chapter 10, The Stinking Six

That same night on the island of Funafuti, Louie lies restless. He hears a plane above the island, but doesn’t think much of it and tries to go back to bed. Before long, however, he hears more planes and then a loud boom. Japanese bombers attack the island.

The soldiers and natives on the island scatter. Unable to find a formal bomb shelter, some take to digging foxholes of their own. Others hide under huts and various other structures. The bombing lasts for what seems like an eternity, as shrapnel is blown everywhere and men are reduced to crying and praying.

The morning after, everything is a haze. Some men are traumatized to the point of not being able to talk. Those dead are mutilated beyond recognition. Louie is transferred a station on the east of Oahu. He lives in a daze and takes to drinking. Six men are brought in to replace the wounded and lost members of Super Man. The only one mentioned is named Francis McNamara, or Mac. The crew has no plane, but they are set up in a beautiful cottage right on the beach. The chapter ends with the image of a plane leaving Hickham Field and flying out of sight. It is piloted by Clarence Corpening.

Summary: Chapter 11, Nobody’s Going to Live Through This

On May 27, 1943, Louie wakes up early and decides to run a mile. He clocks in at 4:12, while running on a beach. He is in his best shape ever. Later that day, a lieutenant tells Louie and Pete that the plane piloted by Clarence Corpening, mentioned at the end of the last chapter, had never landed. The lieutenant orders them to search for it. Not having a plane, they are forced into Green Hornet -- a plane that barely works and is feared by all the airmen on the island. Louie, Phil, and nine others head out on the search mission.

When the crew arrives at the area they were ordered to search, Cuppernell and Phil switch positions so that Cuppernell can get piloting experience. Soon after, the men realize the plane is consuming fuel in one engine must faster than the other. They make an attempt to even out the fuel supplies, but first engine fails. Cuppernell yells to an engineer, asking him to feather (balance out) the engine, but doesn’t specify which and the engineer hits the wrong button. The plane starts to fall. All the men can do is put on their life-vests and brace for impact. Right before the plane hits, Louie realizes no one is going to survive.

The plane smacks into the water, and Louie is pulled deep underwater. He is trapped in a coil of wire, being dragged down, still inside of the plane. He fights and fights but can’t get free. Meanwhile, Phil manages to fight his way out of the cockpit and surfaces. Louie passes out. When he come to, still underwater, he thinks he is dead. He manages to orient himself within the plane’s cabin, kick his way free and pull his life-vest. He floats to the surface. He is alive.


Chapter Ten provides important insight into the other side of bombing raids. The reader has been cheering Louie on as he drops bombs from above, not really thinking of the receiving end of the attacks. Through this chapter, however, one sees the absolute destruction and brutality of these attacks. This particular attack is made even more terrible by the fact that the men just returned from a death-defying mission. But that’s the nature of war. The men are never safe and are never awarded their well-deserved rest or praise—at least not until the war is over. As Louie performs future raids, the reader will remember this chapter and perhaps be a little more hesitant to cheer for Louie’s successful bomb drops.

The change of Louie’s crew leaves both Louie and the reader feeling quite uneasy. There seemed to be something almost magical about Super Man and its crew. With a new crew and a new plane, it is unreasonable to expect that same magic to exist. Whereas Louie and the Super Man were always able to make it through the most difficult of situations, one has to wonder whether the luck will continue. Hillenbrand ends Chapter Ten on a foreboding note, which foreshadows the disaster to come in Chapter Eleven.

In the narrative pattern that Hillenbrand has presented up to this point in the book, Louie’s highs are followed by lows, and the lows are followed by highs. His life is a roller-coaster ride. As a character and person, Louie has a remarkable ability to rebound from the lows. He is a dynamic character, an adaptable person. Hillenbrand begins Chapter Eleven with Louie finally getting out of his slump. He has been depressed and cold to others, but finally he seems happy and is healthier than ever. The running episode gives the reader a false sense of calm for what is to come. If one did not know better, one might expect that this would lead to Louie’s return to competitive running, with a future Olympics ahead of him. Yet, soon the reader realizes something will go wrong. When the lieutenant orders Louie and crew to fly in Green Hornet, their hesitance says everything. The reader is reminded of the hesitance Louie felt during the mission to Nauru, when he was ordered to fly lower than made sense to him. Again, he receives orders that he disagrees with, but that he must follow. As a plane, Green Hornet is no Super Man. Additionally, the plane lacks the tight crew of Super Man, a crew that only barely escaped disaster thanks to the teamwork of the crew. Immediately, the mood changes.

The end of Chapter Eleven presents Louie’s first true experience with being on the brink of death. In some ways, one could even say that this is the first time he dies, and the first time he is reborn after death. Amazingly, this pattern will continue across Louie’s dramatic life. The odd sense of calm that comes before the crash is a result of the many trials that Louie and company have been through. While they may not have seemed to recognize their luck up until this point, Louie realizes that he could have died many times before this incident and has been fortunate to survive.