Our Military Life Blog

Unbroken – Week 4

With the war drawing to a close, which the POW’s are unaware of, the guards are becoming more wary and careful in their treatment of the POW’s. As the days draw down to the kill-all order which has been given, the prisoners are unsure of what is going to happen. The tension inside the camp is building. When they are all questioned about how one single plane could wipe out an entire city, no one has any answers. They have been prisoners for so long, they do not know the latest weapons that the military is using.

Louie however, is very sick. He has beriberi, and he knows that left untreated, it can be fatal. As he suffers through the illness, he is sure that he will never make it home again. But when he is given five letters from home, he feels that there is some hope. The pictures of his family bring him some peace, but let him know that they have not given up on him. Back home, his family clings to the belief that he alive. Planes begin to fly overhead, dropping food and supplies into the camps. The men are overjoyed. They paint messages in the dirt to let the planes know how many POW’s are being held in the camp. They are inundated with supplies and clothing. They finally have to leave a message letting the planes know that they have enough supplies. They even begin to barter with the civilian populations to get haircuts, shaves, and anything else they might need.

When they are finally liberated and sent home, many of them spend quite a bit of time in hospitals before they are sent back to their families. They are not only ashamed of how they look, but they are sick as well. Finally getting the medical care so long denied to them is a miracle to the men. They begin to heal and get their strength back.  Louie refuses to go home until he can look more like himself and not scare his mother. He is willing to stay in the hospital for a while, and it is not until they are hit with a tornado that he consents to be sent back to the states. When he arrives, his brother Pete goes AWOL and joins his brother on his journey home. As soon as he sees his mother, he wraps himself around her and clings to her for a long time.

Leaving the war, and putting it behind them is something that the POW’s are not prepared for. The reality of returning to regular life is something that they all struggle with. Many of them turn to drinking, to cope with nightmares that plague them. While they are seeking help, some of those who could have helped don’t.

Louie tries to settle down. He gets married, and tries to keep his life together, but their life together is rough. Louie has no money, he does not have a job, and he is struggling with alcohol. Every night the nightmares of the Bird consume him, and he is on the brink of losing everything. His wife finally leaves and is going to file for divorce, but they are eventually able to work through and reconcile. It took one man to bring Louie to reality, Billy Graham. His words cut through Louie and make him realize the self-destructive path that he is on.


This story is one of survival and hope. Louie Zamperini was a Olympic runner, turned aviator, who shot down during WWII lived through one of the most brutal Japanese POW camps in existence. As he suffered abuse from one particular guard, he kept holding onto the hope that he would survive the war and return home. The stories of the men who lived in these horrific conditions are told here, and there are no holds. Laura Hillenbrand brings out the conditions of the camps, but through the story line, the hopes of the men and the resilience that they had is remarkable! I hope that you enjoyed reading this book. It was one that was a tear jerker, but the thread of hope running through and the remarkable lives that these men found after returning home is inspiring!

This week we are reading Chapters 31-Epilogue 


  1. Why do you think Louie reacted so vehemently to the sound of his broadcast from Japan?
  2. The US pushed for those responsible for war crimes to be arrested and punished. Why do you think some of the men managed to get through the net of the searches? Should there have been more done to find them?
  3. Louie’s story is one that speaks to many. While he and others lived in the worst conditions in the camps, their resourcefulness helped to make conditions bearable. What was the best thing that they manged to do?
  4. Did you enjoy the book? Why or why not?