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Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) Soon we will be discussing this wonderful book. I hope everyone is enjoying it as much as I am. In the meantime, here is a great article on the author, Laura Hillenbrand.

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Monica (imelda85) This is an incredible book! I've been recommending it to everyone!

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Becca | 54 comments UGh, I'm about 50 pages in and having a hard time getting in to it. Going to try and give it a uninterupted block of time this weekend. Is anyone else having trouble getting in to it?

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Meg (megvt) | 3069 comments I thought this was such a terrific book. Great article, thank you!

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Carrie Chaney (carrie_chaney) | 148 comments Becca: Give it a little more time. I was bored stiff through some of the childhood tales (it seemed repetitive), but I'm over half way through now, and Unbroken has definitely redeemed itself.

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Dero I a currenly listening to this one, about half way finished. I am really enjoying it. I loved Seabiscuit also.

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Carrie Chaney (carrie_chaney) | 148 comments Marialyce: Great article! Thanks for posting the link. :)

Kat (A Journey In Reading) (ajourneyinreading) | 390 comments just finished this one tonight. Loved it.

Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) I found this on you tube. You might not want to view it if you have not read up to page 125 yet. There are four parts to it. I have just included the link for Part 1, but you can get to the rest from there.

Marialyce (absltmom, yaya)

A timeline of the war in the Pacific.

I for one, think that Laura Hillenbrand did an excellent job of telling Louie Zampierini's story. Did everyone like her writing style. Did you find her presentation of the facts harrowing? What about Louis? Did you ever think a boy who really starts out being a kind of thug, could and did survive this horrendous experience?

I knew, prior to reading this book, nothing about Mr. Zampierini's and to tell the truth not much about the Japanese treatment of the POWs. I was made well aware of Hitler's atrocities, but was not taught about this pice of history.

So what is everyone's thoughts?

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Carrie Chaney (carrie_chaney) | 148 comments Marialyce wrote: "

A timeline of the war in the Pacific.

I for one, think that Laura Hillenbrand did an excellent job of telling Louie Zampierini's s..."

First, I thought this book was fantastic. I loved Hillenbrand's writing style. I felt she brought us close to the characters while maintaining a slightly formal tone that brings home that these are facts she's presenting, not made up accounts.

I had no trouble reconciling the mischeivous and unruly child with the strong/brave adult. My husband is in the military, and more than one of our military friends have rough backgrounds that give them the determination and perseverence to succeed in this career.

I agree that I am most informed about European half of this war. My great-grandfather fought in Europe, so I've heard more stories about that than anything else. It was great to hear a Pacific perspective.

I did, however, have a little knowledge of how harsh the POW camps were. One of my best friends is a history buff, and my husband is an encyclopedia of war/weaponry facts.

I also really loved how much of the history of Louie's comrades Hillenbrand incorporated. I'm glad Phil had his moment to shine in the the end of the novel, and I was intrigued to discover that one of the men Louie meets in the POW camp (Harris) is from my home state.

I felt Hillenbrand did a great job of researching the material. All the bits included from prisoners diaries and letters were fascinating, and, again, brought home that this was reality for these men.

One thing I had NO idea about was the HUGE threat posed by sharks to men stranded in rafts. I mean sure, I pictured one or two close calls. But CONSTANT CIRCLING? To me, that was more terrifying than the Japanese POW camps. It turned my stomach to think of the sharks brushing the underside of the raft.

I read a review that called the ending (Louie finding his faith) the weakest point in the book. I disagree. I think it was a little cliche, but honestly, aren't A LOT of things that happen in real life cliche? Most of us have at least one event in our past (a storybook romance, a stroke of good fortune, a rise from the slums to better life, etc.) that's more than over-told. It's the differences in circumstance that makes each case interesting. I found that Louie's reluctance to re-accept God/religion what set the religious part of his story apart from some others. It wasn't a moment of truth so much as a moment of humility when Louis finally decides to lead a Christian life.

Can't wait to see what other people have to say!

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Nancy | 1274 comments FYI Zamperini himself wrote another book called Devil at My Heels which is in his own words - published in 2003.

I loved this book, but I have a bias - a special connection to the story. The Green Hornet in which Zamperini crashed, was my father's first plane. Dad was in the same 11th Bomb group, although he didn't know Zamperini personally. The crew, of which he was co-pilot, picked up the plane in Topeka Kansas in March of 1943 and took it for a test flight. They flew up towards the Twin Cities and then buzzed my Dad's home town of Rice Lake WI at 10:30 at night. The town was afraid it was being attacked and went into black-out. They headed home and on approach back to the runway they hit a flock of ducks. Bird strikes are incredibly destructive, much less a mess. But at that point there were not clear indications of damage. Three days later they flew on to Alburquerque NM and lost their #3 engine before they could land. They had to lay over and have the engine replaced, then flew to Sacremento before going on to Hickam AFB on May 17, 1943.

Hillenbrand wrote on pg 112-13, "Liberators destined for the 11th Bomb Group were being flown in from other combat areas, and the first five, peppered with bulletholes, had just arrived. One of them, the Green Hornet, looked haggard, its sides splattered with something black, the paint worn off the engines. Even with an empty bomb bay and all four engines going, it was only just able to stay airborne."

I have a second copy of the photograph that is on pg 116, plus another taken that day with my father's crew on the other side of the plane. These were shot at McClellen AFB as they were loading to fly to Hawaii. You can see the black stuff all over the side, near that #3 engine. Duck debris - no wonder the plane was unreliable. The pics are on my profile - the last two black and whites. Dad is the skinny guy second from right in the back row.

I thought Zamperini had in absolutely incredible story to tell. Having survived a record number of days in the ocean under such harrowing circumstances and then months of torture. The resilliency of his spirit and faith were inspiring. Hillenbrand did a marvelous job researching all this information.

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Carrie Chaney (carrie_chaney) | 148 comments @Nancy: Wow! Small world, eh? Incredible.

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Kat (A Journey In Reading) (ajourneyinreading) | 390 comments Nancy, THANK YOU so much for posting those photos!! As I was reading the book, I was wondering if I would come up on some names that I knew. My dad fought in that war and had told me some of the things that he had seen.

I thought Hillenbrand did an amazing job with her writing and research. If you go to there are some videos on his site that show Hillenbrand talking about her research and all the people who played a part of it. It also shows Louis talking about Hillenbrand.

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Meg (megvt) | 3069 comments I am so happy that you shared this with us. It such an incredible addition to the book. Thank you!

Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) Nancy, how wonderful to have this connection and to have your Dad as well as not only your Dad, but also an historical reference point. Thank you for this post. I do so hope he shares a all of his stories with you and your familily.

My Dad was in Europe during WW 2 and also in Arica under Patton, but my father in law was a naval pilot in the Pacific as well. He lost a lot of his hearing as a result of flying these super noisy airplanes.

Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) What really got to me about these experiences was the part with the sharks. Could you imagine the absolute terror that would fill you as you battled, both literally and figuratively with these animals?

What part(s) of the book make you shutter?

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Nancy | 1274 comments I shuddered at several parts of the book. I don't know how they could have kept up hope in those two rafts. I was fascinated at what they did to stay positive, telling the stories about meals etc. I thought they were extremely forgiving where the chocolate was concerned. I don't know how, in their weakened conditions, they could have had the strength to continually fight off the sharks. They had to work as a team.

Of course the various forms of torture at the hands of the Japanese were outrageous. And yet I did get the impression that it was a minority that was imposing this brutality and others complied out of fear. The prisoners' various rebellions were touching. Those little acts of subversion that gave them a sense of dignity.

Zamperini's life after the war, as so many others, was a battle of memories. We didn't recognize PTS and I think back then we just expected them to man-up and get through it.

message 19: by Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) (last edited Feb 16, 2011 06:58AM) (new)

Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) It was amazing, Nancy. I don't know how they got through that part. I couldn't imagine the sharks constantly butting up against the raft as well as the part where they would lunge up onto the raft trying to get at the men. Where they gathered thestrength and courage to fight them off, I do not know. It did show how resilient we humans can be and that the need to live is ever so strong within us.

I do think Hillenbrand did present some of the Japanese in a positive light. They were trained so well to be devoid of feelings. Of course she did say
that they were from the lowest places in society and many of them had
sadistic traits. I just couldn't believe the luck that seemed to follow The
Bird. It seemed like a very appropriate name for him since he always seemed to be able to "fly away" from trouble as if he possessed a sixth sense.

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Carrie Chaney (carrie_chaney) | 148 comments Ha, I agree, The Bird's nickname was very fitting. I was especially impressed by Louie's ability to forgive him. After everything he'd done...I don't think I'd have been able to do that. Ever.

Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) You and me both, Carrie! Even at the end it seemed like he felt he did very little wrong, he was so haughty. I wanted to take a crack at him myself!

I really felt awful when many of the sentences for these brutal men were suspended.

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Carrie Chaney (carrie_chaney) | 148 comments Me too!

Honestly, what could cause someone to be so cruel? Isn't there a limit to what we can blame on social propaganda and the like?

I was a little thrown off by the way he kept changing his story/behavior as first agreeing to meet with Louis and then refusing bluntly. (Another example: First beating the men and then inviting them to parties? What??) Maybe he was having trouble blaming his "duty" for his actions as well. Denial, perhaps?

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Nancy | 1274 comments I thought it was positively awesome that Zamperini ran the torch in Japan. How a life can change! As for the Bird - I think he was just off his rocker period!!

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Meg (megvt) | 3069 comments I remember reading and reading, and at one point actually screaming out loud "Oh no, how much more can one person take!" I kept think each new horror was the worst.

I also never understand why people hated the Japanese as much as they did, now I do.

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Shay | 284 comments One of the fundamental things to understand about Japanese culture is Shintoism. It is a religion that you are "born" into, like Judaism. It's as much a religion as it is the basis for culture. The only difference is that you cannot convert. How does Shintoism relate to Japanese treatment of US prisoners? In Shintoism, only Shinto have souls. Everyone else is, basically, like an animal or a moving piece of furniture. Everything the US troops did, like "surrender" or "letting" themselves get captured, only showed the Japanese how "unworthy" their opponents were. Kind of proof that their was no nobility or honor- or soul. Also, keep in mind that the "opening" of Japan to the west occurred only 100 years prior. Moreover, before TV/internet/movies, etc., most Japanese would not have had any kind of contact with the western world. The average Japanese would never have actually seen or met anyone but another Japanese. The Japanese have the longest uninterrupted culture and that had an impact on all of their relationships with the outside world.

Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) So those guards who were nice to the prisoners were not following their religion? They surely could and did read the Warsaw Convention and did accept the the Red Cross supplies to the POWs. (even though they stole them all) I think I am just incensed by this.

I understand the brutality of war, but the cruelty was just beyond my ability to comprehend. I could not find any excuse for it. I realize that they(the soldiers) themselves were often mistreated as well. I don't think the Koreans were any better.

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Meg (megvt) | 3069 comments And not all Japanese fit into the culture of Shintoism. If you remember there were Christians in the mix as well. I don't know I guess I am more naive in thinking we are all human beings in peace and war. To treat another human being as an animal, or to believe in torture is totally against every piece of me. I just don't understand it.

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Shay | 284 comments Marialyce wrote: "So those guards who were nice to the prisoners were not following their religion? They surely could and did read the Warsaw Convention and did accept the the Red Cross supplies to the POWs. (even t..."

It's not necessarily part of the religion to kill people, but I think if you're so inclined it can be a justification. I mean, if something is not a "sin" then you really have no religious reason not to. There wouldn't have been any sense of divine retribution or punishment for your actions at all.

Very few Japanese are Christian. There would have been even less in that time period. It would have been illegal to spread Christianity in Japan for a while. Not sure when that ban was lifted, but it still would have been frowned upon. Also, most Japanese who are Christian (in Japan) would still consider themselves Shinto and make appropriate observances. Western religion is exclusionary- you are a Christian and can't be anything else. In eastern religions, they don't care if you're Shinto and Buddhist. Neither of those religions would care if you were also a Christian.

Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) Well, it was stated that these men were of the lowest class, (some of them even convicts of a sort) and many of them were sadistic. I wonder where you would as a human call an end to this. I realize it was a culture thing, but I just can't wrap my hands around it. (I guess you can tell that, Shay)

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Shay | 284 comments Marialyce wrote: "Well, it was stated that these men were of the lowest class, (some of them even convicts of a sort) and many of them were sadistic. I wonder where you would as a human call an end to this. I realiz..."

The lowest caste in Japan are referred to as "Eta". It would make sense that they would have these people coming in contact with blood. Blood is a major contamination, spiritually. The Eta probably have a lot of stored up rage and they finally got to be not the lowest of the low. In Japan, where births and marriage are highly "regulated", the Eta had no chance of ever rising above their station. For example, Japanese families have a crest- I think it may often be used in conjunction with a signature. Like a signet ring. The Eta are forbidden to ever have a crest. I'm not sure about Japan but it must be where it came from, but in Hawaii, books used to be kept on individuals (Japanese) for marriage. It would list things like class, history of inherited diseases, etc. So, there was no way you could ever have disguised the fact that you were Eta.

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Carrie Chaney (carrie_chaney) | 148 comments I realize that their culture was vastly different, and that most of the Japanese weren't well treated themselves. But I think the rare KIND Japanese guard shows that we can't say they were incapable of rising above the conditions into which they were born.

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Shay | 284 comments Carrie wrote: "I realize that their culture was vastly different, and that most of the Japanese weren't well treated themselves. But I think the rare KIND Japanese guard shows that we can't say they were incapab..."

That's why I said if one has the inclination to cruelty, the fact that there is no moral constraint probably makes it worse. I think that a large part of it is it's very easy to demonize things that are different. Look how the Japanese were treated in America during the war. I think the Japanese from Japan were told something and they had nothing to contradict that. (No real contact with the outside world.) It just goes to show that isolationism is not a sound policy for individuals or governments.

Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) ....and neither is war!

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Carrie Chaney (carrie_chaney) | 148 comments Shay wrote: "Carrie wrote: "I realize that their culture was vastly different, and that most of the Japanese weren't well treated themselves. But I think the rare KIND Japanese guard shows that we can't say th..."

That's a very good point. It IS easy to demonize things that aren't understood. I would imagine many of the Japanese civilians were completely overwhelmed with what the war did to their home. And I assume that what with the combination of propaganda from their leaders and US bombings that they weren't left with much of a good (or clear) impression of Americans at all.

I think what it boils down to is that anyone is capable of anything. And I mean that both ways--both the greatest evil and the greatest compassion. What defines a person is which side of the spectrum their actions fall within.

Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) I so agree, Carrie. Certainly we would want to think that in the same situation, we would have acted with respect for our fellow human being. I think a great correlation today is what we do (or did do) to POWs from the Iraq/Afghanistan war.

Was there anything you saw in Louis Zamperini that made you think he was different? What gave him the wherewithal to survive this horrendous experience?

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Meg (megvt) | 3069 comments I kept thinking as I read that I wouldn't have wanted to survive. I think I would have given up. Do you think you would have had the wherewithal?

Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) I don't think I would have survived. I think I would have fought to the end for my children and my husband, but for myself, I probably would not have had the strength. I know that sounds crazy but I think many women feel that their children and husbands are more important them themselves.

I wonder how their hearts did not give out? I know Louis was in good physical shape like some of the others but it was their mental state which I think carried them on.

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Carrie Chaney (carrie_chaney) | 148 comments Honestly, I think Louie's physical state had as much to do with his survival as his mental. Not many people are as in shape as he was when his plane crashed. It was a definite advantage. I don't know that I would even have had the strength to get myself out of the plane debris.

His mental state came into play after all of his physical strength had been used up. I don't think it ever occurred to Louis to give up. (Correct me if I'm wrong here. I don't remember him wanting to give in.) Even when so many people around him obviously had. The will to survive in the POW camps came as easily to him as maintaining optimism in the life raft.

And I agree. I wouldn't have been fighting to survive for myself, but for my husband and family back home. There's not a limit to what would to (try to) endure for them.

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Nancy | 1274 comments Just wanted to pop in and say what a wonderful discussion this is to follow. I'm enjoying all the comments about Shintoism and religion and culture - all points well taken. I'm not bugging out, but up to my neck in school right now - my 2nd/3rd graders have a concert tonight, got to get my 4th/5th ready for a recorder concert with the symphony in a couple weeks and a funeral to play Saturday. Too much on my plate to contribute much right now - but thank you so much for keeping this so very interesting - it is a wonderful break to hop on at lunch and lurk!

Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) Any time you can join us is a pleasure, Nancy.

Just in case you have not seen the NY Times review of this book, here it is:

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Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) The folowing excerpt from the book, Devil at My Heels: A WW II Hero's Epic Saga of Torment, Survival, and Forgiveness by Louis Zamperini explains how the lift rafts would have come out of the plane when it hit the water:

"All B-24s pack two life rafts in fuselage compartments above the wings, mounted against spring-loaded plates. The outside covers latch with a pin, with a weight on the end. When the plane hits water, the impact dislodges the pin, the doors burst open, and the spring plate throws the rafts out about a hundred fet, over each wing, into the ocean. That pulls a trigger mechanism and the rafts inflate while still attached to the plane by parachute cord. When the plane sinks below a certain depth, the cords pull free of the plane."

I am trying to find a picture of the raft or at least its dimensions.

Kat (A Journey In Reading) (ajourneyinreading) | 390 comments It makes you wonder if the soldiers of today could be able to survive in the same circumstances. Don't get me wrong, I support our troops to the fullest extent..... but the way people are raised today is totally different than the way they were raised in Zamperini's childhood.

The children then didn't have many of the things that children today have. They had to work and work hard with chores, such as farming, learning a skill or trade etc. Different expectations were placed on them.

I just wonder if the same thing happened to someone the same age as Zamperini then, if they could survive.

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Stacy (stcyct) | 66 comments As a history teacher approaching my WWII unit I downloaded this book to my ereader over the holiday break...along with a bunch of others since my brother and his wife got me a gift certificate. For some reason I was dreading this was the very last one I read from the bunch. I guess the last thing I wanted to immerse myself in was more history since I live and breathe it at work. From the moment I picked this up I couldn't stop. I have been teaching about the horrors of the holocaust for years, but honestly didn't realize how terrible it was in Japanese POW camps. It will never cease to amaze me how war can bring out the best and the worst in some reach deep into themselves and do whatever they can within their situation to be compassionate and giving while others embrace and take advantage of their position of power in horrific, unthinkable ways. One thing I really appreciated about this story was the inclusion of life after the war, and the intense difficulty that veterans, especially POWs faced trying to reacclimate into civilian life. To hear of the struggles of the veterans and their families was heart wrenching..but it was such an intrinsic, necessary part of the whole.

I'm new here and this is my very first post after introducing myself...I hope I am doing all right!!!!

Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) Stacy wrote: "As a history teacher approaching my WWII unit I downloaded this book to my ereader over the holiday break...along with a bunch of others since my brother and his wife got me a gift certificate. Fo..."

You certainly are doing it right and welcome. Stacy. The book and thinking about it still sends shivers down my spine. I, too, know a great amount about the Holocaust but very little about this part of the war. I am ever so grateful that I read this story as well as being thankful Laura Hillenbrand wrote such a compelling true story of American hero (s).

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Shay | 284 comments Stacy wrote: "As a history teacher approaching my WWII unit I downloaded this book to my ereader over the holiday break...along with a bunch of others since my brother and his wife got me a gift certificate. Fo..."

The Japanese killed approximately 3-10 million people during WW II, including US POW's. So, they killed around the same number of people as the Nazi's. In the report linked below, I don't think it mentions it, but I believe the deaths in Manchuria were something like 1/3 to 1/2 the youth population (people of "breeding age").

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Carrie Chaney (carrie_chaney) | 148 comments The Japanese half of WWII gets overlooked a lot... At least it did in all of my history courses! It was more of a footnote after hearing about the evils of Nazi Germany for weeks on end.

That's a huge part of why I loved this book so much. It was great to get both a summary of the details I missed out on, as well as such a fascinating story.

Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) I think I read that in Euopean POW camps the rate of death for American soldiers was 1 in 30, while in Japanese POW camps, it was 1 in 3.

I also read that we are losing the veterans from WW 11, at the rate of 700 a day.

Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) I am glad you liked it, Teri. Two weeks after finishing it, I am still singing its praises.

What was the you learned in this story that had a big impact on you?

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Meg (megvt) | 3069 comments I am also glad it meant so much to you Teri. I wish my father were alive so I could talk to him about the Korean part.

Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) Our Dads never spoke of the war. It is sad that we not only lost them but also their part in making history.

Do you think they will turn this book into a movie?

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