BookBrowse Reviews Unbroken:
While there were certainly Japanese guards who tried to help their prisoners, Japanese culture predisposed many toward excessive abuse of their captives.
Japanese children were taught that as a people specially blessed by their sun goddess Ama-terasu Omikami it was their destiny to rule over all other countries, and that they were therefore superior to citizens of other nations.
In addition, Japanese soldiers were themselves physically abused by those of higher rank throughout their training; slapping was routine, and beatings were a common, sometimes daily occurrence.
Soldiers were taught to believe that surrendering cast great shame not only on themselves but also on their families (including the memories of their ancestors), and that it would be far better to die in combat than to allow themselves to be captured.
These factors–along with increasing frustrations as Japan began to lose the war--led them to look on their prisoners with disgust and helped them rationalize their brutal treatment.
Zamperini was regularly beaten unconscious, starved, tortured, forced into hard labor and participation in medical experiments, and allowed to suffer from easily treatable diseases.
And yet, while his tale is unique in many ways, his experiences as a POW weren't unusual. Stories abound of unbelievable cruelty inflicted on captives in the Pacific Theater during WWII.
For example, Hillenbrand reports that an airman, Raymond "Hap" Halloran, "was beaten by a mob of civilians, then captured by Japanese authorities, who tortured him, locked him in a pig cage, and held him in a burning horse stall during the firebombings.
They stripped him naked and put him on display at Tokyo’s Ueno Zoo, tied upright in an empty tiger cage so civilians could gawk at his filthy, sore-encrusted body. He was starved so severely that he lost one hundred pounds." Read more>>