From the book UNBROKEN by Laura Hillenbrand
The Madman "bird" continues
……Louie wasn't smiling for long. The B-29, and what it portended, fed the Bird's vitriol. One day Louie was in his barracks, sitting with friends far in the rear, out of sight of the door, in case the Bird came in. As the men passed around a cigarette rolled in toilet paper, two guards banged in, screaming "Keirei!" Louie leapt up in tandem with the other men. In bounded the Bird.
For several seconds, the Bird looked around. He took a few steps into the room, and Louie came into his view. The corporal rushed down the barracks and halted before Louie. He wore the webbed belt that Louie had seen on him his first day in Omori. The buckle was several inches square, made of heavy brass. Standing before Louie, the Bird jerked the belt off his waist and grasped one end with both hands.
"You come to attention last!"
The Bird swung the belt backward, with the buckle on the loose end, and then whipped it around himself and forward, as if he were performing a hammer throw. The buckle rammed into Louie's left temple and ear. Louie felt as if he had been shot in the head. Though he had resolved never to let the Bird knock him down, the power of the blow, and the explosive pain that followed, overawed everything in him. His legs seemed to liquefy, and he went down. The room spun. Louie lay on the floor, dazed, his head throbbing, blood running from his temple. When he gathered his wits, the Bird was crouching over him, making a sympathetic, almost maternal sound, a sort of Awwww. He pulled a fold of toilet paper from his pocket and pressed it gently into Louie's hand. Louie held the paper to his temple.
"Oh, it stop, eh?" the Bird said, his voice soft. Louie pulled himself upright. The Bird waited for him to steady himself. The soothing voice and the offer of the paper for his wound were revelations to Louie: There was compassion in this man. The sense of relief was just entering his mind when the buckle, whirling around from the Bird's swinging arms, struck his head again, exactly where it had hit before. Louie felt pain bursting through his skull, his body going liquid again. He smacked into the floor.
For several weeks, Louie was deaf in his left ear. The Bird continued to beat him, every day. As his attacker struck him, Louie bore it with clenched fists and eyes blazing, but the assaults were wearing him down. The corporal began lording over his dream life, coming at him and pounding him, his features alight in vicious rapture. Louie spent hour after hour in prayer, begging for God to save him. He lost himself in fantasies of running through an Olympic stadium, climbing onto a podium. And he thought of home, tormented by thoughts of what his disappearance must have done to his mother. He longed to write to her, but there was no point. Once, a Japanese officer had announced that men could write home, and everyone in camp penned letters to their parents, wives, children, and steady girls. When the Bird learned of it he called in Commander Maher, handed him the letters, and forced him
to burn them……
As Louie suffered through December, some three hundred miles away, his former pilot was wasting away in a filthy, unheated barracks in the Zentsuji POW camp. Phil had been transferred to Zentsuji the previous August, joining one-legged Fred Garrett, who'd been transferred from Ofuna.
Though Ofuna interrogators had spoken of Zentsuji as a "plush" reward, the camp was no such place. The prisoners' diet was so poor that the men wandered the compound, ravenous, pulling up weeds and eating them. Their only drinking water came from a reservoir fed by runoff from rice paddies fertilized with human excrement, and to avoid dying of thirst, the POWs had to drink it, leaving 90 percent of them afflicted with dysentery. In one barracks room, men lost an average of fifty-four pounds over eighteen months. An officer estimated that twenty men fainted each day. Almost everyone had beriberi, and some men went blind from malnutrition. On the last day of November, they buried an American who had starved to death.
There was one blessing at Zentsuji. Phil was permitted to send brief messages home on postcards. He wrote one after another. They were mailed, but got snarled in the postal system. The fall waned and another Christmas approached, and Phil's family received none of them. A year and a half had passed since Phil had disappeared. His family remained in limbo, having heard nothing about him since his plane had gone down. In November, they had learned about Louie's broadcast. The news had been tantalizing, but frustrating. Louie had mentioned other servicemen who were with him, but the names had been obscured by static, and the transcript hadn't conveyed them with certainty. Had Louie mentioned Allen?
On a Friday night in December 1944, the telephone rang in Kelsey Phillips's home. On the line was a major from the adjutant general's office at the War Department. Probably through the Red Cross, the department had received news from Zentsuji. Allen was alive.
Kelsey was jubilant. She asked the major to cable her husband and her son's fiancee, and in Washington, Cecy got the news she had awaited for so long. The fortune-teller had said that Allen would be found before Christmas. It was December 8. Overcome with elation, Cecy called her brother to shout the news, quit her job, dashed through her apartment throwing clothes and pictures of Allen into a suitcase, and hopped a plane back to Indiana to wait for her fiance to come home.
Four days before Christmas, a card from Allen, written in October, finally reached home. "Dear Folk: Hope you all are well and am looking forward to being home with you. I hope we tan go rabbit hunting before the season closes Dad. Give my love to Cecy Martha and Dick. Happy birthday dad." Kelsey pored over the precious slip of paper, comforted by the familiar lines of her son's handwriting. Chaplain Phillips, now stationed in France, got the news on Christmas Eve. "Words really cannot describe the way I feel," he wrote to his daughter. "I am in an altogether new world now. I can think of nothing more wonderful. It is a real touch of all that heaven means."
In a letter officially confirming that Allen was a POW, the Phillipses were asked not to speak publicly about the fact that Allen had been discovered alive. Kelsey would henceforth heed this request, but the letter had reached her too late; by the morning after the War Department's call, the news was already all over town, and stories about Allen's survival were in the local papers. The Zamperinis, who had received a similar letter stating that the War Department now believed that Louie's broadcast had been real, were also asked not to speak of it publicly. The War Department probably didn't want it known that they had erroneously declared two airmen dead, especially as the Japanese were exploiting this fact.
Kelsey was allowed to send one cable to her son, and she filled the other days writing letters to him. On December 14, she wrote to Louise Zamperini. As relieved as Kelsey was for Allen, there was heaviness in her heart. Of all of the men on Green Hornet, only Louie and Allen had been found……
As Christmas neared, Louie faltered. Starvation was consuming him. The occasional gifts from the thieves helped, but not enough. What was most maddening was that ample food was so near. Twice that fall, Red Cross relief packages had been delivered for the POWs, but instead of distributing them, camp officials had hauled them into storage and begun taking what they wanted from them. They made no effort to hide the stealing. "We could see them throwing away unmistakable wrappers, carrying bowls of bulk cocoa and sugar between huts and even trying to wash clothes with cakes of American cheese," wrote Tom Wade. The Bird was the worst offender, smoking Lucky Strike cigarettes and openly keeping Red Cross food in his room. From one delivery of 240 Red Cross boxes, the Bird stole forty-eight, more than five hundred pounds of goods.
Toward the end of December, the Bird ordered all of the men to the compound, where they found a truck brimming with apples and oranges. In all of his time as a POW, Louie had seen only one piece of fruit, the tangerine that Sasaki had given him. The men were told that they could take two pieces each. As the famished men swarmed onto the pile, Japanese photographers circled, snapping photos. Then, just as the men were ready to devour the fruit, the order came to put it all back. The entire thing had been staged for propaganda.
On Christmas Eve, some Red Cross packages were finally handed out. Louie wrote triumphantly of it in his diary. His box, weighing some eleven pounds, contained corned beef, cheese, pate, salmon, butter, jam, chocolate, milk, prunes, and four packs of Chesterfields. All evening long, the men of Omori traded goods, smoked, and gorged themselves. That night, there was another treat, and if came about as the result of a series of curious events. Among the POWs was a chronically unwashed, ingenious, and possibly insane kleptomaniac named Mansfield.
Shortly before Christmas, Mansfield broke into the storehouse—slipping past seven guards—and made off with several Red Cross packages, which he buried under his barracks. Discovering his cache, guards locked him in a cell. Mansfield broke out, stole sixteen more parcels, and snuck them back into his cell. He hid the contents of the packages in a secret compartment he'd fashioned himself, marking the door with a message for other POWs: Food, help yourself, lift here. Caught again, he was tied to a tree in the snow without food or water, wearing only pajamas, and beaten. By one account, he was left there for ten days. Late one night, when Louie was walking back from the benjo, he saw the camp interpreter, Yukichi Kano, kneeling beside Mansfield, draping a blanket over him. The next morning, the blanket was gone, retrieved before the Bird could see it. Eventually, Mansfield was untied and taken to a civilian prison, where he flourished.
The one good consequence of this event was that in the storehouse,, Mansfield had discovered a Red Cross theatrical trunk. He told other POWs about it, and this gave the men the idea of boosting morale by staging a Christmas play. They secured the Bird's approval by stroking his ego, naming him "master of ceremonies" and giving him a throne at the front of the "theater"-—-the bathhouse—outfitted with planks perched on washtubs to serve as a stage. The men decided to put on a musical production of Cinderella, written, with creative liberties, by a British POW. Frank Tinker put his operatic gifts to work as Prince Leander of Pantoland. The Fairy Godmother was played by a mountainous cockney Brit dressed in a tutu and tights. Characters included Lady Dia Riere and Lady Gonna Riere. Louie thought it was the funniest thing he'd ever seen. Private Kano translated for the guards, who sat in the back, laughing and clapping. The Bird gloried in the limelight, and for that night, he let Louie and the others be.
At Zentsuji, Christmas came to Phil and Fred Garrett. Some POWs scrounged up musical instruments and assembled in the camp. Before seven hundred starving men, they, played rousing music as the men sang along. They ended with the national anthems of England, Holland, and the United States. The Zentsuji POWs stood together at attention in silence, thinking of home……
Later that day, Louie looked out of the barracks and saw the Bird standing by the gate in a group of people, shaking hands. All of the POWs were in a state of high animation. Louie asked what was happening, and someone told him that the Bird was leaving for good. Louie felt almost out of his head with joy….. At Omori, the reign of terror was over.