Unbroken: Louis Zamperini Life Lessons | The Art of Manliness

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“When Louie was captured by the Japanese, and imprisoned on Kwajalein, he wondered why he wasn’t executed like the other Marines who had once shared his cell. As his internment progressed, he found out.

One day, he was taken from his prison camp to a radio station that broadcast Japanese propaganda programs. His hosts treated him kindly and showed him around the premises. There was a cafeteria with hot, heaping portions of American-style food, and clean hotel-style beds with sheets and pillows. Louie could stay here, the men told him, and never have to return to camp, never have to see the Bird again, if he would simply do a little broadcast for them. The message they wanted him to read wasn’t overtly traitorous, it just expressed his astonishment that the US government had declared him dead, and hurt his family with the news, when he really was alive and well. But as Hillenbrand explains, Louie knew its purpose was to “embarrass America and undermine American soldiers’ faith in the government.” He realized he had been kept alive because his prominence as an Olympic runner would make him a more effective propaganda tool. And he understood that once he read one message for them, they’d ask him to read increasingly critical ones, and there would be no way out. Though refusal meant returning to a wooden slab infested with bed bugs, starvation rations, and the endless beatings of a mad man, Louie declined the offer. The Japanese broadcasters pressed, warned he’d be punished, and still he refused. Acceptance was not even an option for Louie: “I’d taken an oath as an officer.” “

 

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