Friday, July 15, 2011

Best Seller: Unbroken

Since the day it was published in November 2010, Laura Hillenbrand's Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption has been a bestseller. This memoir of an American POW of Japan has remained among the top ten on the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon lists.

Californian, Olympian, airman, Louis Zamperini experienced the worst of Imperial Japan's POW camps. He was tortured, experimented upon, interrogated, beaten, whipped, starved, humiliated, and forced to give a radio broadcast. He survived torture at the infamous Ofuna Naval Interogation station in Kamakura and was then shipped to to work in Japan's two most horrific prison camps: Omori where he slaved for Nippon Express and then Naoetsu where he labored for Shinetsu Chemical and Nippon Stainless. These companies still exist.

As Hillenbrand writes: 
Virtually nothing about Japan's use of POWs was in keeping with the Geneva Convention. To be an enlisted prisoner of war under the Japanese was to be a slave. The Japanese government made contracts with private entities to send enlisted POWs to factories, mines, docks, and railways, where men were forced into exceptionally arduous war-production or war-transport labor. The labor, performed under club-wielding foremen, was so dangerous and exhausting that thousands of POWs died on the job. In the extremely rare instances in which the Japanese compensated the POWs for their work, payment amounted to almost nothing, equivalent to a few pennies a week. (p. 234)

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