Japanese Prisoners of War: Background information when reading Unbroken

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A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption

by Laura Hillenbrand

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  • First Published:
    Nov 2010, 496 pages
    Jul 2014, 528 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs

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About this Book

Beyond the Book:
Japanese Prisoners of War

Much of Unbroken relays Louis Zamperini's experiences as a Japanese prisoner of war. Hillenbrand cites staggering statistics. Zamperini was but one of approximately 132,000 POWs from the United States, Britain, Canada, New Zealand, Holland and Australia. More than a quarter of these prisoners died, including 12,935 Americans (more than 37 percent of Americans captured by the Japanese). These numbers don't include the thousands of Chinese who were murdered, nor those prisoners killed after surrender but before reaching the POW camps (for example, those who perished along the sixty-mile Bataan Death March in the Philippines). By comparison, only 1 percent of Americans held by the Nazis and Italians died during WWII.

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 ...

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