The officers told them. They were on an atoll in the Marshall Islands. They had drifted two thousand miles.
Dignity is as essential to human life as water, food, and oxygen. The stubborn retention of it, even in the face of extreme physical hardship, can hold a man’s soul in his body long past the point at which the body should have surrendered it.
In the midst of it were the prisoners of war. Japan held some 132,000 POWs from America, Britain, Canada, New Zealand, Holland, and Australia. Of those, nearly 36,000 died, more than one in every four.* Americans fared particularly badly; of the 34,648 Americans held by Japan, 12,935—more than 37 percent—died.* By comparison, only 1 percent of Americans held by the Nazis and Italians died.
Louie felt indignant rage flaring in him, a struck match. I am a good man, he thought. I am a good man. Even as he had this thought, he felt the lie in it. He knew what he had become.