Lauren Hillenbrand's Unbroken tells the extraordinary odyssey of Louis Zamperini who on a May afternoon in 1943, at the height of the 2nd World War, crashed into the Pacific Ocean - after returning from a bombing raid. After an agonising delay, he struggled aboard a life raft – and so begun extraordinary tale of survival, starvation and life in some of the worst prison war camps of the 2nd World War. It is a truly a break taking story of tragedy and triumph.
As part of his experience Louis had come to be severely abused by some of Japan’s most notorious prisoner war camp officers. He experienced such shocking brutality! I have frankly never read of man who was so abused at the hands of another. But many years later – Louis wrote his abuser an extraordinary letter, after he heard the abuser who had been on the run was still alive:
To Matsuhiro Watanabe,
As a result of my prisoner of war experience under your unwarranted and unreasonable punishment, my post-war life became a nightmare.
It was not so much due to the pain and suffering as it was the tension of stress and humiliation that caused me to hate with a vengeance. Under your discipline, my rights, not only as a prisoner of war but also as a human being, were stripped from me. It was a struggle to maintain enough dignity and hope to live until the war’s end.
The post-war nightmares caused my life to crumble, but thanks to a confrontation with God through the evangelist Billy Graham, I committed my life to Christ. Love replaced the hate I had for you. Christ said, “Forgive your enemies and pray for them.”
As you probably know, I returned to Japan in 1952 and was graciously allowed to address all the Japanese war criminals at Sugamo Prison … I asked then about you, and was told that you probably had committed Hara Kiri, which I was sad to hear. At that moment, like the others, I also forgave you and now would hope that you would also become a Christian.