9. Greg "Pappy" Boyington - "Unbroken" an unreal story of Louie Zamperini

  • 2014.12.24 Wednesday
  • 01:09

In this book "Unbroken", many names of the POWs come up (some certainly familiar to the American readers).

One of them is Greg "Pappy" Boyington.  

From the narrative of the "Unbroken", Zamperini and Boyington were pretty good friends. Let us look into it.
Quote;  IN SPRING 1944 Major Gregory “Pappy” Boyington, the famous flying ace of the Marine Corps “Black Sheep Squadron” and, earlier,  volunteer with the Flying Tigers in China, showed up at Ofuna. He’d crashed in January, during a raid, and been captured by a Japanese submarine. After a brutal interrogation they moved him to Truk, and eventually to Ofuna.
They put Pappy in the small cell next to mine. Of course, I knew who he was, and he had read that I was missing in action. Boyington had shrapnel in his thigh and was almost a cripple. I used to massage his leg every morning to loosen up the tendons so he could walk. Later, the Quack claimed he could find the shrapnel with a magnet and cut it out. I don’t know what he used for a painkiller, but he did what he promised.
Though I was twenty-six and Boyington was probably thirty, he and I became pretty close friends. Fortunately, by the time he arrived, the rules had loosened up a bit and we could talk to each other. He was braggadocious and liked to throw the bull a lot. I’d already heard about his problems at home and in the service, but since I was now his number-one outlet for conversation, he began to unload his marriage troubles on me. I tried to be a good listener as he unraveled the story of the incredibly painful divorce process that still tore him apart. “There are times when I don’t care if I live or die,” he said, “and that’s the way I feel when I’m up there shooting down those yellow bastards. Yet the moment we tangle I have this strong desire to win. You, being a runner, probably know what I mean.” 
“Pappy,” I said, “that’s the deadly combination that makes you an ace—not caring and hating to lose. Maybe that’s why the divorce is so tough: you hate to lose.” Unquote

So, Zamperini and Boyington became very close friends.
Quote; Pappy was stubborn and wanted things his own way; he caused some trouble in camp and suffered the same mistreatment and starvation as the rest of us. After being caught smoking during a nonsmoking period, he was beaten pretty badly. It took a few bumps on his head, but he finally began in his own bulldog way to conform to the submissive POW lifestyle.

In his book, Baa Baa Black Sheep, Boyington wrote that the only qualification to become a guard or officer at Ofuna was passing “a minus-one- hundred I.Q. test.
My opinion, exactly. They were dummies. Unquote

Well, thanks for that. But, why don't we see what Boyington himself says about Zamperini in his own book "Baa Baa Black Sheep"?
Quote; In this camp was Louis Zamperini, the famous miller, now an evangelist, and he is of Italian descent. No doubt his mother is an excellent Italian cook and knows how to make wonderful Italian foods. Some of the prisoners would show me recipes that Louie had written out, and he must have been drooling from the mouth when writing them.
The others would say of Zamperini’s recipes: “I’m going to copy these things all down,” and they would be busy scribbling them. We were not allowed to have pencil or paper, or be caught writing or reading, so very secretively they would write them down. They swore that when they got home they were going to have all those recipes cooked.
Once or twice I looked at these recipes and saw that Louie had put the tomatoes in at the same time as the potatoes. And anybody who has cooked at all knows that tomatoes should be left until the last. He would put butter in the first thing, and it struck me that good old Louie Zamperini had never cooked in his life. He was just the same as any of the rest of us. He merely must have remembered that his mother’s Italian cooking was good, and he just dreamed that he had cooked all those things. He would swear to the high heavens, though, that he had cooked all of these dishes himself. Unquote

It seems like the two gentlemen had somewhat different takes on each other.

This is the timeline of both gentlemen regarding the incarceration.

From the timeline, Zamperini and Boyington spent their life together for some time, sharing the experience of how POWs were treated.

Here is a quote from an interview of Boyington by Historynet (Link). 


AH: You were rescued-but not by friendly forces, right? 

Boyington: Yes, a few hours later a Jap submarine on the way to Rabaul surfaced and collected me. I dumped everything I had that was of any military value over the side. 

AH: How bad were your wounds? 

Boyington: Well, I nearly lost my left ear, which was hanging in a bloody mess. My scalp had a massive laceration, my arms, groin and shoulders were peppered with shrapnel, and a bullet had gone through my left calf. I had seen better days. Luckily the sub crew tried to take care of me. They were very humane, and I wondered if this was the type of treatment I could expect in the future. One of the crew spoke English and assured me that I was going to be all right.

AH: What was your imprisonment like? Do you hold a grudge against the Japanese for the way you were treated? 

Boyington: Well, it was hard. We were beaten on occasion, and questioned even about the most ridiculous BS. Most of the guards were pretty brutal, but once you learned how to out-think them you could get by.

There was one particular interpreter who had been educated in Honolulu, and he was very important, since he effectively saved not just my life but the lives of others as well.

Then there was this old lady in Japan whom I worked for in the kitchen at the camp. By the time I got there I was down 60 or 70 pounds and not looking so good. She took care of me, and I owe her as much as anyone.

However, despite the beatings and starvation diet, I probably lived as long as I have due to the fact that 20 months in prison prevented me from drinking. The one exception was New Years Eve 1944, when a guard gave me some sake.

Another important person was a Mr. Kono, a mysterious man who spoke English and wore a uniform without rank. He perhaps did more to save American lives than anyone else

As far as holding a grudge, no. That would be silly. There are good and bad people everywhere. The Japanese civilians who had been bombed out and were always around us showed us respect, not antipathy. Many of them went out of their way to help us at great risk to themselves, slipping us food.

When I think about how the Japanese civilians treated us as POWs in their country, I can only feel very ashamed at how we treated our own Japanese Americans, taking their homes and businesses and placing them in camps. 

AH: Did you get any news about how the war was going while you were in captivity? 
Boyington: Well, we were kept updated on the war news, usually by friendly guards who would tell us what was going on. Other news we learned by listening to the guards. I picked up the Japanese language pretty quickly, and I could understand many phrases and key words. New prisoners were also a great source of information. We knew the war was going badly for Japan, and in February 1945 we saw a massive raid on Yokosuka from our camp in Ofuna. I was informed by a Japanese man that Roosevelt had died and that Germany had surrendered. 

Later we were moved from Ofuna to a real POW camp. This was a great thing, because we were up to that point below prisoner status. At least when we were POWs our families would know we were alive and reasonably well. That also meant it would be more difficult for the Japs to just execute us with no one asking questions, which was always on our minds. When we were moved to a more solid structure I felt a little better, especially once the Boeing B-29 raids picked up the pace. We would watch them at high altitude, sometimes engaged by a Jap, but they just gave us so much hope. However, once the bombing picked up, we were placed on rubble-clearing details, digging tunnels in the hills. This was near Yokohama. 

One bit of irony was when a guard told me about a single bomb that had been dropped on his home in Nagasaki. He was speaking in Japanese, so it was difficult to understand. I could only make out that the city had been destroyed by a single bomb. This was beyond my comprehension, and it was not until after I was released that I found out it was true. I also found out from a guard that the war was over. The guards almost to a man got drunk at the news, something I was very familiar with. 

What bothered us was the fact that some were openly discussing killing us, which made us a little uncomfortable. The commanding officer came down the next day and gave us vitamins and new clothes, preparing us. Six days later I was standing in front of the Swiss Red Cross in new quarters and very clean. A few days later B-29s were dropping clothes and food to us, and a few guys were killed by being hit. Soon the Navy landed with the Marines, and we were able to leave. We went to the hospital ship Benevolence, where the medical staff checked us all out. After the disinfectant and shower, I had the best meal in memory, ham and eggs. Some of the guys just could not take that diet after the pathetic diet of rice and stuff we had lived on.


Here are some questions;
  1. Where is "Kill All Policy" in Boyington's interview?
  2. How did Laura Hillenbrand find the inconsistency of the views each man had to each other in writing "Unbroken"?
  3. How did Laura Hillenbrand find the inconsistency of the views that these two men had about POW camps in Japan?


Here is a tip for those who testify; 
  • Refresh Your Memory
  • Tell the Truth
  • Do Not Exaggerate

Otherwise, you will lose credibility and everything you say will ring untrue..

So, dear readers, you are the judge;

Is the whole story of "Unbroken" true?

To be continued.



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