The radio producers soon return to the prison with a new transcript they want Louie to read over the radio. The transcript describes how Louie felt disappointed with the U.S. government for incorrectly declaring him dead and making his family feel unnecessary pain. Louie realizes that the Japanese spared him from execution and refused to register him with the Red Cross so that they could use him as a propaganda tool for embarrassing the U.S. government and sewing dissent in the American public.
The revelation that the Japanese spared his life conflicts with the religious interpretation of Louie’s survival. An older, religious Louie will come to believe that a benevolent God ensured his survival, but right now, it appears that the Japanese, and not God, kept him alive. This revelation casts doubts on God’s intervention into his life, but it ultimately won’t deter his future religious belief.
When Louie refuses to read the message, the producers give him a tour of a comfortable hotel where Australian and American POWs who read Japanese propaganda live. When Louie holds out his hand to the “propaganda prisoners,” they all drop their eyes to the floor. Louie realizes that if he agrees to make the broadcast, then he would be betraying his country. Louie refuses once again. The producers tell him that if he continues to refuse, then they will have him moved to a “punishment camp.” Louie refuses and they bring him back to Omori.
The propaganda prisoners’ inability to meet Louie’s gaze reveals their shame and loss of dignity. Like Mac on the raft, the men betrayed their brothers-in-arms by reading propaganda for the enemy. In this book, betrayals like these deprive one of one’s dignity faster and more completely than living in the dehumanizing conditions of a Japanese POW camp. By refusing the offer, Louie preserves his status as a man of dignity, picking physical “punishment” over shame and dishonor.
Soon, the Allied forces send wave after wave of B-29 bombers over Tokyo, destroying the city. Whenever a B-29 flies over the camp, the Bird cracks down on the prisoners, beating them and prohibiting them from small enjoyments like singing and attending religious services. But he would especially seek out Louie, beating him severely three or four times a week. Some nights, Louie dreams of the Bird beating him. Other nights, he dreams of strangling the Bird to death.
The Bird’s prohibition on religious service casts him as an anti-Christian figure, a representation the book will develop further in the postwar chapters. The Bird’s evilness begins to infect Louie, bringing out his darker side. Since boyhood, Louie has had a violent temperament, but the Bird’s torments make him lose sight of his moral compass, inspiring in him a desire for violence and eye-for-an-eye revenge.
Near Christmas time, an influential dignitary named Prince Yoshitomo Tokugawa tours Omori for the Japanese Red Cross. He meets one of the POWs who tells him of the Bird’s cruelty. By New Years, the Bird receives order to transfer to a distant isolated camp. While the men reveled in the good news, the Bird seemed heartbroken, lamenting that the prisoners would miss him. In revenge for the Bird’s cruelty, the prisoners prepared his last meal at the camp with feces from the latrine.
The Bird’s mad belief that the men love him emphasizes how delusion forms the basis of his self-worth. Unable to come to terms with his past humiliation, he compensates with the delusion that he is the most loved man at camp. But this harmless delusion underscores the tragic consequence of his other major delusion: the perverted belief that he can regain his dignity by stripping the POWs of theirs. But the men won’t give in without a fight. In another (disgusting) act of defiance, they assert their autonomy, which in turn helps them preserve their dignity as soldiers and not broken, timid animals.