At Phil’s prison camp on August 22nd, a Japanese commander tells them the war is over. The men throw a giant party, demolishing the camp and drinking barrels of sake (a Japanese alcoholic drink). After the night of celebration, the men wait in the camp for help to come.
The men’s destruction of the camp is a declaration of their freedom and dignity. No longer penned in like animals, the men reclaim their humanity in celebration.
At Naoetsu, the Japanese guards stay in the camp, treating the prisoners with kindness for fear they will testify about their crimes. Over the next few days, American planes deliver food, medicine, clothing, and crates full of news and magazines to the POWs. A celebration of eating and smoking commences. With the Bird gone, Louie gives up his desire for revenge. Throughout the camp, forgiveness reigns and the men don’t attack or harm any of the guards.
The men’s goodwill towards the guards introduces a key theme for book’s last chapters: forgiveness. As Louie will learn, escaping the camp does not mean that he’s psychologically free. Haunting memories of the camp will construct around him “a prison of the mind” from which he’ll only find escape by forgiving his former captors.
Tired of waiting around the camp for rescue, one of the prisoners, Commander John Fitzgerald, goes to the train station to arrange a transport to bring the men to the U.S. military base in Yokohama. The Japanese station master refuses. Beaten and humiliated for years, Fitzgerald snaps and punches the station master in the face. The next day the train arrives. As the train departs from the station with the POWs onboard, a few of the Japanese soldiers who were kind to the men in camp stand outside and salute them.
Fitzgerald’s response to the station master epitomizes the theme of Dignity. Treated as inferior for so long, he demands that the station master recognize him as a human being who deserves respect. In contrast, the kind Japanese soldiers’ salute the men in an attempt to affirm their dignities before they head back to civilian life. What these guards seem to realize that neither the cruel guards nor the tormented men do is that the POWs’ ability to survive the camp was an act of true courage and dignity, worthy of a salute.