Summary and Analysis
Part II Chapter 8: “Only the Laundry Knew How Scared I Was”
On January 8, 1943, two of Louie’s friends take off for a training run over Pearl Harbor. Their plane crashes just offshore, killing them. Those who survive the crash are killed by sharks. Ten men die in all. Louie Zamperini is shaken. Only two months into his service, he has seen dozens of his friends die, either in accidents or warfare. Human error and mechanical breakdowns are especially common—and deadly. Sharks are a constant threat to any downed crew. Louie learns to avoid talking about death. He takes survival classes about fending off sharks. He seeks solace in music—and alcohol.
Here again, Hillenbrand sets herself to the task of placing Louie firmly within the historical context of WWII. She mostly departs from the Zamperini story to provide background information about life as part of a bomber crew in the Pacific Theatre during the war. She shares navigation obstacles, B-24 mechanical details, combat and accident statistics, information about Japanese “Zero” fighter planes, as well as ways that the soldiers chose to deal with the constant stress of their jobs in war, including alcohol, religion, letters, and music.