New Hollywood movie ‘Unbroken’ angers Japan nationalists for “incorrect depiction” of POW mistreatment during World War Two

At the age of 97, US POW Louis Zamperini couldn’t have imagined that his war time experience would come back to life, especially not on the big screen.

Louis sadly passed away this year, but his story is living on through Angelina Jolie’s new movie ‘Unbroken’. The movie is currently being released around the world, however it has angered some Japanese who believe the film is telling a false version of events, and even go as far as calling it racist and immoral.

Louis’s story was originally told in a book by Laura Hillenbrand, who wanted to share the details of Louis’s life as an Olympic athlete and POW in Japan during World War Two. In 1943, Louis was a crew member flying on a US B-24 Liberator called The Green Hornet. It was taking part in a search and rescue mission near Hawaii, when the plane crashed and only Louis and the pilot survived. They were captured by the Japanese navy almost two months after the crash.

Throughout his two years in captivity in Japan, Louis tells of how he was consistently punched and physically and mentally abused. He named Mutsuhiro Watanabe as one of the Japanese officers who was exceptionally severe. The prisoners were malnourished and frail, however Watanabe is said to have tortured them through strenuous physical trials and afterwards beating them further. The Society for the Dissemination of Historical Fact in Japan is leading the fight against the book and film, saying that is fiction, and that there is no evidence to substantiate it.They deny that POWs were severely mistreated, or that claims of cannibalism are true.

Social media has been central to the Japanese nationalists’ campaign, where thousands have called for Jolie and the film to be banned in Japan, The Telegraph reports. On the other side of the argument, policy organisations have said they hold plenty of hard evidence and facts about POW mistreatment at Japanese camps during World War Two. Further the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal was set up to address the mistreatment of POWs during the war, and it is believed that the efforts to discredit the high-profile film are also aimed at discrediting the work of the Tribunal.

‘Unbroken’ is currently being released at cinemas worldwide, throughout November and December.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE