War Film “Unbroken” Bashed; Labeled Racist and Immoral by Japan’s Nationalists

The war film “Unbroken” which was directed by Hollywood A-lister Angelina Jolie and is set to be released in the US on Christmas Day was recently bashed by Japan’s nationalists calling it “racist” and “immoral”. Calls were also made to ban Jolie from Japan for helming the said war film.

Th war film is based on a nonfiction book authored by Laura Hillenbrand which was about the life of Olympian and WWII vet Louis Zamperini who passed away July just this year.

When the book with the longer title “Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption” was released way back in 2010, it was also met with objections from several Japanese. The criticisms were directed against the brutal ordeals Zamperini went through at the hand of the Japanese guards after he was captured in the Pacific as stated in the published account.

The book from where the war film was based.
The book from where the war film was based.

As the book reconted from Zamperini’s experience, he was one of the eleven-men crew of the Green Hornet, a B-24 Liberator, when the war plane crashed while it was on a search-and-rescue operation just South off of Hawaii on May of 1943. Three of the crew survived, including Zamperini, and they went adrift in the Pacific for a month and seventeen days before spotted by a Japanese warship just off Marshall Islands and taken aboard.

The book went on to state that Zamperini was beaten and mistreated severely by the prison guards in the POW camp he was put into until WWII ended — in August of 1945. He was singled out for harsh treatment by a particular guard by the name of Mutsuhiro Watanabe nicknamed by the POWs as “The Bird”.

One experience Zamperini went through which can be read in the book and shown in the war film “Unbroken” was when Watanabe forced the POW, who was in a weakened state as he was malnourished, to hold up a heavy length of wood over his head for half an hour after which the Japanese prison guard punched him on the stomach.

Not True

Angelina Jolie directing the war film
Angelina Jolie directing the war film

Japan’s nationalists are specifically enraged at how the book and the war film described the POWs being “”beaten, burned, stabbed or clubbed to death, shot, beheaded, killed during medical experiments or eaten alive in ritual acts of cannibalism”.

According to Hiromichi Moteki in an interview, Society for the Dissemination of Historical Fact’s secretary general which is a nationalist pressure organization, all these accounts are purely fabricated.

He added that if the things Zamperini claimed he went through were not verified, then, anyone can make such claims. He, then, went on to slam the war film “Unbroken” as immoral and without credibility.

In lieu to this, a petition was put up in the website Change.org demanding that Angelina Jolie, described in the suit as a “demon”, to stop the distribution of the war film because it contradicts the facts. To date, the said appeal has attracted over  8,000 signatures.

On the other hand, activists who are trying to encourage the country to man up and face its harsh imperial past state that censuring the war film “Unbroken” is like taking the denial of what happened in history to a new level.

As what Mindy Kotler of Asia Policy Point said, questioning the memories of the illiterate women who were forced into sexual slavery during the war is one thing, but, questioning the memories of a white male Olympian who became a disciple of evangelist Billy Graham is another matter.

She added that it was not only Zamperini who attested to the brutalities done by the Japanese Imperial Army during WWII. In fact, there are many existing accounts on the abuses and tortures POWs went through in their hands. Furthermore, there are also forensic evidence and eyewitness accounts about Japanese cannibalism of prisoners of war as well as on fellow soldiers.

She pointed out that discrediting a POW’s account about his ordeal in the hands of Japanese soldiers is one step towards discrediting the war crime trials and the Tokyo war Crimes Tribunal. After all, the two latter events were focused on the atrocities done against POWs while they were in the hands of their captors.

Mindy Kotler stated that denying what happened to Louis Zamperini, as what was written in his biography and shown in the war film “Unbroken”, is both atrocious and disgraceful; something that the US government will not be able to ignore. After all, the honor of the American veterans and the San Francisco Peace Treaty, signified in the acceptance of the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal, are what’s at stake in this matter.

Heziel Pitogo

Heziel Pitogo is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE