Japanese cultural values at the time stated that there was little more shameful than to surrender to one's enemies. Dying in the fight is a glorious honor. Surrendering is a great humiliation. That Louie and Phil were helplessly adrift in a lifeboat and were in no condition to fight when...
Japanese cultural values at the time stated that there was little more shameful than to surrender to one's enemies. Dying in the fight is a glorious honor. Surrendering is a great humiliation. That Louie and Phil were helplessly adrift in a lifeboat and were in no condition to fight when they encountered the Japanese does not seem to matter. Because they were POWs, they no longer had any honor in the eyes of their captors. Therefore, the guards amused themselves by humiliating them. Humiliating their prisoners also seems to be a way that the guards relieved their own feelings of anger at being given the inglorious assignment of prison guard.
The guards were in a fixed state of fury at the captives. Nearly every day, they flew into rages that usually ended with Phil and Louie being spat upon and bombarded with rocks and lit cigarettes. Every day, at gunpoint, Louie was forced to dance while his guards roared with laughter. They stabbed him with sticks and taunted him while he crawled around picking up bits of rice (140).
When Louie brings up his harsh treatment to the Japanese officers, they tell him it should be expected. Louie and Phil are even used as test subjects for a medical experiment where a strange pain and rash-inducing substance is injected into them.
Beatings also seem to be an ingrained part of Japanese military culture.
All Japanese soldiers were regularly beaten by their superiors, in the belief that it would strengthen them. Guards, occupying the lowest station in a military that applauded brutal domination of underlings, vented their frustration on the helpless prisoners under their authority (149).
This brutality was often justified by racist notions that dehumanized the non-Japanese. Furthermore, Japanese guards who treated their prisoners with kindness risked the wrath of their fellow guards.
In Louie's case, there is a reason beyond a desire to humiliate that led to his harsh treatment. The Japanese want information from him. They interrogate him over details about airplane design, radar, the operation of bomb-sights, and the locations of airfields. Louie feeds them a mixture of unhelpful truths and complete fabrications. When he is caught in a lie, Louie is punished by having his food withheld.