Wednesday, December 7, 2011

2011 Virtual Advent: Day 7

Today is the end of the first week of the tour. I hope that you have enjoyed the posts so far, but there is still plenty more to come starting with today's stops:

*Pamela @ I Read. Do You?
*Susanna Kearsley @ A Woman in Jeopardy

A belated shout out to raidergirl3 from An Adventure in Reading. This is her fifth year participating in the tour. Thanks for your contributions over the last 5 years!

My teaser again comes from Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. This time we see Christmas from inside the walls of a prisoner of war camp:

From pages 268-269 of Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

On Christmas Eve, some Red Cross packages were finally handed out. Louie wrote triumphantly of it in his diary. His box, weighing some eleven pounds, contained corned beef, cheese, pate, salmon, butter, jam, chocolate, prunes, and four packs of Chesterfields. All evening long, the men of Omori traded goods, smoked and gorged themselves.

That night, there was another treat, and it came about as the result of a series of curious events. Among the POWs was a chronically unwahsed, ingeneous, and possibly insane kleptomaniac named Mansfield. Shortly before Christmas, Mansfield broke into the storehouse - slipping past seven guards - and made off with several Red Cross packages, which he buried under his barracks. Discovering his cache, guards locked him in a cell. Mansfield broke out, stole sixteen more parcels, and snuck them back into his cell. He hid the contents of the packages in a secret compartment he'd fashioned himself, marking the door with a message for other POWs: Food, help yourself, lift here. Caught again, he was tied to a tree in the snow without food or water, wearing only pajamas and beaten. By one account, he was left there for ten days. Late one night, when Louie was walking back from the benjo, he saw the camp interpreter, Yukichi Kano, kneeling beside Mansfiedl, draping a blanket over him. The next morning, the blanket was gone, retrieved before the Bird could see it. Eventually, Mansfield was untied and taken to a civilian prison, where he flourished.

The one good consequence of this event was that in the storehouse, Mansfield had discovered a Red Cross theatrical trunk. He told other POWs about it, and this gave the men the idea of boosting morale by staging a Christmas play. They secured the Bird's approval by stroking his ego, naming him "master of ceremonies" and giving him a throne at the front of the "theater" - the bathhouse - outfitted with planks perched on washtubs to serve as a stage. The men decided to put on a musical production of Cinderella, written, with creative liberties, by a British POW. Frank Tinker put his operatic gifts to work as Prince Leander of Pantoland. The Fairy Godmother was played by a mountainout cockney Brit dressed in a tutu and tights. Characters included Lady Dia Riere and Lady Gonna Riere. Louie thought it was the funniest thing he'd ever seen. Private Kano translated for the guards, who sat in the back, laughing and clapping. The Bird gloried in the limelight, and for that night, he let Louie and the others be.

At Zentsuji, Christmas came to Phil and Fred Garrett. Some POWs scrounged up musical instruments and assembled in the camp. Before seven hundred starving men, they played rousing music as the men sang along. They ended with the national anthems of England, Holland, and the United States. The Zentsuji POWs stood together at attention in silence, thinking of home.

2 comments:

Fiona said...

Late though I am (what a week!) I've finally finished posting...

kaye said...

I've been wanting to read that book.