It’s a remarkable story of American, Japanese pilotsPublished 1:16am Saturday, December 7, 2013
Jacob DeShazer, an American pilot who bombed Toyko early in World War II, was shot down over China, captured, and imprisoned by the Japanese in 1942. A member of Doolittle’s Raiders, he tells about his violent hatred for his captors, who kept him in solitary confinement because they feared him.
Somehow, DeShazer got hold of a Bible and began reading it in his cell. In that lonely place, he recalls finding life in Jesus Christ. The Japanese guards noticed a remarkable change in their prisoner, who showed love toward his captors and even prayed with them.
After being liberated following the war, Deshazer’s story was published in a little tract that was eventually given to a young Japanese captain, Mitsuo Fuchida. Fuchida had attended a military academy and became one of Japan’s top Naval Air Force pilots. Japanese military leaders chose him to command the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.
Fuchida sent his aircraft carrier the message, “Tora! Tora! Tora!” as a signal that the surprise attack was successful. He later learned that of the 70 officers who participated in the raid, he was the only one who survived. His story goes on to say he was named the Imperial Navy’s Air Operations Officer by 1945.
On Aug. 6, 1945, Fuchida was in Nara, Japan, where a new military headquarters was under construction, when he heard Hiroshima had been bombed. He was sent to investigate and report back to Imperial Command.
Fuchida tells about reading the tract with the story of DeShazer’s remarkable change of heart. He found a New Testament and began reading about the life of Christ. As he read the story of Christ’s crucifixion, he was moved by Christ’s words from the Cross, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).
He realized it was humanly impossible for anyone to show love to his enemies and pray for those who persecuted him. Mitsuo Fuchida accepted Christ as his Lord and Savior and became an evangelist, telling the story of a love that can change human hearts.
DeShazer returned to Japan in 1948 as a missionary. He met Fuchida in 1950. The missionary had recently completed a 40-day fast for revival in Japan when Fuchida came to his home.
Fuchida shared a message of peace and forgiveness in his country and also Asian-American communities. He wrote about his change of heart in his book, From Pearl Harbor to Calvary. He wanted to be remembered, not for destruction and war, but rather for peace. Mitsuo Fuchida died on May 30, 1976. Jacob DeShazer titled his tract about his wartime experiences, “I Was a Prisoner of the Japanese.” He died on March 12, 2008.
Dec. 7, 1941 is a day that will “live in infamy,” as President Roosevelt stated. There’s also a significant day in each of our lives when we experience the love and forgiveness of God and receive life eternal because of the sacrificial death of His Son.
Jan White is an award-winning religion columnist. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.