Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Pearl Harbor: Enemies and Brothers

On December 7, 1941, United States military personnel eased into a typically balmy Sunday morning at Pearl Harbor. A midget enemy sub had been sighted and fired upon by the U.S. destroyer Ward near the entrance to Pearl Harbor, but the report was delayed and then received skeptically.

Two Army radar operators noticed an uncommonly large blip moving in from the north. Their superiors assumed it was a U.S. bomber squadron due in from the mainland that morning. But Japanese flight commander Mitsuo Fuchida who had an intense hatred of America, was guiding his deadly force across hundreds of miles of open sea. As the Japanese moved in for the kill, no one knew what lay ahead that Sunday morning.

Following Pearl Harbor, President Franklin Roosevelt ordered a surprise attack against Japan to disarm them psychologically. Brilliant airman Lt. Col. James Doolittle, just back from military retirement, was given the unenviable task of training the crews for a lightning raid on Tokyo.

Jacob “Jake” DeShazer passionately hated the enemy and had seized the opportunity for military service by enlisting in the Army Air Corps in 1939. DeShazer became one of “Jimmy” Doolittle’s trainees.

DeShazer was overjoyed to be part of a top-secret task force to smash his avowed enemy. On April 18, 1942, in extremely heavy seas and still some 600 miles away from the coast of Japan, a Japanese trawler was spotted. Believing their cover had been compromised, Doolittle immediately led his sixteen B-25s off the pitching deck of the Hornet. Corporal Jacob DeShazer was bombardier on Plane #16—the last one off the Hornet. DeShazer’s plane bombed Nagoya, 300 miles south of Tokyo.

The original plan was for the planes to fly on into friendly Chinese territory following the bombing of Tokyo and surrounding cities. But they were ten hours off schedule, and there would not be enough fuel.

The success of the bombing mission was marred by the loss of all sixteen planes and the capture by the Japanese of eight of the men who had either bailed out or crash landed in a Japanese-occupied section of China. The crew of Plane #16 bailed out and landed in a Chinese cemetery, and Jacob DeShazer became a prisoner-of-war.

Of the eight POWs, three were tied to crosses and executed. A fourth died of malnutrition a year later. DeShazer and the remaining three were imprisoned and tortured. DeShazer came to hate the Japanese more than ever.

During those dismal months in prison, hope seemed slim. Then the Japanese gave the prisoners a Bible thinking its message would demoralize them since its chief figure, Jesus Christ, was killed. Although of Christian background, DeShazer had questioned the faith and never surrendered personally to the Lord. Incredibly, through the prayers of his mother and other people back home and by reading the story of Christ’s loving sacrifice for him, Jacob DeShazer was soundly converted in a Japanese prison and became a new person in Christ.

A genuine love for the Japanese people flooded DeShazer’s soul, and he vowed that if he were ever released, he would train for missionary service and return to Japan to preach the Gospel. In August 1945, the four prisoners were released—forty months after their capture.

DeShazer made good on his vow. In 1948, after graduating from Seattle Pacific College and undergoing special missions training, DeShazer returned to Japan as a missionary with his wife and young child.

During the early days of his ministry in Japan, DeShazer undertook a 40-day fast for a spiritual breakthrough. At the end of those days of fasting, he sensed that God was going to do something wonderful. The next day, a man came to DeShazer to profess Christ and be baptized. The man was Mitsuo Fuchida.

Mitsuo Fuchida had seemed to miraculously escape death time after time. Of the numerous Japanese officers involved in the Pearl Harbor attack, Fuchida was the only one to survive the war. He visited the doomed city of Hiroshima just a day before its nuclear obliteration. Shortly afterwards, he inspected Hiroshima’s ruins. Of the ten officers who accompanied him, all died of radiation sickness except Fuchida.

After the war, Fuchida turned to farming, but he felt a terrible emptiness in his life. One day, Christian missionaries were distributing tracts in Tokyo’s main railroad station, and one was received by Fuchida. The tract told the astonishing story of Jacob DeShazer. Fuchida’s interest was stirred by the account of a bitter enemy whose life had been changed by Jesus Christ and who was now sharing the Savior with those he formerly despised. Since it was the Book that had changed DeShazer’s life, Fuchida obtained a Bible and began to read it. When he came to the account of Jesus on the cross saying, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do,” Fuchida was overwhelmed and accepted Christ as his Savior.

Bitter enemies in war became good friends in Christ. Jacob DeShazer and Mitsuo Fuchida created a mighty stir when they appeared on the same platform to share the saving and reconciling message of Jesus Christ. The Japanese were awed, and 600 received Christ as Savior.

Mitsuo Fuchida traveled widely in Japan, America and Europe sharing his testimony. In Berlin, they came upon a theater where a movie on Pearl Harbor was being shown. Fuchida was introduced as a chief figure of the film and the one who had advised the movie makers in production. At the end of each showing, the Pearl Harbor squadron leader gave his personal testimony. Because of Fuchida’s testimony, many Germans came to know Christ.

Mitsuo Fuchida died in 1976 on May 30, and Jake DeShazer died on March 25, 2008 at the age of 95. They are now together as brothers in Christ for eternity.

In the worst of situations, God’s grace can bring about thrilling personal redemption and wondrous reconciliation. If you are unreconciled to God and to those about you, Jesus Christ is the answer. Your decision may not be as historically dramatic as those I’ve just recounted, but it will be as personally satisfying and as eternally certain!

Dave Virkler

Note: The Amazing Grace of World War II, a more detailed account including what happened to Jimmy Doolittle, is available through our ministry. Beyond Pearl Harbor, is an audio version that includes DeShazer's personal testimony. Find them at our website.

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