President Franklin D. Roosevelt said that December 7, 1941, was "a date which will live in infamy." It was 66 years ago today that the Japanese fighter/bombers attacked the United States Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Eighteen U.S. ships were sunk, 2,386 Americans were killed and another 1,230 were wounded. December 7 has been known as "Pearl Harbor Day" ever since. It propelled the United States of America into World War II. But inside this big story are human stories that are amazing, that remind us that God can bring some good out of the worst situations. Such is the story of Jacob DeShazer and Mitsuo Fuchida.
Mitsuo Fuchida was the pilot who led the first wave of the attack on Pearl Harbor. He was the pilot who saw that the surprise was complete and radioed the message, "Tora, Tora, Tora" - attack, attack, attack. He would go on to lead the attacks in Australia and on the British Fleet in Sri Lanka. Wounded at the Battle of Midway, he was in Japan when the war ended.
Thirty-two-year-old Jacob DeShazer was from Salem, Ore. He was a corporal in the U.S. Army Air Corps, serving under General "Jimmy" Doolittle. In April of 1942, Doolittle lead the first U.S. bombing raid on the Japanese mainland. DeShazer was a bombardier on the 16th plane. There would not be enough fuel for a return flight, so the plan was to ditch the planes in China. (This event was portrayed in the movie, "Pearl Harbor", where Alec Baldwin plays Doolittle.) After safely parachuting, DeShazer was captured by Japanese. He spent the next 40 months as a prisoner of war, 34 of them in solitary confinement. DeShazer wrote of this later in a pamphlet titled, "I was a prisoner of Japan."
"Taken to prison with the survivors of another of our planes, we were imprisoned and beaten, half-starved, terribly tortured and denied by solitary confinement even the comfort of association with one another. Three of my buddies were executed by a firing squad about six months after our capture and 14 months later, another one of them died of slow starvation. My hatred for the enemy nearly drove me crazy."
In desperation, DeShazer asks for a Bible. He is given one. Alone in his cell, reading the Bible, he finds God. He began to pray for his capturers and discovered that he no longer hated them. In August of 1944 his camp was liberated. Back in the states, DeShazer was decorated and promoted. After the war, DeShazer went to school on the GI Bill; then in 1948 he returned to Japan, this time as a missionary. He spent the next 30 years serving his former captures.
In 1950 the businessman Mitsuo Fuchida was at a train station, and someone gave him a copy of the pamphlet, "I was a Prisoner of Japan." Fuchida read and was amazed. Could hatred really be turned into love? Here are Fuchida own words, from his story "Pearl Harbor to Golgotha."
"A few days later at the train station, a Japanese man was handing out books. I couldn't believe it when he cried, "Get your Bible - food for the soul!" I took one, and as I read, I was struck by Jesus' words in Luke 23:34, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." Jesus had died so I could be forgiven! On that day in 1950 I became a new person. I became a Christian."
Fuchida wrote, "I would give anything to retract my actions at Pearl Harbor, but that is impossible. Instead, I will work at striking the death-blow to the giant called hatred which infests human hearts. Jesus Christ can truly uproot that hatred."
Eventually, Mitsuo Fuchida who led the attack on Pearl Harbor met Jacob DeShazer, who participated in the counter attack on Tokyo met. They hugged.