The story of Fuchida and Deshazier

By Tom Thompson - Russellville First Presbyterian Church

In honor of our veterans I wanted to give you a most blessed and significant look at “War and Forgiveness”

Primarily because his father was a primary school principal and a very patriotic nationalist, Mitsuo Fuchida was able to enroll in the naval academy when he was 18.

Upon graduation 3 years later, he joined the Japanese naval air force and served mostly as an aircraft carrier pilot for the next 15 years.

By 1941, with 10,000 flying hours behind him, Fuchida had established himself as the nation’s top pilot. When Japanese military leaders needed someone to command a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, they chose Fuchida.

On December 7, 1941, United States military personnel eased into a typically balmy Sunday morning at Pearl Harbor. A midget sub had been sighted and fired upon…..but the report was delayed…..two army radar operators noticed an uncommonly large blip moving in from the north….but the superiors felt like it was a US bomber squadron coming in….but Mituso Fuchida, who had an intense hatred of America, guided his forces on.

Group flight leader, Fuchida, supported by 360 aircraft, orchestrated attacks, against Hawaii. Fuchida’s was the voice that sent his aircraft carrier the message “TORA! TORA! TORA!”

During the next several hours Fuchida commanded the bombers as they devastated not only the warships, but the parked aircraft, barracks, military personnel, ships in dry dock, and civilians. Our battleships were heavily damaged most especially the Arizona and the Oklahoma. 3,303 military personnel were killed or were missing….1272 wounded.

Later, he too was surprised when he learned that, of the 70 officers who participated in the raid, he was the only one who survived the war.

During the next 4 years Fuchida was determined to improve upon his Pearl Harbor feat.

After the battle of midway the tide turned dramatically. With the end of the war Fuchida’s military career was over. He returned to his home village near osaka and began to farm.

He became discouraged and was unhappy.

With the beginning of war crimes trial General Macarthur summoned Fuchida to testify.

As he stepped off the train in tokyo he saw an American Distributing literature. He gave him a pamphlet entitled “I Was a prisoner of Japan”

It changed Fuchida’s life and the lives of many others.

One month after the Pearl Harbor attack, an American soldier, Jacob Deshazer, a bombardier, volunteered for a secret mission with the Jimmy Doolittle Squadron, a raid on Tokyo.

On April 18, 1942, in extremely heavy seas, 16 b-25’s flew off the deck, including Deshazier. His plane was the last off the carrier hornet.

After the bombing raid the original plan called for the 16 plane crews to fly to safe areas of China but they ran out of fuel and were forced to parachute into Japanese territory. (All 16 planes were lost.) The next morning he was a prisoner of war.

During the next 40 months, while in the prison camp, Deshazier was cruelly treated. He developed an intense hatred for his captors- the Japanese guards.

After his 25th month, the u.s’ prisoners were given a Bible, the Japanese felt that that upon reading it they would be demoralized since its chief figure, Jesus Christ, was killed. Officers first…finally it was Deshazier’s turn…. He read and read and read.

He came to understand that the book was more than as historical classic, and it’s message of love, perseverance, forgiveness, and faith, became relevant to him, sitting right there in his prison cell.

Jake Deshazier accepted the wonderful power of Christ into his life and it changed his life and his attitude toward his captors. His hatred turned to love…forgiveness, and concern…..and he resolved that when his country win’s the war he would return to Japan in an effort to introduce his enemies to this life changing book.

After being liberated, Deshazer wrote a widely distributed essay, “I was a prisoner of the Japanese,” detailing his experiences of capture, conversion, and forgiveness.

In 1948 Deshazier returned to Japan as a missionary, started many churches including one in Nagoya, the city he bombed on the Doolittle raid.

After ending a 40 day fast, a man came to see him to profess his love of christ and be baptized. It was Fuchida. Fuchida had read Deshazer’s testimony, bought a Bible, and converted from Buddhism to Christianity.

Deshazer welcomed the new convert and encouraged him to be baptized. Bitter enemies in war became good friends in Christ while Deshazer continued to plant churches throughout Japan, Fuchida became an evangelist, spreading a message of peace and forgiveness in his native country and throughout asian-american communities.

Fuchida died on May 30, 1976. Like dynamite inventor Alfred Nobel, who wished his legacy to be one of peace rather than destruction, Fuchida wanted the message of his changed heart to supersede the memory of his infamous attack.

He wrote, “That morning [december 7] … I lifted the curtain of warfare by dispatching that cursed order, and i put my whole effort into the war that followed. … [But] after buying and reading The Bible, my mind was strongly impressed and captivated. I think i can say today without hesitation that God’s grace has been set upon me.”

Many times Fuchida and Deshazier toured often together with Billie Graham

Fuchida sacrificed when he became a Christian. Parents and his community were very displeased. Headlines read “Pearl Harbor hero converts to Christianity.” My old buddies tried to get me to forget this crazy idea. Said i was an opportunist….just wanting to impress the American victors. But he said that time has proven them wrong…I believe with my whole heart that those who will direct Japan and all other nations must not ignore the message of Jesus Christ. You must realize that He is the only hope for this troubled world.

By Tom Thompson

Russellville First Presbyterian Church

Tom Thompson is the pastor of Russellville First Presbyterian Church. Service times are Sunday mornings at 11 a.m.

Tom Thompson is the pastor of Russellville First Presbyterian Church. Service times are Sunday mornings at 11 a.m.

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