Tuesday, April 17, 2018

The "Lost Crews" of the Doolittle Raid: After Infamy, Forgiveness Wins (With GIVEAWAY!)


Tomorrow marks the Doolittle Raid's seventy-sixth anniversary. Cindy K. Stewart is doing a marvelous job of filling you in on the exciting adventures of the Doolittle Raiders. But I have a special claim on Plane Sixteen, since it inspired my upcoming debut novel, The Plum Blooms in Winter. In honor of the occasion, Cara Grandle was kind enough to swap slots with me so I could tell you its story. (Thank you, Cara!)

Here's the background in a nutshell. Just six months after the attack on Pearl Harbor, eighty volunteers took flight on a bold and unprecedented mission. Sixteen medium-weight B-25 bombers left the deck of the carrier U.S.S. Hornet
a feat never attempted before or since. They deployed their payloads on Tokyo and other key targets on the Japanese main island. 

The bombers were too big to land on the carrier, so the plan called for them to fly on to China. But while the mission achieved its military objective, due to unforeseen circumstances the sortie left most of the airmen stranded in enemy-occupied China. 


Captured


Detail from a wartime poster featuring a photo of
Lieutenant Robert Hite, copilot of the Bat Out of Hell. Tokyo, April 1942.
Eight men—the crew of Plane #16, the Bat Out of Hell, and the three survivors of the crash of Plane #6, the Green Hornet—were captured by the Japanese. Anyone who saw the movie or read the book Unbroken will have a general picture of what these men endured. But where Louis Zamperini was a prisoner for a little more than two years, Doolittle’s “lost crews” remained in Japanese prison camps


… for forty long months, 34 of them in solitary confinement. 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 fourteen months later, another one of them died of slow starvation.… The bitterness of my heart against my captors seemed more than I could bear. 

- Corporal Jacob DeShazer in his tract I Was a Prisoner of Japan 

Of the eight Raiders captured, only four survived that ordeal. George Barr, Jacob DeShazer, Robert Hite and Chase Nielson returned to the U.S. different men. Here’s how they expressed it in a joint statement:


We were not what you would call religious men before we were captured. We went to Sunday school and church when we were kids… We memorized Bible verses and listened to sermons and said grace at meals…. But we never really understood the meaning behind those words and the source of strength they represented in our lives.…



We were given the Bible to read. We found in its ripped and faded pages a source of courage and faith we never realized existed. The verses we memorized as children suddenly came alive and became as vital to us as food.



We put our trust in the God we had not really accepted before and discovered that faith in His Word could carry us through the greatest peril of our lives. 

—Four Came Home (Carroll V. Glines, 1995) 

The crew of the Bat Out of Hell, captive.
Back row, l-r: William Farrow, George Barr, Robert Hite.
Front row, l-r: Jacob DeShazer, Harold Spatz.
Lieutenant Farrow and Sergeant Spatz were executed.


Forgiveness Wins: The Raider Returns

Corporal DeShazer, the former bombardier of the Bat Out of Hell, was transformed by what he read in the Bible. The Lord revealed to him during those miserable hours alone in his cell that He wanted to give the Japanese people an illustration of the meaning of forgiveness. Jake was to become that walking object lesson.

Upon his release, Jake rushed home to earn a Bible degree from Seattle Pacific College. In 1948, he returned to Japan with his new bride, Florence, as a Free Methodist missionary.



This time I was not going as a bombardier, but I was going as a missionary. How much better it is to go out to conquer evil with the gospel of peace! 

—Jacob DeShazer on his return to Japan 

Japanese people flocked to hear him and peppered him with questions. The idea that one could hold anything other than implacable hatred for one’s enemies was foreign to the Confucianist ideas that drove their culture at that time. 

Sergeant Jacob DeShazer after the war.


From Hatred to Love

There are a number of remarkable stories from Jake and Florence’s sojourn in Japan. My favorite is the one that inspired my novel. At an evangelistic meeting, Jake noticed an attractive young woman who “watched me so constantly that she began to make me self-conscious.” He asked if he could help her. She didn't reply, but the open hostility in her eyes was unmistakable.

She returned for the next meeting, and the next. Eventually, she made her confession. A bomb DeShazer deployed during the raid had snuffed out the life of a young man she loved. She attended the first meetings with a knife in her purse, determined to exact her revenge--even if it cost her everything. 


But she was so moved by Jake's example of forgiveness that she decided to follow Jesus instead. As one of Jake’s fellow missionaries wrote, “She confessed that she had first come to the meetings with the avowed purpose of killing DeShazer... But that night DeShazer had spoken of his own hatred having been changed to love. That message of God’s love worked the same change inside her...”

When I read that account, it haunted me. The young woman's name and the rest of her story are lost to history
. Which was a gift, in a way. I was left to research the time periodfascinating and harrowing—and create the fictional tale of a heroine I see as deeply wounded, but committed and courageous. 

From Enemies to Fellow Evangelists

The most famous episode from DeShazer's ministry is that of Mitsuo Fuchida, who commanded the air attack on Pearl Harbor. After the war, a tract DeShazer authored was instrumental in bringing Fuchida to Christ. A few months later, the two were preaching to crowds together—the Doolittle Raider and the Japanese captain who gave the infamous “Tora-tora-tora” signal that launched the Pearl Harbor attack. They brought to thousands the message of God’s sacrificial love for all people and the power of forgiveness through Jesus Christ. (I covered Fuchida's story in more detail in my December post.)

Jake and Flo ultimately settled in Nagoya, the very city Jake had bombed. Their thirty-year ministry in Japan bore fruit in twenty-three church plants and in many changed hearts.



I'm hosting a drawing for a copy of Sarah Sundin's latest WWII novel, The Sea Before Us, for new subscribers to my newsletter. You'll also receive updates on my novel, including an opportunity to gain pre-launch access. To enter, please REGISTER HERE by Thursday, April 19. 


I stepped away from a marketing career that spanned continents to write what I love: stories of reckless faith that showcase God's hand in history. I'm so excited to work with the all-star team at Mountain Brook Ink to launch my debut novel, The Plum Blooms in Winter, this October! Inspired by a remarkable true story from World War II's pivotal Doolittle Raid, The Plum Blooms in Winter is an American Christian Fiction Writers' Genesis Contest winner. The novel follows a captured American pilot and a bereaved Japanese prostitute who targets him for ritual revenge. Please also feel free to check out my blog, Five Stones and a Sling, which hovers in the region where history meets Bible prophecy meets current events. It's rich ground--we live in a day when prophecies are leaping from the Bible's pages into the headlines!

I live outside Phoenix with my husband, a third-generation airline pilot who doubles as my Chief Military Research Officer. We share our home with two mostly-grown-up kids and a small platoon of housecats.

20 comments:

  1. These stories are fascinating. Thank you all.
    bcrug(at)twc(dot)com

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    1. Thank YOU for the encouraging word, Connie! God bless!

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  2. Stories that take place In or during WWII always fascinates me as well as the real stories too. cheetahthecat1986ATgmailDOTcom

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    1. That era has always fascinated me, too. Thanks for taking a minute to drop a note, Kim. God bless!

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  3. I just love reading anything that has to do with history. I swear, I live in the past. (jozywails@gmail.com0

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    1. I hear you, Misty! I also love a book that plunks me down in the middle of a time and place I could never visit on my own. Thanks very much for your comment! God bless, Linda

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  4. Thanks for sharing - it's always nice to 'meet' a new author!

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    1. I'm delighted to "meet" you too, Betti! Thanks for the kind word, and God bless!

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  5. this is a fascinating post. i would love to read this story. I have read When The Tides Turn and could not put it down. Not to mention how much I learned. She is a new favorite author for me. I would love to read about another one of the brothers and history. thanks for hosting the give a way. quilting dash lady at comcast dot net

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    1. I'm so glad you enjoyed it, Lori! I'll let you know if you win the drawing. :) Thanks for the encouraging comment, and best regards, Linda

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  6. Very well written and informative, Linda. I'll add a link to this post in my next blog piece.

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    1. Thank you so much, Cindy! I've really been enjoying your articles too! And thank you in advamce for the link. :) <3

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  7. Tears running as I finished reading this post. Part due to the history of Jacob
    DeShazer prior to him becoming a missionary. Growing up in a Free Methodist church I knew he served as a missionary but not the history prior to his conversion. Thank you for sharing. Blessings. marilynridgway78[at]gmail[dot[com

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    1. Oh, Marilyn! I'm so glad this story touched you. Honestly, it still speaks to me, even after years of writing my story derived from it. Thanks for the encouraging words. <3

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  8. Thank you for sharing the inspirational story of Jacob DeShazer. I can't imagine all that he and his comrades went through when they were captured and tortured for so many years. He could have remained bitter & angry, but he submitted to the Lord and let God turn it around for good.....very humbling and thought-provoking. Thanks too for the chance to win'The Sea Befoe Us'. ~Alison Boss

    nj(dot)bossman(at)gmail(dot)com

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    1. You're welcome, Alison, and thank you for the thoughtful reflection on Jake's story. God bless!

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  9. I love reading about those Raiders. Do very interesting! Thank you for sharing and have a great day! mauback55 at gmail dot com

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    1. Thank you, Melanie, for the encouragement! Blessings :)

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  10. Thank you for this fascinating post!

    psalm103and138atgmaildotcom

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    1. So glad it spoke to you, Caryl! God bless!

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