I’m sure anyone with an interest in twentieth-century history is aware that today marks the anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor—arguably the most pivotal event of the past century here.
But you might not know that the captain who directed the entire 350-plane aerial attack, who issued the famously triumphant “Tora-tora-tora” (“Tiger, tiger, tiger”) radio signal that announced that the Japanese had achieved complete surprise, would go on to provide a riveting testimony for Christ.
Leading the Pearl Harbor attack was “the culmination of my every waking thought,” Fuchida said, from the day in September 1941 when he was tapped for the honor. He personally masterminded methods that enabled the Japanese to use torpedoes despite the shallow waters.
The “success” of that “day of infamy” made Fuchida a national hero, even garnering him a personal audience with Hirohito. But his nation’s resounding defeat left the proud navy captain to eke out a living as a subsistence-level farmer.
“It was indeed a path of thorns to me.… It was a far cry from the regimentation and glamour of my military life. I was like a star that had fallen. At one moment I was Captain Mitsuo Fuchida, and the next, I was nobody!... I must admit that I was bitter and disillusioned.”
Farming gave Fuchida time to dwell on the existential questions. He became what we would call “a seeker.”
“Why was I still alive, when men all around me had died like flies in the four years of conflict? Gradually, I came to believe that I had been supported by some great, unseen power.
"As I labored… I thought of God, creation, the miracles of the seasons, the growing plants.... I was gradually led to think in terms of a Creator of all these things. With the increasing sense of the fact of a Creator-God, I came to feel ashamed of my former godless idea that man's own power and ability were his only trustworthy guides....
“The problem finally resolved around a person. Who, I asked myself, could accomplish the task of banishing suspicion and war? My mind turned toward God, the creator of all things.”
Fuchida met with a friend, a former navy lieutenant who’d just repatriated from a P.O.W. camp in the U.S. The man told Fuchida about Peggy Covell, a young woman fluent in Japanese who volunteered at one of the camps where he’d been confined.
When asked why she was so kind to the prisoners, Peggy stunned the men. “Because my parents were killed by the Japanese Army.”
Peggy's parents, Prof. James and Charma Covell, served for twenty years as Baptist missionaries in Japan. They were among the "Hopevale Martyrs" the Japanese Army executed in December 1943 in the Philippines as spies. (Look for that story in my next post.)
|"Missionary Kid" Peggy Covell had a profound impact|
on P.O.W.s she served--and ultimately, on
thousands more back in Japan. Look for my post on the
"Hopevale Martyrs" next month (1/28).
Her stance mystified Fuchida, who “could not understand such enemy-forgiving love. I had never heard of people returning good for evil. I desired all the more to discover the source of this power that could remove hatred from the hearts of people…”
A few months later, Fuchida was called to Tokyo on an errand, where a missionary “happened” to hand him a tract authored by Doolittle Raider Jacob DeShazer. The tract recounted how, motivated by “bitter hatred” for the Japanese after Pearl Harbor, Jacob volunteered to serve as a bombardier on the daring vengeance raid--which Cindy K. Stewart has been highlighting in her posts. DeShazer was captured in China along with seven other Raiders.
If you saw the movie or read the book Unbroken you'll have a 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 14 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
|Tokyo, April 1942. Jacob DeShazer's crewmate and fellow |
prisoner Lieutenant Robert Hite.
The four surviving prisoners eventually received the gift of a Bible. What DeShazer read during those miserable hours transformed him. Alone in his cell, he recognized his need for a Savior and accepted Jesus.
The Lord revealed to Jake that He wanted to give the Japanese people an illustration of the meaning of forgiveness. Jake was to be that walking object lesson. In 1948, he returned to Japan 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
Reading DeShazer’s tract, Fuchida was confronted again with the transforming power of Jesus Christ. “I became more ashamed than ever of my own revengeful spirit.”
He bought a Bible and read it. The final chapters of Luke’s gospel furnished the answers he’d been seeking.
“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:24)
Fuchida knew he’d reached the end of a “long, long wandering…”
“Jesus prayed for the very soldiers who were about to thrust his side with the spear. I am not ashamed to say that my eyes filled with tears. I accepted Jesus as my personal Savior.”
A few months later, the two were preaching to crowds together—Mitsuo Fuchida, the lead pilot at Pearl Harbor and Jacob DeShazer, the Doolittle Raid bombardier. They brought to thousands the message of God’s sacrificial love for all people and the power of Jesus Christ to bring forgiveness from sin.
Would you like to read more of Mitsuo Fuchida's story in his own words? I'm giving away three copies of his book-length personal testimony, From Pearl Harbor to Calvary! (Kindle edition.) Register for the drawing here by Sunday December 10. You'll also receive updates on The Plum Blooms in Winter, my debut novel inspired by the story of Jake DeShazer and Doolittle's "lost crews."
The Plum Blooms in Winter is an American Christian Fiction Writers' Genesis winner. Inspired by a remarkable true story from World War II's pivotal Doolittle Raid, the novel follows a captured American pilot and a bereaved Japanese woman who targets him for ritual revenge. It launches next October from Mountain Brook Ink.
I live just outside Phoenix with my husband, a third-generation airline pilot who doubles as my Chief Military Research Officer. We share our home with two all-grown-up kids and a small platoon of housecats.