Sunday, October 28, 2018

The LAST Doolittle Raid Post!! (PLUS a Giveaway!)

The Dramatic Rescue of Doolittle's Lost Crews

Cindy K. Stewart and I have been tag-teaming to fill you in on the exciting adventures of the Doolittle Raiders. And it’s been my favorite kind of tag team—the kind where she does the bulk of the work! 😊 (You’ll find her final Doolittle Raid post here). But I have a special claim on Planes Six and Sixteen, “Doolittle’s Lost Crews,” as their story inspired my debut novel, The Plum Blooms in Winter. Since my novel will finally be available for pre-order this coming weekYAAY!Cindy agreed I could have the last word. 😊

If you've been following this blog, by now you have the background. Just six months after the attack on Pearl Harbor, sixteen of the Army's 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. 

A B-25 leaves the U.S.S. Hornet's deck
While the mission achieved its military objective, due to a communication breakdown the sortie left seventy-two of the eighty airmen stranded in enemy-occupied China. Eight men—the crew of Plane #16, the Bat Out of Hell, and the three survivors 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
A lurid wartime poster features an image of Doolittle Raider Lieutenant Robert Hite, captive, April, 1942
Sadly, of those eight men, only four came home. I’ve summarized the rest of their story, and how God used that tragedy for His glory, here and here

The Empire of Japan Surrenders

On the morning of August 15, 1945, the entire population of Japan… were told that at noon they must stop whatever they were doing and listen to the radio…. What the people of Japan heard that day at noon was not just unexpected, it was unimaginable…. A voice spoke—a voice they’d never heard before…. It spoke an odd form of Japanese, a dialect hundreds of years old that very few could understand clearly. For the first time in the history of the Chrysanthemum Throne, the emperor was speaking directly to his subjects.  
The voice told them: senso owari, the war is over. It said that the emperor was no longer the Son of Heaven, but an ordinary man…. The voice said it was time for the Yamato race to “endure the unendurable, and bear the unbearable.”

The First Heroes (Craig Nelson, 2002)

In this indirect language, the people of Japan learned of their nation’s surrender. But while jubilation filled the streets of America at the news, it posed a serious question for the more than 80,000 Allied P.O.W.s still in Japanese hands, and for the captured Doolittle Raiders. 

Orders for a Massacre

The Japanese had regularly and publicly announced that, if they lost the war, they would kill every Allied P.O.W. under their control.

The First Heroes (Craig Nelson, 2002)

The P.O.W.s were well aware of this policy. This so-called “kill-all order” was no joke. It had in fact been enacted on a few occasions when the Japanese surrendered ground: on Wake Island and on Palawan Island in the Philippines. How to ensure the order wasn’t carried out on a massive scale at the Japanese’ final surrender?

This challenge was assumed by the Office of Strategic Services (O.S.S.), the predecessor to the C.I.A. In the months preceding the surrender, the O.S.S. conducted painstaking research into the locations of Japanese prison camps. Immediately after the surrender, bombers began dropping cartons of supplies into the camps.

On August 17, 1945, just two days after the surrender, seven O.S.S. operatives parachuted onto an airfield in Beijing, China. They were surrounded at once by enemy soldiers brandishing rifles, bayonets leveled.

The Americans’ leader, Major Nichols, told the Japanese commander through his interpreter, “The war is over, and we are here to get the prisoners.”

“The war is not over yet,” the Japanese lieutenant responded, and ordered the Americans onto a truck.

Prisoners Released... Except...

The lieutenant’s stance was echoed by his superiors. Two anxious days passed before Major Nichols’ hard-nosed insistence produced the desired result. Hundreds of P.O.W.s were released from their cells and bussed to hotels in Beijing.

However, one set of prisoners were not released along with the rest. The eight captured Doolittle Raiders had been convicted in a kangaroo-court procedure and given special status as “war criminals.” The Japanese had no intention of releasing them.

The Tincup News Service

But praise God, the veil of secrecy behind which the surviving Raiders were held had its chinks. Starting in early 1944, the Raiders were able to exchange messages with a group of U.S. Marines including Commander Scott Cunningham. The messages traveled etched into the bottom of the tin cups that made their rounds through the prison meal service. Upon his release from the prison in Peiping, Commander Cunningham was quick to spread the news that four of Doolittle’s lost crew members were alive and still in prison.

…Cunningham was sure they would never be released… Major Nichols showed Japanese officials the results of his P.O.W. debriefings. He demanded they confess fully to their crimes of torturing, starving, and killing their captives. After confronting them… he demanded that they release the “war criminals” at once. 
The First Heroes (Craig Nelson, 2002)

Return to Freedom

And so the remaining four Raiders, malnourished to a point of delirium and close to death, found themselves transported to the five-star Peiping Grand Hotel… and back into a life of freedom. George Barr, Jacob DeShazer, Robert Hite and Chase Nielson returned to the U.S. changed men. Here’s how they expressed it in a joint statement:
We were not what you would call religious men before we were captured.... [But in prison] 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)
Corporal DeShazer, the former bombardier of the Bat Out of Hell, was transformed by what he read in the Bible. Upon his release, Jake rushed to earn a Bible degree from Seattle Pacific College. In 1948, he returned to Japan with his new bride, Florence, as Free Methodist missionaries.
Corporal Jacob DeShazer upon his release from captivity

Colonel Jacob DeShazer, in a postwar publicity shot

The couple ultimately settled in Nagoya, the very city Jake had bombed during the Doolittle Raid. Their thirty-year ministry in Japan bore fruit in twenty-three church plants and in countless changed hearts.

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

I finally get to give away my own book!! The Plum Blooms in Winter, inspired by a true story from the Doolittle Raid, will be available for pre-order this week. I'll randomly select someone who comments below to receive a complementary copy! The order will be fulfilled on 12/1. Thank you!

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, on December 1! 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. When I'm not writing, you'll find me rollerblading--yes, I know that makes me a throwback 😊--or catching a moonrise, or dreaming of my next trip. Next up: Wales, then Israel.


  1. I would absolutely love to read The Plum Blooms in Winter. I have so enjoyed all the posts about the Doolittle Raiders. Thank you for this wonderful opportunity.

    1. Hi, Melanie! My pleasure, and thank you very much for the encouraging comment!

  2. Would love to read it. cheetahthecat1986ATgmailDOTcom

  3. Linda, The Plum Blooms in Winter is a book I definitely want to read. I've enjoyed the posts on the "Doolittle Raiders". Cop. Jacob DeShazer story I read when I was younger since he was missionary with the Free Methodist church, which I was deeply involved in as a teen. Blessings on your new book. Thank you for the giveaway.

    1. Hi, Marilyn! Thank you for your encouraging words. Interesting to hear that you've known Jake's story from your teens! I appreciate the blessing. <3

  4. I have been so intrigued following the Doolittle blog posts. I have always found that Part of our history so moving. Thank you for sharing all of it.

    1. Hi, Susan! Thanks so much for your interest in the Doolittle Raid, and in my book. Please leave your email address if you'd like to enter the giveaway! (I guess I forgot to specify that... :( ) Thank you!

  5. This has been a wonderful history lesson about these brave men. Thank you and Cindy for sharing it.

    1. Hi, Connie! It's been our pleasure! Thanks for reading and for commenting. (If you'd like to enter the giveaway, please provide your email address--I think I might have yours but I'm not sure <3 )

  6. The Plum Blooms in Winter sounds amazing! Thank you for the opportunity.

    1. Hi, Caryl! Welcome to the drawing. I'm thrilled to hear that you like the sound of the book! <3

  7. This sounds very interesting. Thanks for the giveaway.

    1. Hi, Connie! My pleasure! Thanks for reading and commenting! <3

  8. Hi, folks! Just dropping in to let you know that Caryl won the novel. Congratulations, Caryl, and I sincerely hope you enjoy the read when it ships on !2/1. :) Thanks to you all for commenting!
    In His love, Linda