A year ago at this time (the first week in Dec.) my posting was about “God’s Samurai.” That was what Capt. Mitsuo Fuchida, the lead pilot of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, was called after he later became a Christian. This column is more about that same story, but it centers on Jacob DeShazer, a member of the U.S. Army Air Corps on that fateful day of Dec. 7, 1941.
DeShazer, born in Oregon in 1912, enlisted in the Air Corps in 1940 and rose to the rank of sergeant in 1941. He was stationed in Washington at the time of the Pearl Harbor attack, but shortly thereafter he, along with other members of the 17th Bomb Group, volunteered to join a special unit that was formed to attack Japan. They soon acquired the name “Doolittle’s Raiders” after their famous commander, Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle.
In April 1942, DeShazer and his fellow crew members were forced to parachute into enemy territory when their B-25 ran out of fuel. He was captured the very next day by Japanese soldiers and consequently spent some 40 months in P.O.W. camps (both in Japan and China)—and 34 of those months in solitary confinement. During his long, painful ordeal as a prisoner, in May 1944 he was able to get a copy of the Bible. Reading it brought about a great change in his way of thinking.
At the end of the war in August 1945, DeShazer was freed and able to go back to the U.S. He soon decided that he wanted to go into missionary work and began to prepare for that ministry at Seattle Pacific College. During this time he wrote a short account of his experiences, calling it “I Was a Prisoner of Japan.” That story was printed as a Christian tract, and more than a million copies were distributed to the Japanese people.
It was a copy of DeShazer’s tract that Timothy Pietsch gave to Capt. Fuchida that eventually led to his becoming a Christian. (As I wrote last year, Pietsch was the son-in-law of C. K. Dozier, founder of Seinan Gakuin, the school complex where I taught in Japan. In May of this year, I heard this story directly from Pietsch’s son Kelsey, who was visiting Seinan Gakuin at the same time I was.)
“From Pearl Harbor to Calvary” (2011) is the title of the English translation of Fuchida’s autobiography. Florence DeShazer wrote the Introduction and refers to her husband as Jake. She concludes: “The autobiography that follows tells the full story of my husband’s dear friend, Mr. Mitsuo Fuchida, a man who, like Jake, was completely transformed by the Lord and preached and lived a message of forgiveness.”
In his book Fuchida tells that after he finished reading DeShazer’s story, he thought, “If a Bible could change his life, it might change mine.” So the next day he bought a Bible and began reading it. And when he read about the crucifixion of Jesus, he realized there was “the source of this miracle of love that can forgive enemies!”
“Forgiving Everything” is the subtitle of the story of DeShazer as told by Ace Collins in his book “Stories Behind Men of Faith” (2009). He is also the subject of a children’s book, written by Janet and Geoff Benge and published with the subtitle “Forgive Your Enemies” (2009).
DeShazer lived to be 95 years old, passing away in March 2008. His long life of loving and forgiving is worth considering well as once again recall the tragic events of 12/7/41.