Jacob DeShazer watched as his fellow WWII soldiers were executed and starved in a Japanese prison, and developed a deep hated for the Japanese. Remembering his childhood teaching about Jesus urging forgiveness, he returned to Japan after the war to preach the love of Jesus, and converted the Japanese pilot who led the raid on Pearl Harbor.
“Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6
This verse from the Bible was taken at face value by the DeShazer household in a small Oregon town in the 1930’s where the children, including young Jacob DeShazer were exposed to the Bible, family prayers and regular church going. However, after leavinghome young Jacob began to go his own way, largely forgetting the teachings of his youth. Several years after leaving high school he joined the Army Air Corps, eventually rising to the rank of sergeant. In his autobiography, he recalls being incensed at the news that the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor without warning.
Following Pearl Harbor he volunteered with 23 others, led by General Jimmy Dolittle for a special mission. The mission was unprecedented. Sixteen B-25 bombers were to take off from the deck of the carrier USS Hornet, (something never done before) which would take them within striking distance of Tokyo for a bombing run. The raid would result in relatively little damage. But so soon after Pearl Harbor, the fall of the Philippines, and with the seemly unstoppable Japanese advance around the Asian rim, it was thought that this might provide some degree of moral boost at home and send a message to the enemy that the U.S was ready to strike back.
After extensive training on land, in early 1942 the mission was on. DeShazer was the bombardier in the 16th and last plane to leave the decks of the Hornet in a choppy sea. They were forced into an early strike and had only enough fuel to make China, where they hoped to be picked up by American-friendly Chinese. However, empty fuel tanks forced DeShazer and his crew to bail out over Japanese occupied territory where they were taken prisoner. DeShazer was forced to watch while some of the prisoners were executed as “war criminals” and others starved to death. He later wrote “my hatred for the enemy nearly drove me crazy”.
As he suffered in intolerable conditions he began to think about his home and Bible verses he had memorized as a boy. He tried to remember them. In particular he remembered the words of Jesus. “Forgive them Lord, for they know not what they are doing.” Many months later he managed to get a small Bible from one of the guards. It was not long before he returned to the Faith of his youth. He also realized that the words of Jesus applied to the Japanese as well. “I realized these people did not know anything about my Savior, and if Christ is not in a heart, it is natural to be cruel.” He feared he might die before he had a chance to tell others of what had sustained him.
However, he did survive and was liberated in August 1944, an emaciated and starved man. He was returned to the U.S. He recovered. He went to college and Seminary and prepared to be an “ambassador for Christ”. He decided to return to the place and people whom he had hated with such vehemence. When DeShazer and his wife returned to Japan they found a defeated and devastated people, many looking for hope and in DeShazer’s message they found it. Of particular interest was the fact that before leaving for Japan he had written a small tract entitled “I was a Prisoner in Japan”. This was widely distributed in Japanese throughout Japan.
A bitter Japanese ex-pilot was one of the Japanese who read it. Captain Mitsuo Fuchida was the pilot who had led the raid on Pearl Harbor. The tract was nothing like Fuchida had ever seen or heard. After much thought he began to sense truth in what he was reading. He began life anew as a Christian. He met DeShazer and they became close friends. Later Fuchida became a missionary to Japan and Asia. DeShazer stayed in Japan for 30 years, preaching the Gospel, before retiring home. Jacob DeShazer died in his sleep in March 2008. The survivors of the Doolittle raid met annually at some site in the USA. There are very few left, and they are all in their 90’s. Last October was their final meeting.
“For the love of Christ controls us…” 2 Corinthians 5:14
John T Spencer
Citation: Jacob DeShazer: Forgive Your Enemies (Christian Heroes : Then & Now) by Janet Benge and Geoff Benge (Mar 12, 2009)