Sixty-six years ago today, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor—an action that dramatically altered the course of history. Jacob DeShazer was on KP duty in California when he first heard the news. Furious at what the Japanese had done, he resolved to retaliate personally. And in April 1942, he got his chance—as a B-25 bombardier when Doolittle’s Raiders attacked Tokyo.
During that fateful run, DeShazer’s plane ran out of fuel, and the crew bailed out over enemy territory. DeShazer was captured and spent the next forty months as a POW—including thirty-four months in solitary confinement. Three of his buddies were executed, and another died of slow starvation.
With plenty of time to think, Jake wondered: What makes people hate each other? And he also wondered: Doesn’t the Bible say something about loving our enemies?
He asked his jailers for a Bible and eventually got one. He read it with fascination, re-reading some parts six or more times. Then, ten days into his study, he asked Christ to forgive his sins. He remembers, “suddenly . . . when I looked at the enemy officers and guards . . ., I realized that … if Christ is not in a heart, it is natural to be cruel. . . . [M]y bitter hatred . . . changed to loving pity.” Remembering Christ’s words from the cross—“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do”—he asked God to forgive those who tortured him, as well.
Fourteen months later, in August 1945, paratroopers liberated DeShazer from his prison cell. After the war, a chaplain on General MacArthur’s staff wanted something to help heal the animosity between the United States and Japan. He approached Don Falkenberg of Bible Literature International, who had read DeShazer’s testimony shortly after his release. And soon the story was being circulated as a booklet called, “I Was a Prisoner of Japan.”
But here’s where the story gets interesting. Japanese Navy pilot Mitsuo Fuchida was Chief Commander of the historic December 7 raid on Pearl Harbor. He had advised against attacking the American base, but when given orders to proceed, Fuchida led the assault.
Eventually Fuchida logged more than ten thousand combat hours. But his closest brush with death was on the ground in Japan. He was in Hiroshima the day before the atom bomb was dropped. His life was spared because orders had come to go to Tokyo.
When the war ended, Captain Fuchida returned to his family farm near Osaka. Later, stepping off a train in Tokyo, he was given a copy of Jacob DeShazer’s booklet. Intrigued, he began reading the Bible. And despite his Shinto heritage, he accepted Christ as his Savior.
How marvelous are God’s ways? An American airman is taken prisoner, is converted, and his testimony leads his captors’ ace pilot to Christ. Over a thirty-year span, Captain Fuchida and Sergeant DeShazer traveled together throughout Japan. Together and separately, they saw tens of thousands of Japanese converted.
Learning to love our enemies is so important, something every Christian must strive for. But when we’re fighting deadly enemies, as our nation is today at war, doing so is a miracle—a miracle of restoration and healing that can come only through faith in Christ.