Saturday, January 22, 2011

A tale of two pilots

Jacob DeShazer was an American pilot in the Doolittle Raid, whereas Mitsuo Fuchida was the lead Japanese pilot in the attack on Pearl Harbor.

On DeShazer:
During his captivity, DeShazer persuaded one of his guards to loan him a copy of the Bible. Although he only had possession of the Bible for three weeks, he saw its messages as the reason for his survival and resolved to become a devout Christian. His conversion included learning a few words of Japanese and treating his captors with respect, which resulted in the guards reacting in a similar fashion. After his release, DeShazer entered Seattle Pacific College, a Christian college, and began studying to be a missionary, eventually to return to Japan with his wife, Florence, in 1948.

DeShazer, the Doolittle Raider who bombed Nagoya, met Captain Mitsuo Fuchida, who led the attack on Pearl Harbor, becoming close friends. Fuchida became a Christian in 1950 after reading a tract written about DeShazer titled, "I Was a Prisoner of Japan," and spent the rest of his life as a missionary in Asia and the United States. On occasion, DeShazer and Fuchida preached together as Christian missionaries in Japan. In 1959, DeShazer moved to Nagoya to establish a Christian church in the city he had bombed.
On Fuchida:
After recuperation, he [Fuchida] spent the rest of the war as a staff officer. Fuchida was in Hiroshima the day before the atom bomb was dropped, attending a week-long military conference with the Army. He had received a long distance call from Navy Headquarters asking him to return to Tokyo and returned to Hiroshima the day after the bombing on a party sent to examine and assess the damage of the bomb. Later, all members of Fuchida's search party died from radiation poisoning but Fuchida suffered no symptoms. . . .

After the war, Fuchida was called on to testify at the trials of some of the Japanese military for Japanese war crimes. This infuriated him as he believed this was little more than "victor's justice". Convinced that the Americans had treated the Japanese the same way and determined to bring that evidence to the next trial, in the spring of 1947, Fuchida went to Uraga Harbor near Yokosuka to meet a group of returning Japanese prisoners of war. He was surprised to find his former flight engineer, Kazuo Kanegasaki, who all had believed had died in the Battle of Midway. When questioned, Kanegasaki told Fuchida that they were not tortured or abused, much to Fuchida's disappointment, then went on to tell him of a young lady who served them with the deepest love and respect, but whose parents, missionaries, had been killed by Japanese soldiers on the island of Panay in the Philippines.

For Fuchida, this was inexplicable, as in the Bushido code revenge was not just permitted, it was a responsibility for an offended party to carry out revenge to restore honor. The murderer of one's parents would be a sworn enemy for life. He became almost obsessed trying to understand why anyone would treat their enemies with love and forgiveness.

In the fall of 1948, Fuchida was passing by the bronze statue of Hachiko at the Shibuya Station when he was handed a pamphlet about the life of Jacob DeShazer, a member of the Doolittle Raid who was captured by the Japanese after his B-25 Mitchell ran out of fuel over occupied China. In the pamphlet "I Was a Prisoner of Japan" DeShazer, himself a former U.S. Army Air Force Staff Sergeant and bombardier, told his story of imprisonment, torture and an awakening to God. Fuchida became more curious about Christianity but couldn't find a Bible at the time in post-war Japan, but in the spring of 1949, again at the statue of Hachiko he met a man from the Pocket Testament League selling the New Testament of the Bible, and he bought one. Later that fall, while reading the Bible, he understood for the first time why the young lady had forgiven her enemies and took his first steps in becoming a Christian. In May 1950, he and Jacob DeShazer met for the first time, as friends.

2 comments:

  1. Patrick,

    This was a beautiful post. Thanks so much for sharing it.

    Pax.

    ReplyDelete