ON DECEMBER 7, 1941, United States military personnel eased into a typically balmy Sunday
morning at Pearl Harbor. A midget enemy sub had been sighted and fired upon by the U.S.
destroyer Ward near the entrance to Pearl Harbor, but the report was delayed and then received
skeptically. Two Army radar operators noticed an uncommonly large blip moving in from the
north; their superiors assumed it was a U.S. bomber squadron due in from the mainland that
morning. But Japanese flight commander Mitsuo Fuchida who had an intense hatred of
America, was guiding his deadly force across hundreds of miles of open sea. As the Japanese
moved in for the kill, no one knew what lay ahead that Sunday morning.
For months before the attack, Lt. Commander Mitsuo Fuchida and squads of Imperial Navy
pilots had perfected the low-flying torpedo runs. On that pristine December morning, Fuchida led
the first wave of 183 planes in the surprise assault on the U.S. Pacific Fleet. Fuchida shouted
the now famous victory cry, "Tora! Tora! Tora!" (meaning "tiger," but also a compound word
indicating "surprise" and "attack"). It was the most devastating attack against our country in
modern history, eclipsed in loss of American life only by the terrorist attacks of September 11,
Following Pearl Harbor, President Franklin Roosevelt ordered a surprise attack against Japan to
disarm them psychologically. Brilliant airman Lt. Col. James Doolittle, just back from military
retirement, was given the unenviable task of training the crews for a lightning raid on Tokyo. (As
an interesting sidelight, Doolittle, before his initial retirement in 1930, had perfected instrument-
only landings at a small airfield in Boonton Township, New Jersey near our office in Towaco.)
Jacob DeShazer passionately hated the enemy and had seized the opportunity for military
service by enlisting in the Army Air Corps in 1939. DeShazer became one of "Jimmy" Doolittle's
trainees. Jake DeShazer was overjoyed to be part of a top-secret task force to smash his avowed
Unaware of their ultimate mission, the crews trained in Florida for a month and then were moved
to California to await their orders. Sixteen crews were eventually readied to fly B-25s off the
deck of the carrier Hornet once it approached 400 miles off the Japanese coast. Only while
underway in the Pacific did the men learn the purpose of their mission; they received the news
joyously and exulted in an opportunity to "pay back the emperor" for Pearl Harbor.
On April 18, 1942, in extremely heavy seas and still some 600 miles away from the coast of
Japan, a Japanese trawler was spotted. Believing their cover had been compromised, Doolittle
immediately led his sixteen B-25s off the pitching deck of the Hornet. Corporal Jacob DeShazer
was bombardier on Plane #16-the last one off the Hornet. DeShazer's plane bombed Nagoya,
300 miles south of Tokyo.
The original plan was for the planes to fly on into friendly Chinese territory following the bombing
of Tokyo and surrounding cities. Now, ten hours off schedule, there would not be enough fuel to
fly into the safety of China during daylight. The success of the bombing mission was marred by
the loss of all sixteen planes and the capture by the Japanese of eight of the men who had
either bailed out or crash landed in a Japanese-occupied section of China. The crew of Plane
#16 was forced to bail out; DeShazer landed in a Chinese cemetery.
Doolittle had promised his men that if they ever got out, they would hold "the greatest party
ever." A celebration seemed extremely remote for the eight prisoners-of-war, one of whom was
Jacob DeShazer. Three of the men were tied to crosses and executed. (Before their deaths, one
wrote a farewell letter home: "Dearest Mother, Don't let this get you down. God will make
everything right") A year later, a fourth prisoner-of-war died of malnutrition. DeShazer and the
remaining three were imprisoned and tortured. DeShazer came to hate the Japanese more than
During those dismal months in prison, hope seemed slim. Then the Japanese gave the
prisoners a Bible thinking its message would demoralize them since its chief figure, Jesus
Christ, was killed. Although of Christian background, DeShazer had questioned the faith and
never surrendered personally to the Lord. Incredibly, through the prayers of people back home
and by reading the story of Christ's loving sacrifice for him, Jacob DeShazer was soundly
converted in a Japanese prison and became a new person in Christ. A genuine love for the
Japanese people flooded his soul, and he vowed that if he were ever released, he would train
for missionary service and return to Japan to preach the Gospel. In August 1945, the four
prisoners were released-forty months after their capture.
In 1948, after graduating from Seattle Pacific College and undergoing special missions training,
Jake DeShazer returned to Japan as a missionary with his wife and young child. During his
years of missionary service, he started many churches, including one in Nagoya, the very city he
had bombed years before in the Doolittle raid. In one ten-day crusade, 10,000 Japanese
accepted Christ as personal Savior. DeShazer spoke to a crowd of over 2,000 people in Osaka;
many there were former prison guards. Among those who were converted was Captain Kato, the
Japanese prison guard who had given DeShazer the Bible in the Nanking prison years before.
During the early days of his ministry in Japan, DeShazer undertook a 40-day fast for a spiritual
breakthrough. At the end of those days of fasting, he sensed that God was going to do
something wonderful. The next day, a man came to DeShazer to profess Christ and be baptized.
The man was Mitsuo Fuchida.
Mitsuo Fuchida had seemed to miraculously escape death time after time. Of the numerous
Japanese officers involved in the Pearl Harbor attack, Fuchida was the only one to survive the
war. While jumping from a burning ship in the Battle of Midway, he broke both legs and
recovered. Fuchida visited the doomed city of Hiroshima just a day before its nuclear
obliteration. Shortly afterwards, he inspected Hiroshima's ruins. Of the ten officers who
accompanied him, all died of radiation sickness except Fuchida.
After the war, Fuchida turned to farming, but he felt a terrible emptiness in his life. Victorious
U.S. General Douglas MacArthur had anticipated the spiritual void that would be left by a
defeated emperor whose subjects had revered him as a god. MacArthur called for a new army
of Christian missionaries to fill the emptiness left by the defeat of the Japanese deity.
As some of these Christian missionaries were distributing tracts in Tokyo's main railroad station,
one was received by Fuchida. The tract told the astonishing story of Jacob DeShazer. Fuchida's
interest was stirred by the account of a bitter enemy whose life had been changed by Jesus
Christ and who was now sharing the Savior with those he formerly despised. Since it was the
Book that had changed DeShazer's life, Fuchida obtained a Bible and began to read it. When he
came to the account of Jesus on the cross saying, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what
they do," Fuchida was overwhelmed and accepted Christ as his Savior.
Bitter enemies in war became good friends in Christ. Jacob DeShazer and Mitsuo Fuchida
created a mighty stir when they appeared on the same platform to share the saving and
reconciling message of Jesus Christ. The Japanese were awed, and 600 received Christ as
Savior. Mitsuo Fuchida traveled widely in Japan, America and Europe sharing his testimony. Vic
Beatty, a Pocket Testament League missionary who often accompanied Fuchida, related how
they came upon a theater in Berlin where a movie on Pearl Harbor was being shown. Fuchida
was introduced as a chief figure of the film and the one who had advised the movie makers in
production. The theater owner introduced Fuchida at the end of each showing, and, by
agreement, the Pearl Harbor squadron leader gave his personal testimony.
Because of Fuchida's testimony, many Germans came to know Christ. Jimmy Doolittle made
his way out of China and back to the United States with the help of Christian missionary
John Birch, who had led thousands of Chinese to Christ. (The John Birch Society was named
after him.) After his return from China, Jimmy Doolittle continued active duty, became
a brigadier general and went on to bomb both Rome and Berlin.
On September 27, 1986, Orvin Roome, who was then California/Nevada State Chaplain for the
Gideons, visited the aging Jimmy Doolittle and outlined the plan of salvation in Christ. After they
sang Amazing Grace, the general rose, stood at full attention and, with tears streaming down his
cheeks, pledged personal allegiance to Jesus Christ. Roome related how Doolittle, who was 89
years old, "signed the back of the Testament, indicating that he had received Jesus Christ as his
personal Savior. Praise the Lord." The general, who walked away from six plane crashes and
bombed three capitols, had carried a Bible on all his flights. He now knew the Author personally.
Another Gideon who visited with Doolittle was Dick Kniesel, who fought for Germany in the war.
Robert Hite, co-pilot on DeShazer's B-25, is also a Gideon active in distributing Bibles.
DeShazer recalled Hite also reading the Bible in the Japanese prison.
The surviving "Doolittle Raiders" meet each April 18, the anniversary of their attack on Japan, to
continue "the greatest party ever." This will continue until the last glass in a specially built case is
turned over, a gesture to remember the mission crewmen who have died the previous year. At
one of those great parties for his surviving fliers, Doolittle stood before his men and declared,
"The greatest thing I've ever done is accept Christ as my Savior."
Mitsuo Fuchida died in 1976 on May 30, the day we honor those who have given their lives in
military service. Jake DeShazer attended his funeral. Jimmy Doolittle went to be with the
Lord in September 1993 at age 96. Jake DeShazer died on March 15, 2008 at the age of 95.
All three are together now as brothers in Christ for eternity.
In the worst of situations, God's grace can bring about thrilling personal redemption and
wondrous reconciliation. If you are unreconciled to God and to those about you, Jesus Christ is
the answer. Receive Him now! Your decision may not be as historically dramatic as those I've
just recounted, but it will be as personally satisfying and as eternally certain!
First, you must recognize that we "all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God." (Romans
3:23) Each of us needs a new birth from God. Jesus Christ said, "Most assuredly, I say to you,
unless a man is born again (born from above, from Heaven), he cannot see the kingdom of
God." (John 3:3) "Jesus said to him, 'I am the way, the truth, and the life, no man comes to the
Father, except through Me.'" (John 14:6)
God has done His part in providing all that is needed. "For God so loved the world that he gave
his only begotten Son (Christ), that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have
everlasting life." (John 3:16) "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we
were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8) Christ "gave Himself for our sins, that He
might deliver us from this present evil age." (Galatians 1:4)
Anyone who prays to God directly and admits his lost condition and receives Christ into his life is
saved. He is forgiven, cleansed, becomes a child of God and is certain of Heaven. "For whoever
calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved." (Romans 10:13) "Therefore, if anyone is in
Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold all things have become new."
(II Corinthians 5:17)
When this deccision is made, we possess eternal life as a positive fact forever! "And this is the
testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life;
he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. These things I have written to you who
believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life." (I John 5:11-13)
Perhaps you have never prayed before. Pray, "God, I know I am a sinner. I believe Jesus Christ
died for me. Come into my life. Forgive my sins and begin living your life in me."
If you have prayed to receive Christ as Savior, please contact us to let us know. We would love
to pray for you and send you some material to help you grow in your new life with Christ.
In 1976, Vic Beatty shared with me how Mitsuo Fuchida had once told him that if he had been a
Christian in 1941, his conscience would not have allowed him to lead the attack on Pearl
Harbor. Vic added, "It points up the power of the Gospel. It not only changes the lives of
individual people, but it can change the course and destiny of nations."
"Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ, and has given us
the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not
imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation" (II Cor.
5:18 & 19)
Scripture verses from The Holy Bible, New King James Version, © 1982, Thomas Nelson, Inc.
Vic Beatty (personal interview)
Jacob DeShazer (personal interview and correspondence)
DeShazer Returns (tract), General Mission Board, Free Methodist World Headquarters, 1970
Destination: Tokyo, Stan Cohen, Pictorial Histories Publishing Co., 1983
Pearl Harbor (Collector's Edition), National Geographic Society, 2001
Orvin Roome (personal correspondence)
Star Ledger and Daily Record newspapers