For most of us, December 7 is simply another day on the calendar drawing us to the realization that Christmas is just around the corner. For others, December 7 marks the anniversary of a dark day in our nation’s history. There wasn’t television news coverage that broadcast the horrifying news of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The only forum for public communication was telegraph, radio broadcasts and newspapers. The news brought our nation to its knees. The loss of life and destruction was unfathomable.
The day after the attack, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt referred to December 7, 1941 as a day that will live in infamy. In the delivery of his address to members of Congress, President Roosevelt shared the worst possible news: “…The attack yesterday on the Hawaiian islands has caused severe damage to American naval and military forces. I regret to tell you that very many American lives have been lost. In addition, American ships have been reported torpedoed on the high seas between San Francisco and Honolulu…”
Everybody has a story and for the folks who were in the midst of this one, it is a story that will never be forgotten. It is also a story filled with surprises. One of the surprises has to do with the difference the Christmas story made in the lives of two men.
One of those men was an American soldier named Jacob DeShazer. DeShazer had been on K.P. duty in an Army camp in California. He was blindsided by the radio announcement broadcasting the sneak attack demolishing Pearl Harbor.As he heard the report, he hurled a potato at the wall and shouted: “Jap, just wait and see what we’ll do to you.”
True to his word, a personal desire for revenge prompted him to volunteer for a secret mission with the Jimmy Doolittle Squadron. They say, “all is fair in love and war”, and this time it was the forces of war and retaliation that prompted the advancement. DeShazer was one of the bombardiers on a surprise raid on Tokyo from the carrier Hornet. The raid reached their target, unfortunately the plane on which he was flying didn’t make it safely back to the carrier. After the bombing they flew toward China but ran out of fuel. Those on board were forced to parachute into Japanese-held territory where DeShazer was captured and became a prisoner of war.
Inhumane conditions and mistreatment were the constant catalyst that fueled DeShazer’s on-going hatred for the Japanese. It also filled him with the poison harboring that kind of hatred can manifest. After confinement for a couple of years in Nanking, China, the U.S. prisoners were provided a Bible. During the three weeks the Bible was in his possession, DeShazer read the words that changed his life. As he yielded to the love of Christ, he found his attitude toward his captors changed from hatred to love and concern.
Under the yoke of captivity and immersed in the love of Christ, he resolved that if the United States won the war and he was freed from captivity, he’d make his way back to Japan and invest his life in proclaiming God’s love for them.
True to his word, his resolve became his reality in 1948 when he returned to Japan to share the message of Christ. DeShazer’s calling card or his story was printed in pamphlet form and made available. His sense of calling and love for the Japanese were defining characteristics in his life and his range of influence was significant.
Mitsuo Fuchida, who by happenstance or divine providence, got off the train one day in Tokyo’s Shibuya Station, saw an American distributing literature. As he passed him, he handed Fuchida a pamphlet entitled: “I Was A Prisoner Of Japan.” It chronicled the story of DeSazher’s life.
DeSazher’s story was pivotal in changing Fuchida’s story as well. Mitsuo Fuchida, at the age of 39, had been the flight commander that led in the attack of Pearl Harbor. He said of the experience:
“Like a hurricane out of nowhere, my torpedo planes, dive bombers and fighters truck suddenly with indescribably fury. AS smoke began to billow and the proud battleships, one by one, started tilting, my heart was almost ablaze with joy. During the next three hours, I directly commanded the fifty level bombers as they pelted not only Pearl Harbor, but the airfields, barracks and dry docks nearby. Then I circled at a higher altitude to accurately assess the damage and report it to my superiors.
Of the eight battleships in the harbor, five were mauled into total inactivity for the time being. The Arizona was scrapped for good; the Oklahoma, California and West Virginia were sunk. The Nevada was beached in a sinking condition; only the Pennsylvania, Maryland and Tennessee were able to be repaired. Of the eight, the California, West Virginia and Nevada were salvaged much later, but the Oklahoma, after being raised, was resunk as worthless…but the sting of 3,077 U.S. Navy personnel killed or missing and 876 wounded, plus 226 Army killed and 396 wounded, was something which could never be repaired. It was the most thrilling exploit of my career.”
Following Japans humiliating defeat in the war, Mitsuo Fuchida returned to his home village near Osaka and began farming. My his own admission, his was a discouraging life and he became more and more unhappy. When the war crime trials opened in Tokyo, he was summoned by General Douglas MacArthur to testify. It was during one of his visits to Tokyo to provide testimony, that Mitsuo Fuchida was handed the pamphlet at the train station.
That pamphlet was the catalyst God used to change the heart of Fuchida. It also changed the course of his life. He, too, became an ambassador for Christ. He subsequently said of himself: “I have traveled across Japan and the Orient introducing others to the One Who changed my life. I believe with all my heart that those who will direct Japan – and all other nations – in the decades to come must not ignore the message of Jesus Christ. Youth must realize that he is the only hope for this troubled world… I now work at striking the death-blow to the basic hatred which infests the human heart and causes such tragedies. And that hatred cannot be uprooted with assistance from Jesus Christ”
What a difference the message of Christmas makes in our troubled world.
All My Best!