[Note: My wife and I had a great opportunity to vacation in Hawaii this past month. During that time we were able to visit the Pearl Harbor war memorial sites. It was incredible to see it first hand. The following account is something I learned about as I read up on Pearl Harbor following our visit.]
He knew, from the moment the first bomb fell on Pearl Harbor, that his life would never be the same. The attack that took place on December 7th, 1941, would forever etch in his mind the horrors of war. It was the first time he had seen the destruction wrought by air power.
On that fateful day, the surprise attack started at 7:48 a.m. Hawaiian Time. 353 Japanese fighters, bombers, and torpedo planes came in 2 successive waves launched from 6 aircraft carriers.
He wasn’t actually in the harbor that day but was a few miles away, safe from danger, but very much aware of the carnage that was going on. It was, no doubt, hard to miss the significance of what that day meant to the world and his country.
8 US Navy battleships were damaged and half of them sank. The Japanese force also sunk or damaged 3 cruisers, 3 destroyers, an anti-aircraft training ship and a minelayer. 188 US aircraft were destroyed. Worse than all of the lost military hardware were the lives: 2,402 Americans were killed that day along with 1,282 wounded.
The US forces had responded feebly. They were only able to down 29 aircraft. The Japanese lost 5 small submarines and 65 soldiers. There was a single Japanese sailor taken prisoner.
The attack shocked America into action and for the next few years he fought and fought bravely. He was already a leader of men when the action started and his role in the war only intensified. Over the course of the next few years, the bloody battle increased his hatred for the enemy. He served across the entire Pacific theatre, seeing action in Australia, Ceylon, and the Battle of Midway in which he was wounded.
He became a staff officer after recuperating from his wounds. When the peace treaty was signed on the decks of the USS Missouri on September 2nd, 1945, he was essentially a broken man. He was emotionally spent. He was filled with bitterness for the adversary that had taken so much from him personally and from his nation. This overwhelming sense of hatred made it difficult for him as he testified at the trial of Japanese war criminals. He asked himself, “How could people be so cruel and do such horrific things?” His faith in humanity was gone. He was shattered.
So how did this man come to stand on the stage with the greatest revival preacher of all time, Billy Graham, just a few years later?
To answer this we must go back in time to soon after the attack on Pearl Harbor. The Americans needed to show the Japanese that they would take the fight to them. On April 18th, 1942, Jacob DeShazar was among the men that took off from the decks of the USS Hornet to deliver this message in the infamous Doolittle Raid. Most of the raiders survived, but 3 lost their lives and 8 were captured, including DeShazar. The Japanese held him captive for over three years. Most of this time was spent in solitary confinement in very difficult circumstances. After the war ended DeShazar felt that God was leading him to be a missionary to, of all places, Japan.
The subject of our story received a tract written by DeShazar entitled I was a Prisoner of Japan. It spoke of forgiveness and God’s power to overcome the vilest sin in one’s heart. God touched him through this tract and he became a follower of Christ. In 1950, he met DeShazar and they went on to preach and teach together to the Japanese. DeShazar ultimately was given the Presidential Medal of Honor and the Congressional Gold Medal for both his part in the Doolittle Raid as well as bringing reconciliation between the Japanese and US.
That’s how, in 1952, Mitsuo Fuchida, the leader of the Japanese force that attacked Pearl Harbor, came to stand on the stage with Billy Graham and tell thousands about Christ’s redemptive power.
That’s quite a story!