Friday, March 28, 2008

The Relentlessly Forgiving Life

The Wall Street Journal recently devoted the middle editorial, "War and Forgiveness," to "the heroism and remarkable forgiveness of Jacob DeShazer, a bombardier on the famous Doolittle raid over Japan of April 18, 1942." This was the daring, national morale boosting bombing raid depicted in the movie Pearl Harbor (if that helps).

The Doolittle bombing raid was close to a suicide mission, a one-way trip to bring the war to the Japanese homeland for the first time. Coming not long after Pearl Harbor and before the Pacific island victories to come, the raid was a huge boost to domestic morale. Corporal DeShazer was one of five crewmen on Bat Out of Hell, a B-25 aircraft that took off from the aircraft carrier USS Hornet, dropped incendiary bombs over Nagoya, and then flew on to Japanese-occupied China, where the crew was forced to bail out.

DeShazer was taken prisoner, and was starved, beaten and tortured by his Japanese captors. For 34 of his 40 months in captivity, he was kept in solitary confinement. His pilot (Lieutenant William Farrow) and engineer-gunner (Sergeant Harold Spatz) were killed by firing squad. But DeShazer survived the war, was liberated after V-J Day in August 1945, and went on to get a degree in Biblical literature from Seattle Pacific College (now Seattle Pacific University). In 1948, he returned as a Christian missionary to the country that had nearly killed him, and he would continue his ministry in Japan for 30 years.

DeShazer died on March 15 at his home in Salem, Oregon, at age 95. It is one of life's safer bets that he is resting in peace.

In Forums, reader Kimble D. Stohry, Colonel, USAF (ret.) of Ellettsville, Indiana, tells us this:

Another Doolittle Raider, Robert Meder, had witnessed to DeShazer while they were pulling weeds one day in a Japanese POW camp in China. Meder later died in captivity. That short conversation (and the calm manner in which Meder had died) sparked an interest in DeShazer to read the Bible when he later received a Bible in prison camp; he devoured it. Coming to Romans 10:9-10, he read and then simply believed in what it said; and was saved. After the war, and seminary, Missionary DeShazer (supported by other Raiders) passed out a gospel tract [unbeknownst] to Mitsuo Fuchida in Japan. Fuchida, as a Japanese naval aviator, had led the attack on Pearl Harbor years earlier. Fuchida later believed and was saved. It's a small world in the Lord and this part got started with a simple conversation ‘while pulling weeds’.

Romans 10:9-10 reads (in the King James version, which he would have used): "That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation."

You can learn more about DeShazer at

Read Mitsuo Fuchida's 1953 account of his conversion to Christ by the ministry of his former enemy, DeShazer, here.

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