On December 7, 1941, 353 airplanes took off at dawn from four aircraft carriers and headed for Pearl Harbor on the island of Oahu, Hawaii. They were led by Captain Mitsuo Fuchida, who sent the code message, “Tora, Tora, Tora,” to indicate that the U.S. Fleet had been caught by surprise. At 7:55 he ordered the attack on the unsuspecting naval base.
At 8:10, a 1,800-pound bomb smashed through the deck of the battleship USS Arizona and landed in her forward ammunition magazine. The ship exploded and sank with more than 1,000 men trapped inside.
In just two hours 2,403 Americans were killed and another 1,178 wounded. 19 U.S. Navy ships are destroyed or damaged, including 8 battleships, and 169 US aircraft. Another 159 were damaged.
It was a day that President Franklin Roosevelt said “will live in infamy”, and it sent shock waves throughout our nation. Our security had been breached and the fear of an enemy attack on our coastal cities loomed large in the hearts of many Americans.
We suddenly appeared extremely vulnerable and public moral became very low. A plan was needed to strike back at the Empire of Japan and boost the morale of the American people.
On April 18, 1942, that plan was implemented when Lt. Col. James Doolittle led a force of 80 men in sixteen B-25 twin engine bombers off the deck of the Aircraft Carrier USS Hornet to bomb Tokyo. No bomber had ever taken off from an aircraft carrier before.
The last of the planes to take off was the Bat Out Of Hell, and on that plane was a young Corporal from Oregon named Jacob Deshazer. After dropping incendiary bombs on an oil installation and a factory in Nagoya the crew tried to make it to an airfield held by America’s Chinese allies, but they ran out of fuel before they could reach it. The five crewmen bailed out over Japanese-occupied territory in China and all were quickly captured.
That began 40 months of torture at the hands of the Japanese. They were water-boarded, beaten, and starved. They suffered from dysentery and Beriberi, resulting in the death of raider Bob Meder. They were placed in solitary confinement in freezing cold prison cells, and suffered psychologically. Three were shot dead by a firing squad. The survivors endured brutalities that are beyond the comprehension of civilized people.
Alone in his cell, and filled with deep bitterness and hatred toward his captors, Jacob Deshazer sent an unusual request to the prison commander. Thinking for certain that he would die, he wanted a Bible. He was given one a few days later, and his life was changed forever. During one of his readings he came across Romans 10:9, and he accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior. The hatred he felt soon turned to love and forgiveness. One day in his prison cell, he surrendered his life to become a missionary to Japan. After his liberation at the end of the war, he returned to Japan as a missionary and served there for 30 years.
Mitsuo Fuchida, the famed pilot who led the attack on Pearl Harbor, became a very bitter man after the war. As he got off the train one day in Tokyo’s Shibuya Station, he saw an American distributing literature. The man handed him a pamphlet entitled “I Was a Prisoner of Japan”. It was written by Jacob Deshazer. Fuchida was so moved by how the power of Christ had changed Jake Deshazer and turned his hatred into love, that he bought a Bible himself.
This is what happened in his own words: “In the ensuing weeks, I read this book eagerly. I came to the climactic drama – the Crucifixion. I read in Luke 23:34 the prayer of Jesus Christ at His death: ‘Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.’ I was certainly one of those for whom He had prayed. The many men I had killed had been slaughtered in the name of patriotism, for I did not understand the love which Christ wishes to implant within every heart.
I understood the meaning of His death as a substitute for my wickedness, and so in prayer, I requested Him to forgive my sins and change me from a bitter, disillusioned ex-pilot into a well-balanced Christian with purpose in living. I became a new person. My complete view on life was changed by the intervention of the Christ I had always hated and ignored before.”_Fuchida later wrote a book called “From Pearl Harbor to Golgotha”, and traveled the world as an evangelist proclaiming the forgiveness that can be found in Jesus Christ.
What happened at Pearl Harbor and Tokyo was death and destruction, but what happened in the heart of Jacob Deshazer was forgiveness and grace. Had Jacob Deshazer held on to his hatred, he would have remained a prisoner at heart for the rest of his life, and Mitsuo Fuchida would have never heard his story. Forgiveness not only sets us free, but it allows others to see the power of Christ in our lives.
Maybe today there is someone you need to set free. Your unforgiveness has imprisoned you long enough and shackled you to the past. Let it go. Rest in the power of forgiveness. That doesn’t justify what they did to you; rather it reflects what Christ has done in you.