Mitsuo Fuchida – "From Pearl Harbor to Calvary"

As Donald notes, today is “the day that will live in infamy” — the anniversary of the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor.

When I was young, I learned of the story of Captain Mitsuo Fuchida of the Imperial Japanese Navy, famous for leading the first wave of the attack on that fateful day of December 7, 1941. Wounded in the battle of Midway, he spent the rest of his life as staff officer, and was actually in Hiroshima only a day before the bombing (he was saved by a call from Headquarters asking him to return to Tokyo).

What is particularly fascinating about his life, however, is what happened after the war:

After the war, Fuchida was called on to testify at the trials of some of the Japanese military for Japanese war crimes. This infuriated him as he believed this was little more than “victor’s justice”. Convinced that the Americans had treated the Japanese the same way and determined to bring that evidence to the next trial, in the spring of 1947, Fuchida went to Uraga Harbor near Yokosuka to meet a group of returning Japanese prisoners of war. He was surprised to find his former flight engineer, Kazuo Kanegasaki, who all had believed had died in the Battle of Midway. When questioned, Kanegasaki told Fuchida that they were not tortured or abused, much to Fuchida’s disappointment, then went on to tell him of a young lady who served them with the deepest love and respect, but whose parents, missionaries, had been killed by Japanese soldiers on the island of Panay in the Philippines.

For Fuchida, this was inexplicable, as in the Bushido code revenge was not just permitted, it was a responsibility for an offended party to carry out revenge to restore honor. The murderer of one’s parents would be a sworn enemy for life. He became almost obsessed trying to understand why anyone would treat their enemies with love and forgiveness.

In the fall of 1948, Fuchida was passing by the bronze statue of Hachiko at the Shibuya Station when he was handed a pamphlet about the life of Jacob DeShazer, a member of the Doolittle Raid who was captured by the Japanese after his B-25 Mitchell ran out of fuel over occupied China. In the pamphlet “I Was a Prisoner of Japan” Deshazer, himself a former U.S. Army Air Force Staff Sergeant and bombardier, told his story of imprisonment, torture and an awakening to God. Fuchida became more curious about Christianity but couldn’t find a Bible at the time in post-war Japan, but in the spring of 1949, again at the statue of Hachiko he met a man selling Bibles, and he bought one. Later that fall, while reading the Bible, he understood for the first time why the young lady had forgiven her enemies and took his first steps in becoming a Christian. In May of 1950, he and Jacob DeShazer met for the first time, as friends. [Source: Mitsuo Fuchida - Wikipedia Entry]

Fuchida went on to become a missionary, preaching the gospel until his death in 1976. A full account of Fuchida’s life is given in God’s Samurai: Lead Pilot at Pearl Harbor (Potomac Books, 2003).

Fuchida’s testimony, “From Pearl Harbor to Calvary,” is also available online:

I would give anything to retract my actions of twenty-nine years ago at Pearl Harbor, but it is impossible. Instead, 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 without assistance from Jesus Christ.

He is the only One Who was powerful enough to change my life and inspire it with His thoughts. He was the only answer to Jake DeShazer’s tormented life. He is the only answer for young people today.

On a personal note, My grandparents on both sides of the family were [Protestant] missionaries to Japan; my grandfather, Maas Vanderbilt, was in the Philippines in World War II, and — like DeShazer and many others — returned after the war as a missionary to the land where he fought.

My parents spent much of their early years there, and I myself was born in the city of Yokohama.

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