Finding Forgiveness at Pearl

What the Movie Didn't Tell You


There's a lot more to the story of Pearl Harbor than Hollywood's latest epic -- with its sentimental, fictional love story -- would have you believe. In fact, the Disney version pales in comparison to the true stories that came out of that terrible time.

Take for example the story of Jacob DeShazer, who was on KP duty in California when he first heard of the attack. Furious at what the Japanese had done, he resolved to retaliate personally. And in April, 1942, he got his chance -- as a B-25 bombardier when Doolittle's Raiders attacked Tokyo.

During that fateful run, DeShazer's plane ran out of fuel and the crew bailed out over enemy territory. DeShazer was captured and spent the next forty months as a POW -- including thirty-four months in solitary confinement. Three of his buddies were executed and another died of slow starvation.

With lots of time to think, Jake wondered: what makes people hate each other? And he also wondered: doesn't the Bible say something about loving our enemies?

He asked his jailers for a Bible and eventually got one. He read it with fascination, re-reading some parts six or more times. Then, ten days into his study, he asked Christ to forgive his sins. He remembers, "suddenly ... when I looked at the enemy officers and guards ..., I realized that ... if Christ is not in a heart, it is natural to be cruel. ... [M]y bitter hatred ... changed to loving pity." Remembering Christ's words from the cross, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do," he asked God to forgive his torturers too.

Fourteen months later, in August 1945, paratroopers liberated DeShazer from his prison cell. After the war, a chaplain on General MacArthur's staff wanted something to help heal the animosity between the U.S. and Japan. He approached Don Falkenberg of Bible Literature International, who had read DeShazer's testimony shortly after his release. And soon the story was being circulating as a booklet called, "I Was a Prisoner of Japan."

And here's where the story out-dramatizes Hollywood. Japanese Navy pilot Mitsuo Fuchida was Chief Commander of the historic December 7th raid on Pearl Harbor. He had advised against raiding the American base, but when given orders to proceed, Fuchida led the assault.

Eventually he logged more than ten thousand combat hours. But Fuchida's closest brush with death was on the ground in Japan. He was in Hiroshima the day before the atom bomb was dropped. His life was spared when Headquarters summoned him to Tokyo.

When the war ended, Captain Fuchida then returned to his family farm near Osaka. Later, stepping off a train in Tokyo, he was given a copy of DeShazer's pamphlet that stimulated him to start reading the Bible. And despite his Shinto heritage, he accepted Christ as his Savior.

How marvelous are God's ways? An American airman is taken prisoner, is converted, and his testimony leads his captors’ ace pilot to Christ.

Well, tomorrow I'll continue this remarkable story about a Japanese captain and the American sergeant who later became friends and partners -- a much better story than the one Disney has put on film, and it's true.