Pearl Harbor pilot became evangelist

Posted by DarthDilbert at 12/05/2008 11:23:00 PM

Shortly after Mitsuo Fuchida led the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, he discovered just how fortunate he was to be living.

Along with the 21 holes that visibly pocked the 39-year-old’s aircraft, a mechanic on the aircraft carrier Akagi found a frayed elevator cable that dangled from Fuchida's reconnaissance bomber by a single thread. If it had been severed, the inevitable crash could have killed the flight commander — whose radio message "Tora! Tora! Tora!" was the final go-ahead for the attack that drew the United States into World War II.

To Fuchida, who did not consider himself a spiritual man at the time, dodging the flak over Pearl Harbor was a lucky break. But as the war wore on, escaping death became a rite of passage for the man, leading him 30 years later to tell now-retired Stars and Stripes reporter Hal Drake that "someone had his hand on my head."

[A few years later] Fuchida became curious about the Christian god. He again was ordered to testify in 1948 and, as he got off the train at Shibuya Station, a Western man handed him a missionary pamphlet titled "I Was a Prisoner in Japan." The subject was Jacob DeShazer, one of the Doolittle Raiders whose carrier-launched B-25s bombed Japan in 1942. DeShazer’s plane crash-landed in China, where Japanese occupiers captured and imprisoned him.

After his capture, DeShazer was repeatedly tortured and witnessed the execution of three of his crewmembers while another slowly died of malnutrition.

Like Fuchida, DeShazer couldn’t understand why his life was spared amid so much death. A friend lent him a Bible, which he quickly devoured. Moved by the story of Christ asking for forgiveness of those who crucified him, DeShazer vowed he would return to Japan to do missionary work if his life were spared.

For a second time, a story of the human ability to forgive one’s enemies rocked Fuchida. This time it stuck.

"That’s when I met Jesus," Fuchida told Drake. "Looking back, I can see now that the Lord had laid his hand upon me so that I might serve him."

Fuchida lived out the remainder of his years traveling the world as an evangelist. His story was celebrated in Reader’s Digest magazine, and he befriended such notables as the Rev. Billy Graham.

The man who wouldn’t die in war was finally conquered by diabetes in 1976.

I was fortunate to meet Mr. Fuchida when I was a kid when he spoke to our Royal Ambassadors group at my church. They are also working to make a movie about him. I couldn't think of anyone more deserving.

Stars & Stripes


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