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From “Tora, Tora, Tora” to preaching the Gospel, the story of Mitsuo Fuchida

The monument marking the Sinking of the Arizona in Pearl Harbor Photo Expert Infantry/Flickr

Memorial marking the sinking of the USS Utah at Pearl Harbor. Photo: Expert Infantry/Flickr

When the Japanese launched their attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Mitsuo Fuchida who led the first of two waves ordered his navigator to send those famous words, “Tora, Tora, Tora” back to their flag-ship, the carrier Akagi.

It was the code used to relay to the Japanese fleet that their attack had not been detected.

As leader of the air strike, Fuchida stayed in the air over Pearl Harbor as the second wave of Japanese planes came in for their bombing runs.

This unprovoked assault by the Japanese air force numbering 353 fighters, bombers and torpedo planes resulted in the deaths of over 2,500 Americans. Though sixteen American ships were damaged or sunk, most were repaired and returned to service.

The attack resulted in the Americans declaring war on Japan the next day.

Fuchida continued on as a pilot in the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service. When he was injured in the battle of Midway, and no longer able to fly, he trained pilots in Japan.

Mitsuo Fuchida

Mitsuo Fuchida (1902 – 1976)

Many people are unaware that Fuchida became a Christian shortly after the war and ministered as an evangelist for several years.

According to his testimony published in the book From Pearl Harbor to Calvary, Fuchida was in Hiroshima the day before the Americans dropped the atomic bomb (August 6, 1945) but an order by Naval Command to return to Tokyo had him out of the city when the Americans attacked.

After the war, Fuchida returned to the village where he grew up. Though never tried for war crimes, American General Douglas MacArthur had Fuchida testify at a tribunal examining Japanese atrocities.

While in Tokyo testifying, Fuchida was handed a Christian tract by an American as he got off the train at the Tokyo station.

In a curious twist that only God could orchestrate, Fuchida was impacted by a tract written by Jake DeShazer an airman with the infamous Doolittle Raid that took place on April 18, 1942.

The tract titled, I was a prisoner of Japan, was DeShazer’s testimony of how he became a Christian as a Japanese POW.

In a plan orchestrated by Colonel James Doolittle, 26 B 25s took off from the aircraft carrier Hornet to launch bombing runs on Tokyo and other military targets. The raid took place four months after Pearl Harbor. In direct response to this attack, it was intended to show Japan it was equally vulnerable to bombing.

Jacob DeShazer (1912 - 2008)

Jacob DeShazer (1912 – 2008)

Since the B25s were incapable of landing on the Hornet after their bombing runs, the pilots flew to China and landed there with hopes of finding refuge among the Chinese civilians.

After the Japanese launched a massive search they were able to capture eight of the Doolittle raiders including DeShazar. The Japanese executed four of the captured airmen.

Though starved and tortured in Japanese POW camps in both China and Japan, DeShazer survived.

He was eventually given books to read including a Bible and this led him to become a Christian. After the war, he returned to the US for Bible training and then went back to Japan where he worked as a missionary for 30 years.

After reading the pamphlet, Fuchida, who was Buddhist, saw how the Bible had impacted DeShazar while in captivity. Fuchida began to read the Bible and it was the story of Jesus’ crucifixion that caught his attention:

He wrote:

“In the ensuing weeks, I read this book eagerly. I came to the climatic drama — the crucifixion. I read in Luke 23:34 the prayer of Jesus 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.”

After accepting Christ, Fuchida worked as an evangelist preaching the good news about Jesus in both Japan, the US and Europe. He eventually moved to the US in 1960 where he died May 30, 1976 at age 73.

Fuchida and DeShazar, who died March 15, 2008 at age 95, became good friends after the war.


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