The Story of Jacob DeShazer and Mitsuo Fuchida: Forgiveness Amidst the Ashes of World War II

The story of Jacob DeShazer and Mitsuo Fuchida who were enemies in World War II. One lead the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 while the other participated in the Jimmy Doolittle raid against Japan in April 1942. One found the Gospel while in a Japanese internment camp and learned to love his Japanese captors. The other in postwar Japan was moved by DeShazer’s story and surrendered to the Lord. They became close friends, reconciled, and worked through their differences in the name of Christ. Can you imagine if this kind of forgiveness and reconciliation amongst Christians was the norm and not the exception? If Jacob DeShazer and Mitsuo Fuchida could reconcile, can’t Eagle and Andrew White who was a Care Group Leader at Redeemer Arlington reconcile and work out their differences and pain?


“I remember the thrill that was mine when, in one of my first meetings, I led my first soul to Christ in America. And he was one of my own countrymen.”

Mitsuo Fuchida

“I had seen people who could show a beautiful attitude in very trying circumstances, but I did not know that we can all have this kind of love that is long suffering, kind, and patient. However, if we are given the commandment to love one another, it is surely possible for us actually to do so. Since God has given the commandment to love, our part of the transaction is to put forth an effort and try to have love for others. This would be a wonderful world if we would all try to love one another. If we would honestly try and if we would recognize Jesus as God’s Son and our Savior, God will be pleased with us. I made up my mind to try.”

Jacob DeShazer

“If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

 Romans 10:9 NIV



Today in the United States many Christians are known for arrogance, lack of love, and being filled with pride. Survey after survey attests to this trend. Love can indeed move mountains and can shape the geographical landscape. After my faith crisis when I was going back and seeking forgiveness from 140 people I spent a lot of time reading and researching tales and incredible stories of forgiveness. It was during this time that I read the amazing story of Jacob DeShazer who participated in the Doolittle Raid and Mitsuo Fuchida who led the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. It remains an incredible story of grace, reconciliation and friendship between two former enemies. Plus, like the story I wrote about Mary Johnson and Oshea Israel I have a series of questions…

  • Is it possible to forgive your marital partner who cheated on you and seek reconciliation?
  • Is it possible to forgive your former business partner who embezzled from you and seek reconciliation?
  • In my case is it possible for Eagle and Andrew White who used to be a Care Group Leader at Redeemer Arlington to forgive each other and reconcile?

In all the of the above…Yes! Absolutely! Please understand I also understand the importance of repentance when it comes to reconciliation. After all attempted reconciliation with someone who sees no wrong or who does not repent can open yourself up to being hurt. Should the woman being domestically abused immediately forgive her husband and try and reconcile with someone who can physically harm her? No…sometimes a sign of repentance in the case of domestic abuse should include the abuser reporting himself to law enforcement and counseling.

But getting back to the story, can you imagine if this kind of forgiveness and reconciliation that was exhibited between Jacob DeShazer and Mitsuo Fichida is the norm and not the exception among Christians?  If this were the norm would Christians be viewed as arrogant? This is my challenge to the church…is this kind of forgiveness and reconciliation possible? This is one of the amazing faith stories that grew out of World War II involving Jacob DeShazer who was a member of the Doolittle squadron. It’s a remarkable story of grace, forgiveness and incredible mercy.  Deshazer was born on November 15, 1912 in West Stayton, Oregon. He graduated from Madras High School in 1931 and enlisted on February 26, 1940 into the US Army. On December 7, 1941 the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, Hawaii and in the process nearly destroying the Pacific Fleet and thrust the United States into World War II.  Jacob DeShazer volunteered for the Jimmy Doolittle raid which bombed Tokyo on April 18, 1942. At the time DeSahzer was an Atheist and when his plane was going down because it ran out of fuel he parachuted into Japanese controlled territory in China. As he parachuted he didn’t pray as he thought it dishonest to pray even during this time of need. However back in Oregon his mother woke up from sleep that very hour and felt a need and desire to suddenly pray for her son.  Jacob’s mother prayed in great distress until she could go back to sleep. After the raid DeShazer was captured by the Japanese and interned in a Japanese Prisoner of War camp for 40 months, or a little over 3 years. When the US Army Air Force men surrendered they did not resist, nor fight as they feared accidentally shooting nationalist Chinese soldiers. Over the next three years the American POWs were moved from Nan King, to Tokyo, to a couple of locations in Shanghai, and then back to Nan King again in Japanese occupied China. As a Japanese prisoner of war Jacob DeSahzer was taken into custody. In captivity the US Army Air Force men were interrogated, tortured, and faced extended isolation by the Japanese.  Furthermore three Airmen – two pilots Lt. Dean Hallmark and Lt. William Farrow and a rear gunner, Harold Spatz were executed by firing squad on October 15, 1942. During his captivity Jaocb DeShazer watched the Japanese starve to death one of his friends. DeSahzer himself was forced into solitary confinement for 36 months. The weight on his 5’ 6” frame dropped from 160 to 128 pounds. And at times his body was covered with boils. He was regularly maltreated and DeShazer’s hatred for the Japanese grew during this time. On one occasion DeShazer was forced to kneel and was beaten severely by the Japanese during an inquisition. Other American POWs were hung handcuffed for about 8 hours from a peg on the wall, yet while others were stretched out on boards with towels to their faces with water being poured over them. The Japanese were water boarding them.

In Nan King, China in 1943 the Japanese started to treat the Doolittle captives better on order from the Japanese Emperor. In time eventually the Japanese gave the troops a Bible. Meanwhile DeShazer’s hatred for the Japanese increased and almost drove him insane, and tore him apart. He began to wonder what could cause such hatred between members of the human race? What made one people group hate another, and what made Jacob DeSahzer hate them? In a dimly lit prison cell DeSahzer read through the Bible several times, he examined the prophecies and followed their fulfillment. In that prison cell he did business with the Lord. He also memorized the Sermon of the Mount by Jesus and committed 1 John to memory. On June 8, 1944 in his prison cell Romans 10:9 If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved stood out to him. Meanwhile 1 John 1:9 which states If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness also grabbed a hold of him. DeShazer had realized that his Japanese torturers were cruel because they did not know the Lord. And it was natural for people to be cruel. He read Jesus praying for the people spitting, and crucifying him saying “Father forgive them they know not what they do…” And DeShazer realized that he had to forgive his Japanese torturers and prayed to God that they would be forgiven. He responded to his prison guards with love and prayed for them. He responded with grace when he was kicked and beaten, and even learned how to say “Good morning” in Japanese. DeShazer realized how important forgiveness is to faith. On August 20, 1945 DeShazer was released from captivity.

In August of 1945 the Japanese war machine was crushed. The Nuclear age was swept in with the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki being destroyed by nuclear weapons. The Japanese also learned that their Emperor was not divine when he disavowed his divinity in 1946. Japan as a nation state was defeated. Against this back drop Jacob DeShazer returned to Yokohama, Japan on December 28, 1948 as a missionary planting Methodist churches.  The Japanese were intrigued and asked why? The questions that DeSahzer was asked went along the following, “What happened to you? Why did you come back? Didn’t they hit and spit on you and treat you mean? Why do you want to come back here?” And with that Jacob DeShazer taught them about the Lord and practiced forgiveness in the process. In the first year in Japan 30,000 people converted to Christianity. Jacob DeShazer forgave his prison guards who mistreated him. Many of his former prison guards also converted to Christianity including the one who gave DeSahazer the Bible.

But the most amazing act of forgiveness and reconciliation was yet to come. In 1950 Jacob DeShazer authored a letter or flyer called “I Was a Prisoner of Japan”. The flyer explained Jacob’s story from hatred of Japanese to Christianity and of his missionary work in Japan. During a time when he fasted in 1949 for 40 days his flyer made its way into the hands of Mitsuo Fuchida. Mitsuo Fuchida was the Japanese pilot who led the attack on Pearl Harbor on Sunday December 7, 1941. He ordered the attack to commence and sent back the famous transmission “Tora, Tora, Tora” which indicated that the attack was a success. He was a national wartime hero in Japan. But in postwar Japan Fuchida was struggling and after reading DeShazer’s story, read through the Bible and converted to Christianity. In 1950 DeShazer and Fuchida met and with that a lifelong friendship was born and they became close. I find that to be especially beautiful…that one of the main participants of the Doolitte raid would befriend the leader of the attack on Pearl Harbor whose actions resulted in the deaths of 2,403 Americans. Fuchida went on and became a missionary to Asia. When he died in 1977 his close friend, Jacob DeShazer led the funeral, gave a sermon and said goodbye to his close friend.

Jacob DeShazer eventually returned to the United States having worked as a missionary abroad. His life was spent living in love while showing and practicing forgiveness. On March 17, 2008 DeShazer passed away in his sleep in the Salem, Oregon area. According to the Statesman Journal of Salem, Oregon DeShazer’s daughter Ruth Kutrakun said of her father, My Dad was an incredible person”…”He had a sense of honor and duty. He served his country, but more importantly he served his Lord. He had deep faith, and during his time as a prisoner of war he was convinced that he needed to forgive his enemy. After that he spent his life spreading the message of love and forgiveness.”


5 thoughts on “The Story of Jacob DeShazer and Mitsuo Fuchida: Forgiveness Amidst the Ashes of World War II

  1. Eagle, this post has been like a memory from long ago…..I grew up attending a Free Methodist with my mother & grandmother. They had both met Jacob DeShazer. (If I ever did, I was so small that it never made any impression on me). He was very highly spoken of, as a man who had been greatly used of God. Time passed, I grew up, became a United Methodist, & I hadn’t thought about Jake DeShazer in years….

    Some years ago, family friends visited us, & the husband (an FM pastor, & the son of another one) asked us to pray for him to find a church nearby, as he wanted to return to the area he grew up in. After prayer, Mama burst out with, “Why don’t you check with the United Methodists? They have a real need for more ministers right now”? He took her advice. At a get-together for pastors shortly after being accepted & given the care of a church, our friend attended a meeting with our then bishop (Bishop Kim, a native of Korea). The bishop gave a talk to those attending, during which he told of how he & his entire family had converted to Christianity after meeting “a Free Methodist missionary named Jacob DeShazer”…..
    After the talk, ES (the friend) went quietly to the bishop, introduced himslef, & said, “Bishop, I knew Jacob DeShazer . He was a welcome guest in our home whenever he & his family were in the states”. The bishop’s face lit up, & the 2 of them fell to talking aabout old times, old friends, and….the story you have just told here. Not long ago, ES passed away into the Presence of Our Lord–and, I feel certain, renewed the friendship of old friends, like DeShazer. Who promptly must have introduced him to Mitsuo Fuchida…..
    Imagine it!! I knew when I saw the title of your post that I had to share the warmth I felt at the mention of these two men who must surely be placed amongst that company whom we sometimes (daringly) refer to as saints.

    Thank you, & God bless all here,


    • Zooey, you know what amazes me…is that stories like Jacob DeShazer are not taught today. I found in on my own in my own research? Why? Why are stories like this not told? Why are they not shared? I think Christianity in the US would benefit deeply if they heard more about Jacob DeShazer than Jonathan Edwards.

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      • Eagle, you are so right! I would never have known about him without that early foundation. There used to be a biography of him, but that was when I was in primary school. (60 years ago). He is a great figure in the history of the Christian church, yet few people have any idea who he was.


  2. Pingback: Renee Napier and Eric Smallridge: An Incredible Story of Grace, Forgiveness and Repentance in Florida | Wondering Eagle

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