Love over Hatred – Jacob Deshazer (1912 – 2008)
Have you ever wondered whether forgiveness is possible in a world war? We see in films, TVs and documentaries about the cruelties and sufferings of millions of people. For still many today, wars and human sufferings are very real. Can any good come out from hatred and wars? The answer is “yes.” Love can triumph over hatred.
I chanced upon this awesome true life story of an American airman, Jacob Deshazer when I was doing my sermon research on World War 2 heroes. As a Christian, this story touched my heart and I would like to share with all my friends. The Word of God is powerful and living that can change the destiny of a person and even all the nations.
In 1942, one of the famous US Doolittle Raiders who first attacked Japan after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Jacob DeShazer knew that this bombing mission in Japan was dangerous. It was a “one-way ticket.” His plane landed in China and was captured by the Japanese occupying force. He was taken as a prisoner of war. Beaten, malnourished, and alone in his prison cell, Jacob was given a Bible by his captors. A miraculous intervention by Almighty God. Far away from home, this American soldier became a Christian in a prison cell.
When he was in prison, he realized that his captors did not know anything about the Savior and that if Jesus Christ was not in their hearts, it was natural for them to be cruel. He read in the Bible that those who crucified Jesus had beaten Him and spat on Him before He was nailed to the cross. And on the cross He tenderly prayed in His moment of excruciating suffering, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” This was the defining moment of his life. He surrendered his life over to the Savior Jesus Christ. After the war, Jacob returned to Japan and served his former enemy for thirty years as a missionary. No more bombs but the Gospel of Jesus Christ. His testimony of forgiveness and reconciliation – of love over hatred – inspires a powerful gospel message for our lives today.
Our lives can be lived for His glory even in the most “unforgiving” and “hostile” of circumstances in our lives.
When the light of Christ Jesus shines in and through us, the watching world will know somehow. A city on a hill cannot be hidden.
Be blessed as you read this wonderful story.
In his own words:
World War II United States Army Hero.
Doolittle Raider. Staff Sergeant. Bombardier, Crew 16.
“I Was a Prisoner of Japan”
By Jacob DeShazer
I was a prisoner of war for 40 long months, 34 of them in solitary confinement.
When I flew as a member of a bombing squadron on a raid over enemy territory on April 18, 1942, my heart was filled with bitter hatred for the people of that nation. When our plane ran out of petrol and the members of the crew of my plane had to parachute down into enemy-held territory and were captured by the enemy, the bitterness of my heart against my captors seemed more than I could bear.
Taken to prison with the survivors of another of our planes, we were imprisoned and beaten, half-starved, terribly tortured, and denied by solitary confinement even the comfort of association with one another. Three of my buddies were executed by a firing squad about six months after our capture and 14 months later, another one of them died of slow starvation. My hatred for the enemy nearly drove me crazy.
It was soon after the latter’s death that I began to ponder the cause of such hatred between members of the human race. I wondered what it was that made one people hate another people and what made me hate them.
My thoughts turned toward what I heard about Christianity changing hatred between human beings into real brotherly love and I was gripped with a strange longing to examine the Christian’s Bible to see if I could find the secret.
I begged my captors to get a Bible for me. At last, in the month of May, 1944, a guard brought me the book, but told me I could have it only for three weeks.
I eagerly began to read its pages. Chapter after chapter gripped my heart. In due time I came to the books of the prophets and found that their every writing seemed focused on a divine Redeemer from sin, One who was to be sent from heaven to be born in the form of a human babe. Their writings so fascinated me that I read them again and again until I had earnestly studied them through six times. Then I went on into the New Testament and there read of the birth of Jesus Christ, the One who actually fulfilled the very prophecies of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Micah, and the other Old Testament writers.
My heart rejoiced as I found confirmed in Acts 10:43, “To Him give all the prophets witness, that through His Name, whosoever believeth on Him shall receive remission of sins.” After I carefully read this book of the Acts, I continued on into the study of the epistle Paul wrote to the Christians at Rome.
On June 8, 1944 the words in Romans 10:9 stood out boldly before my eyes: “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.”
That very moment, God gave me grace to confess my sins to Him and He forgave me all my sins and saved me for Jesus’ sake. I later found that His Word again promises this so clearly in 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
How my heart rejoiced in my newness of spiritual life, even though my body was suffering so terribly from the physical beatings and lack of food! But suddenly I discovered that God had given me new spiritual eyes and that when I looked at the enemy officers and guards who had starved and beaten my companions and me so cruelly, I found my bitter hatred for them changed to loving pity.
I realized that these people did not know anything about my Savior and that if Christ is not in a heart, it is natural to be cruel. I read in my Bible that while those who crucified Jesus had beaten Him and spit upon Him before He was nailed to the cross, on the cross He tenderly prayed in His moment of excruciating suffering, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”
And now, from the depths of my heart, I too prayed for God to forgive my torturers, and I determined by the aid of Christ to do my best to acquaint these people with the message of salvation that they might become as other believing Christians.
With His love controlling my heart, the 13th chapter of 1 Corinthians took on a living meaning: “Love suffereth long, and is kind; love envieth not; love vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in truth; beareth all things, believeth all things. Love never faileth.”
A year passed by and during that year the memories of the weeks I had been permitted to spend with my Bible grew sweeter and sweeter day by day. Then, one day as I was sitting in my solitary confinement cell I became very sick. My heart was paining me, even as my fellow prisoner had told me his was paining him just before he died of starvation.
I slid down onto my knees and began to pray. The guards rushed in and began to punish me, but I kept right on praying. Finally they let me alone. God, in that hour, revealed unto me how to endure suffering.
At last freedom came. On August 20, 1945 parachutists dropped onto the prison grounds and released us from our cells. We were flown back to our own country and placed in hospitals where we slowly regained our physical strength.
I have completed my training in a Christian college, God having clearly commanded me: “Go, teach those people who held you prisoner, the way of salvation through the blood of Jesus Christ,” and am now back in that land as a missionary, with one single purpose–to make Christ known.
I am sending this testimony to people everywhere, with the earnest prayer that a great host of people may confess Jesus Christ as their personal Savior.
Jacob DeShazer – 1950
“Jacob DeShazer was brave like a Japanese samurai. He was brave as a prisoner of the Japanese. He never yielded to the guards. After conversion he was braver, enough to love Japanese. As a missionary, he never sought fame or wealth, just the lost. He was kind, patient, and humble, for he was a brave Christian. He was brave enough to make the Japanese commander of the attack on Pearl Harbor one of his best friends. Return of the Raider is a story of a person who knew that perfect love drives out all fear.”
—Iwao Shimada – Pastor of the church the DeShazers started in Japan
DeShazer was born on 15 November 1912 in West Stayton, Oregon and graduated from Madras High School in Madras, Oregon in 1931. He enlisted in the United States Army in 1940, and rose to the rank of sergeant in 1941. On 7 December 1941, while on KP duty at a U.S. Army base in Oregon, DeShazer heard news of the attack on Pearl Harbor over the radio. He became enraged, shouting: “The Japs are going to have to pay for this!”
Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, Staff Sergeant DeShazer, along with other members of the 17th Bomb Group, volunteered to join a special unit that was formed to attack Japan. The 24 crews selected from the 17th BG received intensive training at Eglin Field, Florida, for three weeks beginning 1 March 1942. The crews undertook practice carrier deck takeoffs along with extensive flying exercises involving low-level and night flying, low altitude bombing and over water navigation. Their mission would be to fly modified B-25 Mitchell bombers launched from an aircraft carrier to attack Japan.
The unit formed to carry out the raid on Japan soon acquired the name, “Doolittle’s Raiders”, after their famous commander, Lieutenant Colonel Jimmy Doolittle. S.Sgt. DeShazer was the bombardier of B-25 #16, the “Bat (Out of Hell)”, commanded by Lt. William G. Farrow, the last of the 16 B-25s to launch from the USS Hornet on the bombing run over Tokyo. The raid was a success, but part of the plan included ditching the airplanes in China after using all their fuel to reach Japan. The carrier-launched bombers couldn’t return to their carrier; it was a one-way trip.
Japanese prisoner of war (POW)
After bombing Nagoya in Japan, the “Bat” attempted to reach safe haven in China. DeShazer and the rest of the B-25 crew were forced to parachute into enemy territory over Ningpo, China when their B-25 ran out of fuel. DeShazer was injured in his fall into a cemetery and along with the rest of his crew, he was captured the very next day by the Japanese.
During his captivity, DeShazer was sent to Tokyo with the survivors of another Doolittle crew, and was held in a series of P.O.W. camps both in Japan and China for 40 months — 34 of them in solitary confinement. He was severely beaten and malnourished while three of the crew were executed by a firing squad, and another died of slow starvation. DeShazer’s sentence was commuted to life imprisonment by Emperor Hirohito. As the war came to an end, on 20 August 1945, DeShazer and the others in the camp at Beijing (Peiping), China were finally released when American soldiers parachuted into the camp.
On his return to the United States, Staff Sgt. DeShazer was awarded both the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Purple Heart for his part in the Doolittle Raid.
Missionary in Japan
During his captivity, DeShazer persuaded one of his guards to loan him a copy of the Bible. Although he only had possession of the Bible for three weeks, he saw its messages as the reason for his survival and resolved to become a devout Christian. His conversion included learning a few words of Japanese and treating his captors with respect, which resulted in the guards reacting in a similar fashion. After his release, DeShazer entered Seattle Pacific College, a Christian college, and began studying to be a missionary, eventually to return to Japan with his wife, Florence, in 1948.
DeShazer, the Doolittle Raider who bombed Nagoya, met Captain Mitsuo Fuchida, who led the attack on Pearl Harbor, becoming close friends. Fuchida became a Christian in 1950 after reading a tract written about DeShazer titled, I Was a Prisoner of Japan, and spent the rest of his life as a missionary in Asia and the United States. On occasion, DeShazer and Fuchida preached together as Christian missionaries in Japan. In 1959, DeShazer moved to Nagoya to establish a Christian church in the city he had bombed.
DeShazer retired after 30 years of missionary service in Japan and went back to his home town in Salem, Oregon where he spent the last years of his life in an assisted living home with his wife, Florence. On 15 March 2008, DeShazer died in his sleep at the age of 95, leaving his wife and five children: Paul, John, Mark, Carol Aiko and Ruth.
On 15 April 2008, the Oregon War Veterans Association(OWVA) nominated Jacob D. “Jake” DeShazer for the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal noting his extraordinary impact on America as a war hero and for his heroic service to the people of Japan, where he is well known as a hero of peace and reconciliation. On 21 April 2008, the White House confirmed the nomination in a letter to OWVA’s executive director, Greg Warnock. The White House’s Deputy Director for Awards said that the DeShazer nomination for the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which is the nation’s most prestigious civilian award, and second only to the nation’s highest military award, the Medal of Honor would be given “every consideration,” by the advisory staff, who will provide the President with the recommendation. The medals are usually awarded on or near 4 July annually. About 400 Presidential Medals of Freedom have been awarded since its inception in 1945.
Warnock nominated Rev. DeShazer for the Congressional Gold Medal through Congresswoman Darlene Hooley’s (OR CD5) office in Salem, Oregon. In the official nomination letters Warnock wrote, “At this time in our history, we feel it is ideal to honor a man who was a genuine war hero, who after his sacrificial service put on gloves of peace, and touched the entire world with grace and humility.”
Doolittle Airman Was a Different Kind of War Hero
By Mel Barger
How do people forgive when they have endured hideous cruelty from oppressors who have no desire to be forgiven? And can there be a good outcome when such forgiveness is made?
The man who may have made the strongest case for true forgiveness was Jacob DeShazer, an airman in the famous Doolittle raid over Japan on April 18, 1942. He not only achieved it for himself, but went on to touch the lives of thousands with his message of hope and redemption.
Under the heading of “War and Forgiveness,” The Wall Street Journal on March 25 published an editorial tribute to the “heroism and remarkable forgiveness” of DeShazer, who had died ten days earlier at his home in Salem, Oregon, at age 95. “It is one of life’s safer bets that he is resting in peace,” the Journal concluded.
Any of us who served in World War II would acknowledge DeShazer’s heroism in joining the legendary Jimmy Doolittle in that first bombing raid over Japan. As the Journal noted, “The Doolittle bombing raid was close to a suicide mission, a one-way trip to bring the war to the Japanese homeland for the first time. Coming not long after Pearl Harbor and before the Pacific island victories to come, the raid was a huge boost to domestic morale.”
Though all of the 80 men who manned the 16 North American B-25 bombers used in the raid were soldiers in the then Army Air Corps, and subject to orders, their service on this special raid was entirely voluntary. They were personally requested to serve by Doolittle, who in addition to being a lieutenant colonel was a famous racing pilot from the 1930s. DeShazer said later that he was too much of a coward to refuse Doolittle’s request.
The story of the famous raid has been told many times in both print and film. The planes and crews took off from the aircraft carrier USS Hornet in a turbulent sea and flew into history, bombing Tokyo and other major cities. Corporal DeShazer, a bombardier aboard a B-25 called Bat Out of Hell, dropped incendiary bombs on Nagoya before the plane ran out of fuel and they were forced to bail out over a Japanese-held section of China. He was soon captured and spent the next forty months as a war prisoner, beaten, starved, and tortured by his Japanese captors. His pilot, Lieutenant William Farrow, and engineer-gunner Sergeant Harold Spatz, were executed by firing squad.
The same harsh punishments were doled out to hundreds of other Allied soldiers and sailors captured in the early months of the war. Some of them were killed or died from malnourishment and brutal treatment, others barely survived to come home filled with hatred for those enemy guards who had abused and taunted them. But DeShazer’s story had a different outcome. That was the “remarkable forgiveness” noted by the Journal.
DeShazer, amid the misery of imprisonment, turned to religious teachings he had learned as a child. “I begged my captors to get a Bible for me,” he recalled in “I Was a Prisoner of Japan,” a religious tract he wrote in 1950. “At last, in the month of May 1944, a guard brought me the book, but told me I could have it only for three weeks. I eagerly began to read its pages. I discovered that God had given me new spiritual eyes and that when I looked at the enemy officers and guards who had starved and beaten my companions and me so cruelly, I found my bitter hatred for them changed to loving pity. I realized that these people did not know anything about my Savior and that if Christ is not in a heart, it is natural to be cruel.”
This was his profound spiritual awakening that would stay with him for life. Corporal DeShazer gained the strength to survive, forgave his captors without reservations, and became determined to spread Christian teachings to the people who had almost killed him.
Upon returning home, he enrolled at Seattle Pacific College (now Seattle Pacific University) and received a bachelor’s degree in biblical literature in 1948. In late December of that year, he arrived in Japan with his wife Florence, also a graduate of Seattle Pacific and a fellow missionary in the Free Methodist Church.. A few days later, he preached his first sermon there, speaking to about 180 people at a church in a Tokyo suburb. He and Florence eventually helped start 23 churches in Japan The DeShazers would spend 30 years in Japan doing missionary work. Their five children helped.
In 1950, they gained a surprising convert, a Naval officer as honored in Japan as Doolittle was in the U.S. Captain Mitsuo Fuchida, the Japanese naval flier who had led the Pearl Harbor attack and had become a rice farmer after the war, came upon DeShazer’s tract.
“It was then that I met Jesus, and accepted him as my personal savior,” Fuchida recalled when he attended a memorial service in Hawaii in observance of the 25th anniversary of the attack. He had become an evangelist and had made several trips to the United States to meet with Japanese-speaking immigrants.
DeShazer met several times with Fuchida, who died in 1976.“I saw him just before he died,” DeShazer once told The Salem Statesman Journal. “We shared in that good wonderful thing that Christ has done.”
Retiring to his native Oregon after their work in Japan, Jake and Florence lived quietly in Salem until his passing.
The slight war damage inflicted by the Doolittle raid did nothing to impair Japan’s warmaking capability. But it provoked the Japanese assault on Midway, which turned out to be a disaster for them and marked the beginning of American victories in the Pacific.
The more lasting victory, however, may have been DeShazer’s rebirth and forgiveness in the midst of hellish conditions. No wonder The Wall Street Journal called it “remarkable.”
From: Mature Living, Toledo, Ohio, October, 2008