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Mitsuo Fuchida was a famed pilot of the Japanese Navy with 10,000 hours of flight time. In August 1941, he was given charge of the Air Groups for an entire Division of Japanese Carriers. And in that role, he led the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor.
After flying down Oahu Island's eastern end, he turned his large force of bombers and torpedo aircraft toward the Pacific Fleet at Pearl. As soon as he sighted the anchored ships, he shouted over his radio :
" TORA ! TORA ! TORA ! "
. . indicating to the group that their attack would be a complete surprise.
As group flight leader, Fuchida, by radio, then orchestrated attacks that blew up the Arizona and heavily damaged or sunk the majority of our Pacific Fleet.
Fuchida recalled : " I was more excited than usual as I awoke at three o'clock in the morning, just four days after my 39th birthday.Our six aircraft carriers were positioned 230 miles north of Honolulu. As the Commander of the air armada, I made last-minute checks on all the intelligence reports in the Ops Room before going to warm up one of the 3-place aircraft we used for straight and level bombing, and also for releasing torpedoes.
The sunrise in the East was magnificent above the white clouds . .
as I led three hundred and sixty ( 360 ) warplanes toward Hawaii, at an altitude of 9.000 feet. My objective was : ( 1 ) surprise and ( 2 ) cripple and devastate the American Naval Force in the Pacific.
I fretted about some of the U.S. battleships being absent. But I gave no thought to the possibility of this attack opening a confrontation on morality issues with the people of the United States.
I was only concerned about my personal military success.
I made a preliminary check of Pearl Harbor, nearby Hickam Air Field, and other military installations. On that bright Sunday morning, nearly all of the America's Pacific Fleet was sleeping above its anchors.
I was smiling internally, as I reached for the mike to order its destruction.
It was 7:49 a.m.
"All squadrons . . Plunge into the attack !
N O W ! "
Suddenly, like a hurricane out of nowhere, my torpedo planes, dive-bombers, and fighters struck with indescribable fury. Smoke billowed from the battleships . .
. . and my heart was almost ablaze with joy of my success.
During the next three hours, I directly commanded the bombers as they ravaged not only the war ships, but its parked aircraft, barracks, and the ships in dry dock.
Then, I climbed higher and circled to accurately assess the damage and send the information to my superiors.
Of the eight battleships in the harbor, five were mauled into total inactivity for the time being. The Arizona was scrapped for good; the Oklahoma, California, and West Virginia were sunk. The Nevada was beached in a sinking condition. Only the Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Tennessee could be repaired.
Of the eight, the California, West Virginia, and Nevada were salvaged much later. But the Oklahoma, after being raised, was written off as worthless. Other smaller ships were damaged, but the sting of 3,077 Navy personnel killed or missing and 876 wounded, plus 226 Army killed and 396 wounded was something that could never be repaired.
Ever since I had heard of my country's winning the Russo-Japanese War in 1905, I had dreamed of becoming an admiral like Admiral Togo, our Commander-in-Chief in the decisive Battle of the Japan Sea.
Because my father was a primary school principal and a very patriotic nationalist, I was able to enroll in the Naval Academy when I was 18. Upon graduation three years later, I joined the Japanese Naval Air Force and served mostly as an aircraft carrier pilot for the next 15 years.
So when the time came to choose the Chief Air Commander for the Pearl Harbor mission, I had logged over 10,000 hours, making me the choice as leader due to my being the most experienced pilot in the Japanese Navy.
During the next four years, I was determined to improve upon my Pearl Harbor feat. I saw action in the Solomon Islands and Java. At the start of the Battle of Midway, I had an appendicitis attack and was unable to fly. Lying there, in my sick bed, I could merely grimace at the booming sounds all around me.
By the end of that day, we had suffered our first major defeat, and lost 10 of our key warships including the invaluable carriers.
From that time on . . things got worse. I did not want to surrender . . I would rather have fought to the last man. However, when the Emperor announced that we would surrender . . I acquiesced.
The day before the atom bomb was dropped, I was in Hiroshima attending a week-long military conference with the Army. Fortunately, I received a long distance call from my Navy Headquarters asking me to return early.
With the end of the war my military career was over, since the Japanese forces were disbanded. I returned to my home village near Osaka and began farming. But it was a discouraging life. I became more and more unhappy, especially when the war crime trials opened in Tokyo. Although I was never personally accused, on several occasions, General Douglas MacArthur summoned me to testify.
As I got off the train one day in Tokyo's Shibuya Station, I saw an American distributing literature. When I passed him he handed me a pamphlet entitled : " I Was A Prisoner of Japan." Involved at that moment with the trials on atrocities committed against war prisoners, I put it in my pocket, determined to read the story later.
What I read was the fascinating episode that eventually changed my life. On that Sunday while I was in the air over Pearl Harbor, an American soldier named Jacob DeShazer had been on K.P. duty in an Army camp in California. When the radio announced the sneak demolishing of Pearl Harbor he shouted : JAP ! YOU JUST WAIT AND SEE WHAT WE'RE GOING TO DO TO YOU !
One month later, he volunteered for a secret mission with the Jimmy Doolittle Squadron--a surprise raid on Tokyo from the carrier Hornet.
On April 18, 1942, DeShazer was one of the bombardiers. And he was filled with elation at getting revenge. After the bombing raid, they flew on towards China but ran out of fuel and were forced to parachute into Japanese-held territory. The next morning, DeShazer found himself a prisoner of war in Japan.
During the next 40 long months in confinement, DeShazer was cruelly treated. His violent hatred, for the Japanese guards who continuously brutalized him, nearly drove him insane. But after his 25th month, the U.S. prisoners were given a Bible. Not being an officer, DeShazer had to let the others use it first, but finally it was his turn. There, in the Japanese P.O.W. camp, he read and read.
Eventually, he came to understand that the book was more than an historical classic. And its message became relevant to him sitting right there in his prison cell.
Jake DeShazer accepted the dynamic power of Christ into his life and it changed his entire attitude toward his captors. His hatred turned to love and concern. And he resolved that should his country win the war, he would return to Japan in an effort to introduce his enemies to this life-changing book.
DeShazer did just that. After some formal training, he returned to Japan as a missionary. His story was something I could not explain. And, I could not erase his experience from my mind.
DeShazer's peaceful motivation was exactly what I was seeking. This American airman P.O.W. had found ' it ' from reading the Bible. And despite my traditional Buddhist heritage, I decided to purchase one myself.
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 Christ at His death : " Father, forgive them . . for they know not what they do."
I was impressed that I was certainly one of those for whom He had prayed. I slaughtered many men in the name of patriotism, for I did not comprehend the love for others Jesus Christ wishes to implant within every heart.
At that moment I seemed to personally encounter Jesus for the first time. I understood the meaning of His death as a substitute for my wickedness. So in prayer, I requested Him to forgive my sins and change me from a bitter, disillusioned ex-pilot into a well-balanced Christian, with a true purpose in living.
That date, April 14, the second dramatic " day to remember " of my life, I became a new person . . a Christian. My complete perspective on life was changed by the intervention of the Christ whom I had always ignored or sometimes hated before.
Beyond my close family, my other friends learned of my decision to become a follower of Christ, and they could hardly understand it.
Big headlines appeared in the newspapers: " PEARL HARBOR HERO CONVERTS TO CHRISTIANITY."
Old war buddies came to visit me, trying to persuade me to discard " this crazy idea." Others accused me of being an opportunist, embracing Christianity . . only for how it might impress the American victors.
But the decades have proven them wrong.
As an evangelist, I have traveled across Japan and the Orient introducing others to the One . . who changed my life. I believe with all my heart that those who will direct Japan -- and all other nations -- in the years to come, must not ignore the message of Jesus Christ. And youth must realize that He is the only hope for this troubled world.
Though my country has the highest literacy rate in the world, education has not brought our salvation. Peace and freedom -- both national and personal -- come only through a personal encounter with Jesus Christ who has paid our penalty for our sins.
I would give my life to retract my destructive actions at Pearl Harbor. But that is not possible. Instead, I now work toward striking the death-blow to the basic hatred that infests the human heart and causes such tragedies. A hatred cannot be uprooted without Jesus Christ emanating from our hearts.
He is the only One who was powerful enough to change my life . . and inspire my life with His thoughts. He was the only answer to Jake DeShazer's tormented life.
Source : Mitsuo Fuchida, C.P. Chen, biographer, and other sources
[ Tom Weeks: " After becoming a Christian, Mitsuo traveled the world sharing his life-altering Christian faith. Rev. Billy Graham invited him to share the platform on a Crusade in Germany. At 73, he succumbed to diabetes and joined up in the huge multi-national formation with his Lord.
' Twas Amazing Grace to save a wretch like Mitsuo Fuchida . . but also wretches such as you and me. Best wishes in centering Jesus Christ within your own Christmas."