by Mitsuo Fuchida
I was more excited than usual as I awoke that morning at 3:00 a.m., Hawaii time. As General Commander of the Japanese Air Squadron, I made last-minute checks on the intelligence information reports in the Operations Room before going to warm up my single-engine “97-type” plane.
The sunrise in the east was magnificent above the white clouds as I led 360 planes towards Hawaii at an altitude of 3,000 meters. I knew my objective: to surprise and cripple the American naval force in the Pacific. I gave no thought of the possibility of this attack breaking open a confrontation with the United States. I was only concerned about making a military success.
“Plunge in to Attack”
As we neared, I made a preliminary check of the harbor, nearby Hickam Field, and the other installations surrounding Honolulu. Viewing the entire American Pacific Fleet peacefully at anchor in the inlet below, I smiled as I ordered, “All squadrons, plunge in to attack!” The time was 7:49 a.m.
Like a hurricane out of nowhere, my torpedo planes, dive-bombers, and fighters struck with indescribable fury. As smoke began to billow and the proud battleships started tilting, my heart was almost ablaze with joy. During the next three hours I directly commanded the fifty level bombers as they pelted Pearl Harbor and the area nearby. Then I circled at a higher altitude to accurately assess the damage and report it to my superiors.
During the next four years I was determined to improve upon my Pearl Harbor feat. I saw action in the Solomon Islands, Java, and the Indian Ocean. With the end of the war my military career was over, since the Japanese forces were disbanded. As I got off the train one day in Tokyo, I saw an American distributing literature. When I passed him he handed me a pamphlet entitled, I Was a Prisoner of Japan.
A Powerful Testimony
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 demolition of Pearl Harbor he shouted, “Jap, just wait and see what we’ll 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 filled with elation at getting his own 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 Japan.
During his long confinement, DeShazer’s violent hatred for the maltreating Japanese guards almost drove him insane. But after 25 months in Nanking, China, the U.S. prisoners were given a Bible to read. DeShazer, not being an officer, had to let the others use it first. Finally it came to be his turn—for three weeks. There, in the Japanese P.O.W. camp, he read and read—and eventually came to understand that the Bible’s message was relevant to him right there in his cell.
The dynamic power of Christ changed DeShazer’s attitude toward his captors. His hatred turned to love and concern, and he resolved that should he be liberated, he would someday return to Japan to introduce others to this life-changing book.
Looking for Answers
The peaceful motivation I read about was exactly what I was seeking. Since the American found it in the Bible, I decided to purchase one myself, despite my traditional Buddhist heritage.
In the ensuing weeks, as 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 do not know what they are doing.” At that moment I seemed to meet Jesus for the first time. I understood the meaning of His death as a substitute for my wickedness and 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 purpose in living.
On that day I became a new person. My complete view on life was changed by the Christ I had always hated and ignored before. Soon friends and family learned of my decision to be a follower of Christ, and they could hardly understand it.
New Life in Christ
Big headlines appeared in the papers: “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 Americans.
But time has proven them wrong. As an evangelist, I have traveled across Japan and the Orient introducing others to the One who changed my life.
I would give anything to retract my actions at Pearl Harbor, but it is impossible. Instead, I work at striking the death-blow to the basic hatred that infests the human heart and causes such tragedies. And that hatred cannot be uprooted without Jesus Christ. He is the only answer.
Japanese commander Mitsuo Fuchida died in 1976. This is his testimony as taken from the Peachtree Corners Baptist Church newspaper by permission of Col. John M. Fain.