There are so many true stories that reflect the amazing grace of God, but I ran across one that really seemed to say it all. It is a story written by Elisha Coffman for Christian History Magazine, entitled “Beyond Pearl Harbor”. This story is how God caught up with the man who led Japan’s surprise attack. And it is a true story.
The man’s name was Mitsuo Fuchida. He grew up in Japan, hating America for the way we treated Asians. He graduated from the military academy and became a pilot in Japan’s Air Force where he excelled and by 1941, he became the best pilot in Japan. So, when the Japanese government decided they were going to attack Pearl Harbor, they chose Fuchida to lead the attack. It was his voice that radioed back to his aircraft carrier those infamous words, “Tora! Tora! Tora!” This let the carrier know the success of the mission.
Fuchida was to learn later that out of the 360 pilots that were in the mission, he was the only one to return. Upon returning from Pearl Harbor, he inspected his plane and found 20 large antiaircraft holes and the main control wire barely held together by a thread. Although he was not in any sense “religious,” this was the first of a series of near-death incidents that made him believe something was watching over him.
He later had another close call when he was shot down in an attack against Americans on Midway, but even though he was injured, he survived. Still later, he was below decks in sickbay recovering from an appendectomy when Americans started bombing the ship. He crawled up to the flight deck just as another bomb hit, and he was blown into the air and when he landed, he broke both legs. Everyone below decks was burned to death. Fuchida wrote later that, even though he was not religious, he started believing that he had a destiny of greatness ahead of him.
By 1945, he was the highest-ranking officer in the Navy’s Air Corps. He was visiting a newly built military headquarters just outside Hiroshima and received a call to report immediately to Tokyo. The very next day, Hiroshima was bombed and everyone in the military complex died a horrible death.
He went back to investigate and found total devastation. He wrote a letter to the Emperor, and it was this letter that convinced the Emperor to stop the war and surrender.
On the same day that Hiroshima was bombed, an America POW named Jacob DeShazer said he felt terribly moved by the Holy Spirit to pray for peace. He had been captured in 1942, and had become a Christian while in the Japanese POW camps. After the war, he was released and he wrote a book entitled “I Was a Prisoner of the Japanese”. In this book, he detailed his experiences of capture and how he converted and finally forgave.
In 1950, DeShazer returned to Japan as a missionary to those who had held him captive. It was on this trip that he met Fuchida, the pilot who had led the attack on Pearl Harbor. As it happened, Fuchida had read DeShazer’s book. He said he contemplated the message in the book continually, not really knowing what to do with it.
After the war, Fuchida was curious how Japanese prisoners had been treated while they were in captivity. He spoke to a friend who said they had been treated very well. Fuchida was introduced to an 18-year-old girl named Peggy Covell, who had volunteered to help the Japanese POWs.
Fuchida asked her why she had wanted to help the enemy so badly. She told him that her parents were missionaries to Japan and had been evacuated to the Philippines. After sending her home to America, they were captured by the Japanese forces and while kneeling in prayer were beheaded.
She said that she knew her parents would have forgiven them by now, so that was the least she could do, too. And when she prayed and forgave them, God put it in her heart to help them. This was Fuchida’s first encounter with the amazing grace of God.
He had already read DeShazer’s book, and after meeting this young lady, he bought a Bible. When he read the Bible, the power in God’s Word gripped him and he fell to his knees and received Jesus. This was in September 1949. He said he wept openly as he realized for the very first time that Jesus had prayed and died for him. Fuchida and DeShazer continued to work together for several years after their meeting.
Fuchida died in 1976. He said that he wanted to be remembered for His service to Jesus more than his bombing of Pearl Harbor. He wrote,
‘I lifted the curtain of warfare by dispatching that cursed order, and I put my whole effort into the war that followed, but after buying and reading the Bible, my mind was strongly impressed to evangelize. I can say today, without hesitation, that God’s amazing grace has been set upon me.”
Fuchida was right after all. He was destined for greatness, wasn’t he? He was destined for greatness in the kingdom of the Almighty God. And Fuchida stepped up to receive that calling. Fuchida became a true disciple of our Lord Jesus.