Where were you 80 years ago this week? This has been a very special week where we as a nation have “celebrated” the 80th anniversary of the tragic attack by Japanese bombers on the military bases at Pearl Harbor. That event triggered our nation’s involvement in World War II.
In the early hours of that Sunday morning, Dec. 7, 1941, wave after wave of fighter planes dive-bombed the sleepy naval harbor in Hawaii, attacking the 27 naval vessels harbored there, sinking only four, but killing over 2,400 Americans.
As I have read more about the beginnings of the war and the Pearl Harbor attack that jump-started America’s participation in that war, I have been very impressed and encouraged by the work of two men whose stories are worth re-telling:
One man, a United States Navy cook third class by the name of Doris “Dorie” Miller, based on the USS West Virginia, became the first “hero” of World War II.
Miller was a boxer as well, and because he was in such good physical condition, during the Japanese attack on his ship he was ordered to help get the wounded men to safety, including the commander of the ship.
In the process of doing that, he was then assigned the duty of carrying ammunition to the two anti-aircraft guns on the deck of the ship. When he realized the planes were coming in fast, and no gunner was available, even though he had never been trained to fire those guns, he began to shoot at the invading planes.
Reports are that he shot down several planes that day, and was later awarded the Navy Cross, the second-highest award for bravery awarded by the Navy. Miller’s feats that day have been the inspiration for many in the years since.
That attack on Pearl Harbor prompted countless numbers of young men and women to sign up for military service. One such man was our second hero of the day: Jacob DeShazer. Just a few months after that first attack, on April 18, 1942, DeShazer was the bombardier for Crew No. 16 of “Doolittle’s Tokyo Raiders.”
Their mission was to bomb Tokyo and its surrounding cities. The distance from Pearl Harbor to Japan was too far for them to return, so they all knew their survival was going to be questionable at best and highly doubtful.
Once they accomplished the mission, they were to land on the shores of enemy territory, elude capture as long as they possibly could, and await further instructions.
After the successful mission was completed, they landed but were soon captured, tortured, and sent to a filthy prison camp, where he spent the next two years, struggling constantly with starvation and illness.
At one point, his captors loosened their tight grip on the prisoners and allowed them to have a Bible – one Bible. When DeShazer got his turn to read it, he read it cover to cover repeatedly.
On the last day of his turn with the Bible, DeShazer became a true follower of Christ. During the remainder of his captivity, he developed a heart of compassion for his captors and longed to see them come to the same faith in Christ which he had found. As he grew in his relationship with the Lord, that burning within him became a heart for seeing a revival in Japan.
After the war ended, one day in 1950, he met Mitsuo Fuchida, the flight commander for the 360 planes that had attacked Pearl Harbor. Fuchida had also become a believer in Jesus Christ since the war.
Within a short time, Fuchida became an evangelist, preaching in Japan and all over the world. In 1959, a dream came true for DeShazer, when he and his wife Florence moved to Nagoya to establish a Christian church in the city he had bombed.
Because of one shared Bible, the man who first came to bomb Japan returned on the wings of a dove to spread the “peace that passes understanding’ in that country for the next 30 years.
You know, Jesus had a lot to say about that peace. There are three passages from the Gospel of John that seem to reflect the spirit of both of these heroes we have mentioned.
In John 14:27, as Jesus was getting ready to depart from this earth, he told his disciples, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.”
And just a short time later, He challenged them to be courageous, even in their peace: “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation but take courage; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33).
And after He had arisen from the dead, Jesus appeared to his disciples again and encouraged them to not be afraid to go forward with the message of who He is to wa world that desperately needs to hear about Him: “So Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you, as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.’” (John 20:21)
The only question that remains is, “Do you have that peace?”
In the midst of the trials and tribulations and wars and pestilences of this current age, have you trusted in Jesus Christ, the only one who can give real, lasting peace?
Those two men experienced a lot of trials as a result of Pearl Harbor, but they would both tell you that the only lasting peace is through Jesus Christ.
Chuck Tabor is a regular columnist for the News Journal and a former pastor in the area. He may be reached at email@example.com .