Captain Mitsuo Fuchida was more excited than usual as he awoke the morning of December 7, 1941. As general commander of the air squadron, he made some last-minute checks on intelligence information before going to warm up his plane.
Three hundred and sixty Japanese planes led by Captain Fuchida headed toward Hawaii. He knew the objective of this mission: to surprise and cripple the American naval force in the Pacific.
The destruction left behind included 20 naval vessels including eight enormous battleships with over 200 planes. The human cost was over 2000 military and civilians killed and more than a 1000 injured.
Fuchida was the first over the target and the last to leave. It was his voice that sent his aircraft carrier the message "Tora! Tora! Tora!" (Tiger! Tiger! Tiger!) indicating the success of the surprise mission.
After Pearl Harbour, he had many close brushes with death including six crashes into the sea. Recovering on board after an appendectomy, the ship was bombed and both his legs were broken and he was thrown into the sea. He realised he was the sole survivor of the seven Air Commanders and the thirty two squadron leaders who took part in the Pearl Harbour attack.
It was not until the war was over that he realised why God had kept him from death on so many occasions.
After the war and his military career over, he became more unhappy and depressed. This was further aggravated by his call to be a witness at the war crimes trials.
On his way to give evidence and as he got off the train he was handed a leaflet entitled "I was a Prisoner of Japan."
The leaflet produced by the Pocket Testament League was the experience of Jake DeShazer who was held in a Japanese Prisoner of War Camp. Jake described how he was cruelly treated. He told about his violent hatred for the Japanese guards.
But one day, the prisoners in the camp were given Bibles. As Jake read it he came to understand that the book was more than an historical story. Its message of love, grace and forgiveness became relevant to him right there in his cell and he accepted Jesus to come into his life. His life changed and his entire attitude toward his captors changed too. His hatred turned to love and concern, and he decided that should his country win the war, and he be set free, he would someday return to Japan to introduce others to this life-changing Bible. Jake DeShazer did return to Japan after the war as a missionary.
Now Fuchida had Jake's story, printed in leaflet form, in his hand. It was all about a forgiveness he could not understand and could not explain. Since the American had found that peace in the Bible, he decided to purchase a Bible.
Eagerly he read the Bible and sought help from the Pocket Testament League representative on how to become a Christian. Now he understood about the love of Jesus and for the first time he understood the meaning of Jesus dying as a substitute for his sin.
His actions at Pearl Harbour could not be changed but now he was aware of why God had kept him from harm. His new mission in life was to tell others how they can overcome the hatred in their hearts and minds.
He learnt that Jesus is the only One who was powerful enough to change his life and inspire him with God's thoughts. Jesus was the only answer to Jake DeShazer's tormented life and He is still the only real answer for people today.
God's forgiveness is powerful and life-giving. When we feel it deep down it can be infectious and really change our lives.
Is there someone who would benefit from your forgiveness today? •
Adapted from 'Pearl Harbor and the Christian Connection' by Tim White from Pocket Testament League