A POW’s forgiveness towards Japan

“Yesterday, December 7th, 1941 — a date which will live in infamy — the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan…”

President Roosevelt continued with, what I would imagine, great pain and sadness in his heart as he addressed the nation about the attack on Pearl Harbor. Our nation in a single day lost thousands of men and women- service and civilians. Our nation was hurt. Wounded at our heart. Shortly after the attacks our nation retaliated in explosive force [literally] by something called the Doolittle Raids. The retaliation involved a mere 16 B-25 “Mitchell” bombers with 80 airmen total. Not much of a fight in comparison to the 300 that Japan attacked Pearl with. But our men of the Raiders bombed military establishments in Japan. However, unlike any other mission, the Raiders could not return to the aircraft carriers but to land…they had no choice but to crash land in China in hopes of avoiding the Japanese that had infiltrated the Chinese border. We lost some of the Raiders that day. Most returned home. Eight men became POWs, held captive by a merciless enemy.

This is one of their stories. I cannot help but be moved by this man, one of the POWs. He experienced Pearl and the tragedy along with the rest of our nation. He experienced the bombing over Japan. Such vengeance and hatred overwhelmed his heart. He wanted the Japanese to die painfully and without mercy. When his bomber was crashing over occupied China, he and his crew had to parachute out. For 40 months, Staff Sergeant  Jacob Daniel DeShazer was held prisoner by the Japanese, tortured and facing death every single day. For 40 months he had no idea when his death would happen, although he thought it was certain. For 34 of his 40 months, he awaited death in solitary confinement.  Most of the other POWs had already died. Only 3 made it home when the American armies invaded and freed the camp.

He was not the same man.

Physically DeShazer was malnourished, sick, and nearly dead. Mentally the isolation could have made him crazy. Mentally he could have given up a long time before he did. But Spiritually…something had changed. During his imprisonment, he needed a glimpse of hope- to which he finally received a Bible from his prison guards. They figured it would not matter. They figured it was only a book requested by a prisoner awaiting death. Though he only physically had the Bible for 3 weeks, God began to work on DeShazer’s heart. He saw the messages and stories of the Bible as reason enough to survive, and reason enough to not give up, and as reason enough to believe in a God that was greater than his imprisonment. In August 1945, DeShazer was freed and made his voyage home to America. He married and attended school…to be a missionary.

How can someone who had once be filled with such hatred toward the Japanese, been a prisoner of the Japanese, tortured and nearly killed at the hands of the Japanese decide to be a missionary to the Japanese? For DeShazer, it was the simple fact that God loves and he had to be that love to to his previous captors.

I find his story so incredible. How can I not be moved by the legacy of a man that lived out the forgiveness of Christ? In his forgiveness toward Japan, one of the leading Japanese officers of the Attack on Pearl Harbor came to know Jesus Christ. I have to believe that because of men and women like DeShazer, that my purpose is beyond myself and my situation, good or bad, can be used to glorify God, bringing hope to many. So on this day of December 7, remember this history. Remember those who died and fought valiantly. Remember the soldiers who defended our nation in one of the greatest wars in world history. But also remember the stories of men and women like Jacob Daniel DeShazer who chose to forgive the enemy that hurt him the greatest, because just as Christ died for him, he also died for them.

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