The power of the manger: (Tora! Tora! Tora! to Gomenasai)
It was on December 7, 1941, at 3:00 A.M. as the Japanese fleet moved through the darkness of the Pacific Ocean men on every ship began to stir. This was the hour; this was the moment of truth. The waiting was over. The battle was about to begin. From headquarters came the signal-”Climb Mount Nataka.” That meant the attack was on.
For one man it was the greatest moment he had ever known. The long years of training had paid off, the countless hours of drills repeated over and over again. He was the man chosen to be the leader.
When Mitsuo Fuchida woke up, he dressed, ate breakfast, then pulled on his heavy fur-lined flight jacket. Then he went to the operations room for a last-minute intelligence briefing. Tying a white headband with a red circle around his flying cap, he jumped into his plane. At 5:30 A.M. he took off, the first plane in a squadron of two hundred planes. From the carrier decks of the Hiryu, the Soryu, and the Atsugi, plane after plane followed him in two waves until the total reached 350, the largest airborne naval assault in history.
As the planes sped across the 230 miles that separated them from the island of Oahu, not a word was exchanged among the pilots. The die was cast, the decision had been made. And as Mitsuo Fuchida came across the final mountain that separated him from Pearl Harbor, he cried out the prearranged code word that meant total surprise had been achieved. In his excitement he repeated the word three times-”Tora! Tora! Tora!”
The first bombs fell at 7:53 A.M. Pearl Harbor time. As battles go, it was over quickly. Within an hour and a half the second wave had returned to the carriers. The damage was done. Behind them, the Japanese pilots left a sea of flaming wreckage. Before it was all over, the death count would reach 2,403. To this day it remains the single greatest naval defeat in American history.
The End of the Age of Innocence
That day-December 7, 1941, a day that lives in infamy-one world died and another world was born. It was the end of the Age of Innocence. Innocence was gone forever, and in one tragic moment America was jerked into the modern era. Up until that hour, America had basically been a sleeping giant, taken for granted for the other nations of the world. After Pearl Harbor, it would never be taken for granted again. But from that day, and the things that followed from that day, America became and still remains a superpower. Seen in that light, the attack on Pearl Harbor was the single most important event in the 20th century. It was a catalytic event, one which would change the entire world history.
Because Pearl Harbor is so well-known, many people don’t realize that there were two other epochal events that took place that same week. One of the events took place on the outskirts of Moscow, when, after a desperate battle, the Russians decisively turned back the German army. The Russians stopped the Nazis at the very edge of the city. Little noticed at the time, that German defeat changed the course of World War II. Up until that moment, Hitler’s grand design had been to quickly defeat Russia, sue for peace with England, and thus keep the United States out of the war. Once he knew he could not conquer Russia, he knew his only choice was to go west, even though that meant America would eventually enter the war. Thus the course of history was changed two days before Pearl Harbor.
But that’s not all. The other great event, totally unnoticed and unreported at the time, took place in Washington the day before Pearl Harbor. On December 6, 1941, a new U.S. government committee, code named S-1, met in Washington. Its subject: the feasibility of constructing something called the atom bomb. What happened in three events-bunched into a tiny three-day window of time-not only galvanized a nation but also changed the balance of power and ultimately redirected the course of human history.
Impact of Pearl Harbor:
What happened at Pearl Harbor led directly to World War II, the bloodiest war in world history. Before it was over some 25 million people would die. If you take the long view of history, you can see that what happened at Pearl Harbor led eventually to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and set the stage for the Cold War, which itself led us into the Korean War, and ultimately to the War in Vietnam and the crisis in the Middle East. To put it another way, there is a dotted line that stretches from Pearl Harbor to Baghdad. What started 50 years ago yesterday has ramifications that are with us a half-century later.
He hate the Japanese:
We’re back now at Pearl Harbor. It’s a few months after the attack and America is trying to come back from the great defeat. They’re re-arming and getting ready for all-out war in the Pacific. A man named General Jimmy Doolittle is chosen to lead a daring daytime bombing raid over Tokyo. Militarily the bombing raid has little affect on the war, but it has a profound affect on both the Japanese and the American mindset. It boosts our morale and sends a signal to the Japanese that they are not safe on the island fortress. Unfortunately the bombers run out of fuel and are unable to make it to friendly Chinese airstrips. Most of the pilots are forced to bail out over hostile Japanese-held territory.
One of the men who bailed out was Jake DeShazer. He was held in a prisoner of war camp for nearly four years. During that time he was beaten, mistreated, and nearly starved to death. By his own admission, he hated the Japanese with a fierce and passionate hatred. He hated the little Japs with their creepy yellow skin. He hated the way they looked. He couldn’t stand their language.
When the Americans in the prisoner of war camp asked for some reading material, they were given an English-language Bible-14 months later. The Bible was given to the officers first, but eventually was passed to Jake DeShazer. For the first time in his life, he read the Bible. As he read the story of Jesus, the message of forgiveness seemed to overwhelm him. And there, in a Japanese prisoner of war camp in China, Jake DeShazer gave his heart to Jesus Christ. By his own testimony, in that one transforming moment, all the anger was gone. All the hatred was gone. All the animosity was gone. He even started loving his Japanese guards.
After the war was over, Jake DeShazer came back to America, enrolled in Seattle Pacific University, and later returned to Japan as a missionary, where he preached and wrote gospel tracts.
I was a Prisoner of Japan:
The year is 1945. And the Japanese people are trying to put their lives back together. Mitsuo Fuchida was discharged from the army and returned home to work on the family farm. His fighter pilot days were done forever. For a while, he thought he would be tried as a war criminal, but instead he was called as a witness but he was never accused of any war crimes.
In 1950 Mitsuo Fuchida rode the train to Tokyo. As he was walking across the platform, someone handed him a little piece of paper. He glanced at the title-”I Was a Prisoner of Japan”-and stuffed it into his pocket. He thought it was another story of Japanese atrocities.
It wasn’t. It was Jake DeShazer’s story of how he had come to Christ. As he read the story, he was captivated. It told of a man who once hated the Japanese but now gave his life to reach them for Jesus Christ. The tract caused Mitsuo Fuchida to find a Bible and to begin reading it. As a Buddhist, it was all new to him. He was enthralled by the story of Jesus Christ, especially by the story of crucifixion, and most especially by the words from the Cross-”Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
These are the exact words of Mitsuo Fuchida:
I was impressed that I was certainly one of those for whom He had prayed. The many men I had killed had been slaughtered in the name of patriotism, for I did not understand the love which Christ wants to implant within every heart.
Right 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. That date, April 12, 1950, became the second “day to remember” of my life. (Moody Monthly, December, 1971, p. 29)
As the news of his conversion spread, his friends and family members were shocked. There were huge headlines which read, “Pearl Harbor Hero Converts to Christianity.” His old war buddies came to see him, to try to convince him to give up this crazy idea. But they couldn’t. And so the man who led the attack on Pearl Harbor became a Christian, and a flaming evangelist for the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The story is not yet over. It was back in 1941 again. This time we are on the ground with a nineteen year old kid from Brockton, Texas named Joe Morgan. He was raised as a Baptist and at one point felt God calling him to be a preacher. But those plans were set aside when he joined the navy in order to see the world. When the attack came, he was paralyzed at first but then grabbed a gun and started firing wildly at the attacking Japanese. He stayed there all day and all night waiting for the planes to come back, but they never came back.
After the war, Joe Morgan went back to seminary and he too became a preacher. Where do you suppose his first church was? In Hawaii.
By his own testimony, he struggled for years with hatred for the Japanese. He simply couldn’t forgive them for what they did at Pearl Harbor. He hated them for all the atrocities in the Pacific. He said, “When we dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, I cheered. I was happy that we had finally killed so many of them.”
Years passed, and he was still a pastor on Oahu, eaten up with anger and bitterness. Then in 1956, a friend told him about an unusual guest speaker who was coming to a local Methodist church. It was a man from Japan named Mitsuo Fuchida, the man who led the attack on Pearl Harbor.
With great skepticism, Joe Morgan went to hear him. Afterward he confronted Fuchida and told him he had been on the ground at Pearl Harbor. Fuchida bowed slightly, and then very gently said Gomenasai, which means “I’m sorry.” Then the man who led the attack reached out his hand to one of the men he was trying to kill. Let Joe Morgan tell the rest of the story in his own words:
As he reached out to shake my hand, I experienced the miracle of my lifetime. The anger and hatred were gone. God had let me forgive. (USA Today, Friday, December 6, 1991, p. 2A)
What a story of the grace of God. It started on the deck of a Japanese aircraft carrier. It led to a Japanese prisoner of war camp in China. It continued on the platform of a Japanese rail station. It climaxed at a Methodist church in Hawaii 11 years later. This Christmas, never forget the power of the lowly manger. It is more powerful than the majestic throne of King Herod and the most powerful emperor of that time Julius Ceaser. If you enthrone Him in your heart; you will experience the true Christmas.
Rev.J.M. Ngul Khan Pau
The Impossible Dream: The Angel’s Song by Dr. Ray Pritchard, December 1991