After the end of World War II, the man who led the air attack against Pearl Harbour, Captain Mituso Fuchida, was ordered to testify on behalf of a number of Japanese officers in war crimes trials. Some of these men were charged with inhumane acts against prisoners of war. Captain Fuchida was displeased with these trials, as he believed that Japanese imprisoned by the Americans must have been treated just as badly. He was determined to collect evidence to prove his point. In the spring of 1947, he learned that 150 Japanese POWs would return to Japan from the US, so he met them at the Uraga Harbour near Yokosuka. One of the men who returned was a former friend, Kazuo Kanegasaki. Remarkably, Kanegasaki had escaped death, being rescued from the ocean, and was taken to the US as a POW where he tried unsuccessfully to commit suicide. Captain Fuchida asked him how he was treated in the camp. He was not always treated kindly, he said, but he never witnessed even one atrocity. He stated that his suffering was mental and spiritual, rather than physical. Then he told the following story, which had removed any resentment he might have had towards his captors.
After the war ended, an 18 year-old American girl came to the camp as a volunteer social worker. She helped the Japanese POWs with great energy and kindness. Her name was Margaret Covell, but the men called her Peggy. She would do anything to help them. Three weeks after she arrived, a prisoner asked her, "Why are you so kind to us?" Her answer was, "Because Japanese soldiers killed my parents." The prisoners were astonished as she told the story of how her Christian missionary parents were killed by the Japanese army in the interior of the Philippines. They were wrongly accused of being US spies; they were tried, convicted, and then beheaded. Peggy found out about this tragedy at the end of the war. She was full of hatred for the Japanese at first. But as she thought of their final moments, she came to realise that her parents must have been praying for the forgiveness and salvation of these Japanese soldiers. So she decided to follow her parents' example by forgiving and helping some Japanese POWs. Captain Fuchida was astonished to hear such a story, and was filled with shame. He talked to all the other former POWs who knew Peggy, and he soon lost interest in his project of searching for instances of brutality in US POW Camps. He even searched for sources in the Philippines to verify Peggy's story. Sure enough, he heard that just before the swords were drawn for their execution, the husband and wife were united in prayer. He was curious to find out what they had prayed about. How could anyone be free from hatred of those persecuting them? Where did such love for one's enemies come from?
In October of 1948 Captain Fuchida was given a pamphlet about an American by the name of Jacob DeShazer. DeShazer was in the crew of one of the planes that bombed Tokyo and Nagoya in the Doolittle Raid of 1942. His plane ran out of fuel, and he had to land in a Japanese-occupied area of China. He was captured and held in various POW camps in China until the end of the war, being beaten and tormented numerous times. His hatred toward the Japanese grew stronger and stronger almost driving him crazy. After two years, DeShazer was given an English Bible to read. He devoured the contents of the Bible within three weeks, at the end of which he trusted Jesus as his Saviour. He promised God that if he got out of prison alive, he would become a missionary to the Japanese people. He kept his promise. This second story of love overcoming hatred hit Fuchida with even greater impact. Fuchida was determined to get a copy of the Bible and read it for himself. He purchased a New Testament and started to read it daily.
In September of 1949 Captain Fuchida came across the passage in Luke 23:24 where Jesus prayed from the cross, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." These words were the source of the love that both Jacob DeShazer and Peggy Covell had shown. Jesus was not only praying for His persecutors around the scene of the cross. Christ died as a substitute for all those who repent of their sins and trust Him alone for their salvation. Captain Fuchida recognised Christ as his Saviour and placed his trust in Jesus for his own forgiveness. He realised that Christ was both his Creator-God and his Redeemer. He came to understand that it is Christ's forgiveness, which takes away any hatred, brings peace to one's heart and enables people to love their enemies. He committed his life to this message and became a spokesman for Christ in Japan. To quote him in his published testimony, Fuchida said; "I would give anything to retract my actions of twenty-nine years ago at Pearl Harbour, but it is impossible. Instead, I now work at striking a deathblow to the basic hatred, which infests the human heart and causes such tragedies. And that hatred cannot be uprooted without assistance from Jesus Christ. He was the only One who was powerful enough to change my life and inspire it with His thoughts."
Written up by Rev. Stephen Young of the Perth Japanese Christian Church
Edited by Judith Atkins on behalf of Outreach Media