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Why a Prisoner of War Forgave the Enemies Who Tortured Him

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
August 2, 2022 3:05 am

Why a Prisoner of War Forgave the Enemies Who Tortured Him

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

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August 2, 2022 3:05 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, Carol, the Daughter of Doolittle Raider Jacob DeShazer, shares the story of her father being taken captive by the Japanese as a prisoner of war, and how he chose to forgive the torturers.

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Our American Stories
Lee Habeeb

This is Lee Habib and this is Our American Stories and we tell stories about everything on this show, including your story. Send them to

They're some of our favorites. This next story begins where the movie Pearl Harbor left off. Two enemies, one led Japan's surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, the other an American Doolittle Raider who bombed Tokyo. Here to tell the story is Carol Aiko de Shazer Dixon, the daughter of Doolittle Raider Jacob de Shazer. She is the author of Return of the Raider, a Doolittle Raider story of war and forgiveness.

Here is Carol. Hi, my name is Carol Aiko de Shazer Dixon. And today, I'd like to tell you the story of my father, Jacob de Shazer, whose story has made a mark in history. I'm not a historian, and I'm no military expert.

But when I received the phone call from this radio station asking if I would consider sharing my father's story, I knew I had to say, Yes, I'll try. So, on February 26, 1940, more than a year and a half before the bombing of Pearl Harbor, my father joined the Army Air Corps at Fort McDowell in California. He always wanted to be a pilot and believed being a pilot would be a great way to serve his country. However, his dream of becoming a pilot was short lived. At 27 years old, he was too old by military standards to begin pilots training. Instead, the military trained him to become an airplane mechanic.

When the training was complete, he was stationed at McCord Field near Tacoma, Washington. At McCord, my father worked as a mechanic on the North American B-25 Mitchell bomber. Although he was forced to give up his dream of being a pilot, he was able to fly when the military began looking for bombardiers. The bombardier's main duty was to assist the pilot and navigator to ensure that a bomb hits the target.

This excited my father and he applied and was accepted to bombardier school. He was on kitchen police, better known as KP duty, and was peeling potatoes and listening to the radio when a Japanese raid led by Captain Mitsuo Fuchida attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. His initial shock turned to anger and then deep hatred toward the Japanese. He heard himself saying, those Japanese, they are going to have to pay for this.

He wanted revenge for the pain inflicted on his fellow Americans. Still, it was with some surprise that he found himself in the company of General Jimmy Doolittle and 79 other men soon after. He heard General Doolittle explain that a secret raid against Japan was being planned and volunteers were needed. The mission would be dangerous and all might perish along the way, but when asked if they would volunteer, every soldier in the room responded without hesitation.

Yes! My father was the last man asked and had a bit longer to contemplate the risk. He was scared. He had no idea how to do what was being asked of him and really just wanted to say no thanks.

I'm not prepared for this. Maybe he was more scared of what the others would think of him if he said no. So he heard himself say, yes, I'll go. Saying yes to the Doolittle raid changed my father's simple, quiet life forever. He was born in 1912 and had grown up on a farm in Madras, Oregon. He worked as a sheep herder and raised turkeys after high school graduation. There was no money for college and lack of employment opportunities during the Great Depression led him to enter the army so that he could make a living.

He had grown up in a Christian family, but he had already decided that Christianity and the Bible were not for him. On April 18, 1942, four months after the attack on Pearl Harbor, General Doolittle with 79 other raiders and 16 B-25s were loaded onto an aircraft carrier named the USS Hornet and set sail from San Francisco, passing under the Golden Gate Bridge and sailing out onto the Pacific Ocean toward Japan. Since the airplanes could only carry a limited amount of fuel, the plane was for the aircraft carrier to get as close to Japan as possible and then to fly off the Hornet to attack strategic targets in Tokyo, Yokohama, Yokosuka, and Nagoya in the dark. The airplanes had enough gas to get to China where they could land and be helped out by friendly Chinese contacts. Well, unfortunately, the Hornet was spotted far out from the coast of Japan by Japanese fishing boats and the Doolittle raiders had to take off the Hornet and lift into the air immediately.

That caused them to reach their target in the daytime and China at nighttime with no help as their planes ran out of gas with no safe place to land. And you've been listening to Carol Aiko de Shazer Dixon tell the story of her father, Jacob, who was serving in the Army Air Corps when Japanese attacks. Well, they just decimated our Navy in Pearl Harbor and when we come back, we've put you right in the cockpit and into the shoes of Carol's father. When we come back, more of her father's story here on Our American Stories.

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Simply go to Geico dot com or contact your local agent today. And we continue with our American stories and Carol, I go to Shaser Dixon's story about her father, Jacob. Let's pick up where we last left off. Still, the raid caught Japan by surprise and most of the targets were hit. There was little physical damage done, but the raid struck a powerful psychological blow to the Japanese. Most of the raiders had to bail out over China in the dark.

A couple of the planes crash landed with a few casualties. Two crews bailed out unknowingly over a part of China that was occupied by Japanese forces and were promptly captured and imprisoned. My father was one of the eight men captured. General Doolittle and the surviving raiders were assisted by the Chinese to return back to the United States to a hero's welcome.

You know, many historians say the Doolittle raid was an important turning point in the war with Japan. But that meant very little at the time to the eight men who became POWs at the hands of the Japanese Imperial Army. The captured Doolittle raiders were held in solitary confinement in cramped prison cells. They endured interrogation, threats of execution, beatings, torture, starvation and filthy prison cells that were infested with lice, bedbugs and rats.

There was no heat in the cold winter months, and the summers were muggy and hot with no ventilation, particularly from the stench of the benjo, which was a hole in the floor serving as a toilet. All of this increased my father's hatred for the Japanese. One of the initial interrogation sessions brought my father into a room where a group of Japanese officers began to question him.

Here is how he described his experience in his own words. One of the officers using lots of slang said that I had better talk. He said that these were mean people and they would torture me until I did talk. I had been blindfolded for more than 12 hours and hadn't eaten all day. I had been asked questions at every opportunity, but would always tell them that I wouldn't talk. Sometimes they would tell me about places in America where Japan had bombed and taken possession of property.

Then they would come up very close to my face and open their mouths and laugh. I was then led into a room and the blindfold was removed. A little Japanese man of stocky build was standing behind a table smoking a cigar, rubbing his hands together and talking really fast in Japanese.

Several others were in the room. The man behind the table said through the interpreter, I am the kindest judge in all occupied China. I want to treat you real good. Everywhere I have the reputation of being the kindest judge in all occupied China.

I glared at the fat fellow smoking the black cigar. The judge returned my glaze and said, you're very fortunate to be questioned by me. You just tell us what the truth is and I'll give you a nice glass of warm, sweet milk. He asked me if Doolittle was my commanding officer, and I answered, I won't talk. And instead I gave him my name, rank and serial number because that was all I was required to say under the Geneva Convention. The judge responded to this by saying that I was Japanese property. The judge continued.

How do you pronounce H O R N E T? I responded. That's Hornet. The judge replied. That's the aircraft carrier you flew off to bomb Japan. I said, I won't talk. The judge continued. 16 B-25s took off the Hornet and bombed Japan.

Is this true? I continued to respond. I won't talk. This must have angered the kind judge greatly because soon he struck the table with his fist, saying, when you talk to me, you look me straight in the eye. The judge was growing angrier and pulled out his sword, holding it up and looking directly at me, said tomorrow morning when the sun comes up, I'm going to cut your head off.

I stood there silently. What do you think of that? The judge asked me. I told him I thought it would be a great honor if the kindest judge in China cut my head off. The judge and others laughed for the first time, and a little later I was taken to my cell. I lay in the cell all night blindfolded and handcuffed without blankets. The next morning at sunrise, I was led out of my cell.

I had no breakfast. The blindfold was taken off, and the handcuffs were removed. I looked around for the judge with his weapon of execution, but instead was loaded onto a truck with the other prisoners and moved to another prison camp.

Three of the officers were killed by a firing squad. The remaining five, which included my father, were sentenced to life in prison in solitary confinement. My father endured these conditions for 40 long months, nearly three and a half years. He became very weak, thin, and deathly sick, while burning with hatred and resentment toward his captors. My father used to say, my hatred for my enemy nearly drove me crazy. He often cursed the prison guards, and in return they kicked him and beat him.

Eventually one of the other doolittle raiders died of malnutrition, and even the Japanese government became concerned about the horrible conditions in the prison. An order was given to provide better food. The four remaining prisoners were offered books to read, and one of those books was a Bible. Each of them were given only three weeks to read it.

When my father received his turn, he was excited. He had turned away from any Christian teachings from his childhood, from his parents and church, and now he was being given a second chance to find out what it was all about, and he wasn't going to waste any more time. He had all day to read with no interruptions. His plan was to read the Bible from cover to cover and discover all the places where the Bible contradicted itself. But as he read, his eyes were opened to exactly the opposite. He saw how prophecy in the Old Testament was revealed and fulfilled in Jesus, and he became convinced that what he was reading was the word of God. He read Romans 10, 9, If you confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord, and believe with your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. He felt those conditions had been met, and he said yes to God's call on his heart. His mind would often recall his favorite passages. Of particular importance to him was 1 John. He had memorized all five chapters and often meditated on them.

He liked 1 John because it spoke plainly about sin and forgiveness. And you're listening to Carl Eiko de Shazer Dixon tell the story of her father Jacob. And my goodness, a life sentence after being tortured and well belittled by a judge who tried to extract information from him, and all he would do was give his name, rank, and serial number to that judge. And you can picture the scene in your head. That's the joy of listening to a story like this as you get to create your own images in your own head. I've got mine.

I'm sure you've got yours. And what this cell must have been like. It's unimaginable, actually, how the Japanese treated our soldiers so inhumanely that it set a new standard for inhumanity. When we come back, this remarkable story of redemption and war and forgiveness. Jacob de Shazer's story here on Our American Stories.

And we continue with Our American Stories and the story of Doolittle Raider, Jacob de Shazer. Here's his daughter Carol with more of the story. One day when reading about the baptism of Jesus, he had a strong desire for baptism himself. He looked up out of a small high window of his cell to realize that rainwater was blowing in. And he thanked God for this provision as he stood under the rain and accepted the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Hatred for his enemies turned to forgiveness and love. One day an opportunity to demonstrate his faith appeared. He was being taken back to his cell by one of the guards after a short exercise period outside.

And the guard started pushing him. Hayaku! Hayaku! Hurry up!

Hurry up! The guard shouted as he slapped him on the back with his hand. When he came to the door of my father's cell, he held it open a little and gave him a final push through the doorway. But before my father could get all the way in, he slammed the door and caught his foot. He held the door against his bare foot and kicked it with his hobnail shoes.

My father pushed against the door to get his foot free and then jumped aside. The pain in his foot was severe and he thought some bones might have been broken. As he sat in great pain, he felt as if God were testing him somehow. He felt anger and resentment toward the guard and thought, Oh, surely God doesn't expect us to love these real mean ones in this world. But then he remembered all the words of Jesus in Matthew 5 44, who said, Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.

He also remembered First Corinthians 13 48, the great love chapter, stating, Love is patient. Love is kind. It does not envy. It does not boast. It is not proud.

It is not rude. It is not self-seeking. It is not easily angered.

And it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices in truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes and always preserves.

Love never fails. He decided, with the Lord's help, to replace all the hatred in his heart with love. He also wanted to try this new approach on the guard. When that same guard came to his cell the following day, he bid him, Ohayo gozaimasu.

Good morning. The guard looked confused and must have thought my father had spent too much time in solitary confinement. But after many days of trying to be nice to the guard, the guard finally smiled and began to talk with him as much as they could with his poor Japanese language skills.

The Japanese guard noticed the change in him and instead of shouting and beating him, he offered him a delicious warm sweet potato. He thanked the guard saying arigato, thank you, and then thought to himself, God's way really works if we try it out. Jesus was not an idealist whose ideals could not be realized. When he told us to love one another, he told us the best way to act and it will work.

His way will work out better than any other way which could be tried. My father had grown very weak during the 40 month ordeal, suffering from malnutrition and dysentery. He had counted over 75 boils on his body and he was miserable. Now that he had read the Bible and become a Christian in his prison cell, it struck him how much easier it would be to die and go to heaven than to stay alive and suffer. He said he lifted up his hands and said, Lord, take me.

I just want to leave this suffering and to be with you. Then he said he became aware of his hands. They were empty and he thought, I can't go like this. I've never done anything for the Lord.

Just think about it. To appear before the creator of the universe, after all he has done for me, he sent his son to suffer and to die upon the cross to forgive us our sins. He said, I didn't want to be there for all eternity with empty hands. He said he quickly put his hands behind his back. He said, Lord, I don't want to come to you with empty hands.

Give me another chance and I'll try. He knew he was a shy public speaker. Well, God granted my father's humble prayer and he began to sense God's calling him to return to Japan as a missionary. On August 20th, 1945, shortly after the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which ended the war with Japan, my father and four other Doolittle Raider prisoners were released from prison and returned to the United States. Their faces and stories were on the front cover of the newspapers across the nation. Well, a very beautiful woman named Florence Matheny from Toddville, Iowa, noticed the newspaper articles. And under a picture of my father, she read with interest that he was considering attending Seattle Pacific College to prepare to return to Japan as a missionary. Florence had already told God yes to a life of missionary service years before and was already accepted to be a student at Seattle Pacific College.

Who knows? She said out loud with a grin. Maybe I will get to meet him someday and shake his hand. Well, she did get to meet him and shake his hand. And when he asked her to marry him, she said yes. She recalls that my father was sincere, but not particularly a good public speaker. He was rather timid and slow speaking. He had been in solitary confinement for 40 months and his thoughts and words came slowly and with much effort.

Seattle Pacific's president at the time, Hoyt Watson, and the entire SBC community was a great source of encouragement and helped my father gain the confidence, training and support to graduate in three short years. And you're listening to the story of Jacob DeShazer as told by his daughter, Carol. And she's written a terrific book called The Return of the Raider, a Doolittle Raiders story of war and forgiveness. And my goodness, reading that Bible while in prison, getting reacquainted with the faith that he had not taken seriously at all, and now had some time to really read the book and see how it applied to his life. My goodness, what a change in his life. Love your enemies, bless your enemies. These were words that he had to try and live by and he did and he applied it to that prison guard. And the difference in that relationship because of how he dealt with rudeness and with meanness and with, well, just bad treatment, teaches us all a lot about how you can change another person's actions and heart itself. And after he comes out of captivity, after we dropped two bombs on Nagasaki and Hiroshima, decides of all things that he wants to return to Japan as a missionary.

My goodness, you just don't get more remarkable than that and beautiful than that. And in that pursuit comes across a woman who admires what he does from afar and ultimately becomes his wife. And some people would say, oh, what a ridiculous story. That doesn't happen. Forty months in captivity and all kinds of things will happen to you when you get out.

All kinds of things. And especially if you've got forgiveness with you and in this particular case, most assuredly, with Christ with you. When we come back, more of this remarkable story, the story of Jacob DeShazer here on Our American Stories. And we continue with Our American Stories and the story of Doolittle Raider Jacob DeShazer as told by his daughter.

Let's return to Carol with more of her father's story. My parents went to Japan as missionaries in December of 1948. News of the former American POW that was returning to Japan made front page news all over Japan. And my father was invited to tell his story over and over in churches, factories, schools, mines, people's homes and public squares. Many Japanese became Christians, including several of the Japanese prison guards.

But perhaps the most amazing story is that of Captain Mitsuo Fuchida, who was the head pilot that led the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. He read my father's testimony that was printed in Japanese on a track that was distributed in front of a busy train station. When he read that my father was able to forgive because of what he had read in the Bible, Captain Fuchida decided he wanted to see what the Bible said. So he bought himself a Bible when he read about Jesus dying on the cross and that he prayed, Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.

He knew he wanted that kind of forgiveness in his life. He became a wonderful Christian, an evangelist, and became my father's friend and brother in Christ. My parents had five children, three boys and two girls, Paul, John, Mark, Carol Eichel and Ruth.

I am the fourth child. I was born in Kobe, Japan, and always considered Japan my home. I like to tell people I was made in Japan.

My parents gave me a Japanese middle name, Aiko, which means love. My parents lived and ministered together in Japan for 30 years as career missionaries. They were able to help get 23 churches started.

Three of those churches were started from their home. My father was just an incredible person with a sense of honor and duty. He served his country, but more important, he served his Lord.

He had deep faith, and during his time as a prisoner of war, he was convinced that he needed to forgive his enemy. And after that, he spent his life spreading the message of love and forgiveness. My father lived to be 95 years old.

He passed away March 15, 2008. At my father's memorial service, my sister Ruth gave his eulogy saying, My father was given a full lifetime to try his best to forgive his enemies and to love in all circumstances. Who can measure the impact of his obedience?

Thirty years of missionary service in Japan, helping to start 23 new churches, raising five children, honoring his wife of 61 years, preaching in countless churches across North America, and all of us inspired and challenged by his story and life. Yet, if my father were here today, he would not want this to be about him and his accomplishments. He would want Jesus to get all the attention and credit. He would urge us to love each other, believe the Bible and say, Yes, Lord, I will try to do what you ask of me. He would say that following after love works 100 times out of 100. And I am certain he would ask us this question.

On that final day, when you are called to meet Jesus, what will you bring in your hands? Well, after 9-11, I felt God telling me to write a new book about my father's story. I thought of all the reasons I couldn't do it. I wasn't an author, a historian, a military expert, a theologian.

And I didn't have a publisher and didn't know anything about writing a book. As I prayed, I realized I needed to tell God, I'll try. Soon after, God led me to meet Dr. Goldstein. Dr. Goldstein, who has passed away now, is the best known historian on the attacks on Pearl Harbor and Midway as documented in the books At Dawn We Slept, Miracle at Midway, and God's Samurai, which he co-authored with Professor Gordon Prang. Well, Dr. Goldstein became my partner and co-author of our new book titled Return of the Raider, which tells, with historical accuracy, the events of my father's story.

I've been working for over 20 years to make my parents' story more available through documentaries, books, videos, and other media outlets. The other day, I heard from a man who was having trouble with his marriage. He said he needed to forgive his wife for something she had done and that he just couldn't bring himself to forgive her. He tried, but just couldn't do it. He said he read my father's story and will never forget finishing the book and slamming it shut, saying, If Jacob de Shazer can do it, so can I. After all the torture and everything else he had to endure with the Lord's help, he was able to find it in his heart to forgive. He had a lot more to forgive than I do. So he said he went back to his wife and told her that he was willing to forgive her and that he wanted to make their marriage work.

Well, he said they got back together and that today their marriage is better than ever. I hear from a lot of older veterans who are concerned that the younger generation are missing out on being told the stories from World War II. So, parents, when you are teaching your children about the history of our country and the story of Pearl Harbor and the Doolittle Raid, tell them also the story of my father, Jacob de Shazer, and Captain Mitsuo Fuchida because their stories are a lesson our country needs to hear today.

The best book for children on this topic is the book titled, Jacob de Shazer, Forgive Your Enemies, by Janet and Jeff Benge. In conclusion, I would like to read a message from Captain Mitsuo Fuchida. Remember, Captain Fuchida led the attack on Pearl Harbor.

I'm reading from a brochure he wrote in 1970 titled, From Pearl Harbor to Calvary. As an evangelist, I have traveled across Japan and the Orient introducing others to the one who changed my life. I believe with all my heart that those who will direct Japan and all other nations in the decades to come must not ignore the message of Jesus Christ. Youth must realize he is the only hope for this troubled world. Though my country has the highest literacy rate in the world, education has not brought salvation. Peace and freedom, both national and personal, come only through an encounter with Jesus Christ.

I would give anything to retract my actions at Pearl Harbor, but it is impossible. Instead, I now work at striking the death blow to the basic hatred that infests the human heart and causes such tragedies. And that hatred cannot be uprooted without assistance from Jesus Christ. He is the only one who was powerful enough to change my life and inspire it with his thoughts. He was the only answer to Jacob de Shazer's tormented life. He is the only answer for young people today. And he signed it, Captain Mitsuo Fuchida, 1970.

That's the end. And a special thanks to Greg Hengler for the terrific work on this piece. And a special thanks to Carol Aiko de Shazer Dixon, the daughter of Doolittle Raider Jacob de Shazer. And she is the author of Return of the Raider, a Doolittle Raider's story of war and forgiveness. And my goodness, what a story he had, but Captain Fuchida's story equally remarkable because Fuchida read about this man forgiving the torturers that did what they did to him.

And this caught Fuchida's attention. The next thing you know, he's reading the Bible, and the rest is history. And my goodness, what de Shazer did, spending his life in Japan as a missionary, the very place where he was tortured. Oh my goodness, he's still in my heart. And by the way, I love what that married guy said. If Jacob de Shazer can do it, and that is forgive someone like the torturer, so can I. He had a lot more to forgive than I do with my wife. A remarkable story of forgiveness, love, and war. The story of Jacob de Shazer here on Our American Stories.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-02-17 06:15:31 / 2023-02-17 06:27:39 / 12

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