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James R. Stout

The Raid of Forgiveness

            Some of you may remember learning of the Doolittle Raid during World War II. It has been depicted many times in movies and books. It was a daring raid that was intended to let the Japanese military know that they were not invincible. It was led by Lt. Colonel Jimmy Doolittle a mere 4 months after the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. The effect of the raid on the morale of not only American soldiers, but the entire nation as well, was immense. Some say it was the point at which America determined to say “no” to defeat or even the thought of defeat.

            There were 80 Army Air Corps men who took part in the raid. 52 of them were officers and 28 were enlisted men. All of them volunteered to participate. It was considered that survival would be unlikely. These were America’s finest during a time when heroism was the norm rather than the exception. I won’t go into depth on the preparation for the raid or the raid itself. You can look it up if you wish to. What I want to do is tell you about one of those 80 men. I should mention that of the 80 men 3 were killed in action during the raid. An additional 5 died either from injuries sustained when they were forced to crash land or in the case of 4 men during imprisonment after being captured by the Japanese following their crash landing in enemy territory. 3 of those 4 men were executed for “war crimes” by the Japanese. They had committed no crime though. 1 of the 4 men died from malnutrition and beatings. The man I want to tell you about is one of the other 4 men who were tried and sentenced to life in prison. His name was Jacob DeShazer.

            Jacob DeShazer was a staff sergeant. During imprisonment as a P.O.W. he suffered for 3 years at the hands of cruel captors. He endured beatings and near starvation during those 3 years. However, for a 3-week period of time he was loaned a copy of the Bible to read by a sympathetic guard. After reading as much of the Bible as he could during that 3 weeks, he dedicated his life to Christ and became a Christian. He determined that for however long that he might live he would dedicate his life to Christ. In August of 1945 he was liberated from his imprisonment following the surrender of Japan. He returned stateside in early 1946 and decided to go to college at Seattle Pacific College. He graduated in 1948 and started a career that spanned the next 30 years. That career was as a Christian missionary in Japan. You read that right. Rev. DeShazer returned to the country where he had been beaten and mistreated to preach and lead others to Christ. That’s some kind of forgiveness, huh? He even started a church in Nagoya, Japan, the town in which he raided during the Doolittle Raid.

            Now, have you ever heard of Captain Mitsuo Fuchida? He was the man who lead the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Following Rev. DeShazer’s return to Japan the two men met and became close friends. In fact, Captain Fuchida became a Christian after reading a pamphlet that Rev. DeShazer had written. Captain Fuchida then became a missionary serving in both Asia and America for years. On several occasions the two men preached together in Japan.

            Among the medals that Staff Sergeant DeShazer received were the Distinguished Flying Cross, a Purple Heart, and following his death at the age of 95 in 2008 he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal (second only to the Congressional Medal of Honor). All of that said, I have no doubt that none of these medals compares with what Jesus must have said to Rev. DeShazer upon his entry into Heaven. “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

            After reading about Rev. DeShazer I had to marvel at his faith in Christ. After the brutality and mistreatment that he suffered while in captivity he could have hated the Japanese and his captors for life. But that isn’t what Jesus tells us we should do. Jesus told us to love our enemies. I can’t think of a better example of loving your enemy than the case of Rev. DeShazer. He had what my grandfather called “walking faith”. Grandpa said that some of us have “talking faith” and some of us have “walking faith”. It was his way of saying that we should put our faith into action. Rev. DeShazer certainly put his faith into action. Can you imagine how many people must have come to Christ due to Rev. DeShazer’s willingness to put his faith into action? Oh, that we all were as dedicated as Jacob DeShazer.

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