Commander Fuchida chosen to lead the attack
“Sweetheart, my sister just called. She wants to take us four sisters on a sisters-trip. She wants us to go next month. What do you think?”
“That’s wonderful, Precious! Where are you going?”
“You have to visit the Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor. That’s a must!”
“We have a month to plan our trip,” Carol responded, “but the USS Arizona will definitely be included.”
That was in June of 2003, and they had a marvelous time!
Years ago in New Mexico, three people who were protesting the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki challenged me about my emphasis on remembering Pearl Harbor. They said, “Pearl Harbor was nothing compared to what the U.S. did to Japan!”
I responded, “That’s exactly why it’s important to remember December 7, 1941. If the Japanese hadn’t attacked Pearl Harbor, the U.S. would not have dropped the bombs on them. Knowing our history helps us to keep things in perspective.”
Japan wanted to greatly expand its empire but the United States stood in its way, so Japan decided to knock us out. Their initial target was our three aircraft carriers they thought were anchored in the harbor. But Admiral Nimitz sent them out to sea, and the catastrophe Japan accomplished in Hawaii did not destroy our fleet – and didn’t knock us out! (I don’t have time in this article to discuss Japan’s brutal and bloody campaign in China and elsewhere.)
The Japanese did not inform us about their declaration of war, and an unprovoked attack on American soil is not something we solve by verbal negotiation! That’s why President Bush and the U.S. Congress responded as they did after September 11, 2001.
But Japan had a long tradition of opening hostilities by surprise attack. The problem in America was that, as U.S.-Japanese relations worsened, we ignored Japanese tradition and her history. (We’re making the same mistake in the Middle-East today.)
Commander Mitsuo Fuchida was selected to train the pilots and lead the air attack on Pearl Harbor. A great tactician with a brilliant mind, Fuchida did his job well and shouted into his microphone, “Tora! Tora! Tora!” (Tora means Tiger; but is also an acronym for “totsugeki raigek” meaning “lightning attack” denoting a complete surprise attack.)
However, as mentioned, the aircraft carriers were not there. Even as Japan celebrated the great victory, Admiral Yamamoto was concerned. Although it has never been verified that he said, “I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve,” Admiral Yamamoto knew Japan would not be able to conduct a Pacific naval war with America for much longer than six months.
But Commander Fuchida was exhilarated! As Gordon W. Prange said on page 37 of GOD’S SAMURAI — Lead Pilot at Pearl Harbor, “Years would pass before Fuchida understood that he had left behind more than smashed ships and aircraft and dead and wounded men. He also left behind a nation welded together by the fires he and his men had set—a United States that would not rest until the Japanese had paid in full for their morning’s work.”
And the United States certainly did respond!
That devious and reprehensible act on December 7, 1941, forced the U.S. populace to suddenly move from an isolation mentality to a war mentality, and that move sealed the doom for the Japanese aspirations for empire-expansion.
The focal point for many of us regarding Pearl Harbor is the USS Arizona which was sunk intact with up to 1,117 sailors on board.
But I have another point to make.
On April 14, 1950, Captain (promoted from Commander) Mitsuo Fuchida met his Maker.
No, Fuchida didn’t die then — he met Jesus Christ and became a Christian. (He died May 30, 1976.)
Fuchida, the fearless, outspoken warrior read a pamphlet by former prisoner-of-war SSgt. Jake DeShazer — one of Doolittle’s Raiders who bombed Japan. DeShazer was captured and treated cruelly by the Japanese for forty months. Fuchida also read about Peggy Covell’s missionary parents who were murdered by the Japanese. But DeShazer and Peggy had totally forgiven their former enemies.
Not understanding the difference between war and personal cruelty, these stories intrigued Fuchida. He then read the New Testament to see what changed DeShazer’s life from bitterness to forgiveness and what helped Peggy to forgive her enemy. As Fuchida read the Bible, he realized that his world view was totally wrong.
Asking Jesus to forgive him, Mitsuo Fuchida’s life was changed, and he became life-long friends with his former enemy: Jake DeShazer. Dedicating the remainder of his life to Jesus Christ, he became an evangelist and introduced many others to our Lord.
It is Jesus Christ who can turn bitterness to forgiveness, despair to hope, and sorrow to joy. God did it for the man who led the attack, and He can do it for you.
Pictured is the USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, taken in 2003.