I can still hear the wail
of our local fire station siren, even sixty years later. It had wailed
and wailed. That siren was the local alarm that not only summoned the
volunteer firemen, but told us when events of importance were happening...and
soon there were screams as distraught men and women ran through the
streets of our small town. How frightened I was! I too ran out of the
movie theatre that Sunday afternoon and heard about a place far away called
At that time, I was well
into the war...we grew up with it. We knew places like the Rhine, Paris,
and where the allies were fighting Hitler's nazi armies, because our
nightly activity revolved around a huge radio with live reports...because our
little hands loaded up the trucks with scrap iron and made the bandages at the
local Red Cross...because we hoed our Victory gardens and did without
tires on the car...because we took baked goods to the homes of grieving
parents and widows. We heard the bombs...we lived war. We soon
learned that Pearl Harbor meant the war had shifted to our part of the
world...we had suffered a personal attack. It was no longer Europe's
war...it was OUR war.
During those long years
from 1941-44, our heroes were not television or movie actors...they were the
older brothers of our best friends... skinny high school graduates in sleek
navy uniforms, or goggled-pilots in leather jackets. But I also soon
learned it was not all patriotic hoopla when my father took me to the crash
site at a local fighter training base. Why he took us there I do not
know, perhaps it was to teach us in a morbid way what death was about. There I
picked up the remnant of a flight jacket zipper and the charred remains of his
wrist watch, I knew then that war meant death and dying on both sides.
It took a long time for me
to finally visit Pearl. I was on my way to other parts of Asia doing mission
work and found myself with about a half day to kill. I decided to go to
the Arizona memorial...by myself. How glad I am that I went alone...for
it was during my time there that I had a profound experience that affected me
the rest of my life. No...it was not the overwhelming thought of those
thousands of young boys who died and lay entombed in that sunken ship.
Ironically, it was to see the hundreds of Japanese crying at that place!
It had never occurred to me that Japanese would even come there...much less
My thoughts of the
Japanese people had been affected by having known a young pilot (who lived
three doors down the street from our house). He had endured the Bataan Death
March and escaped to come back home and tell of the horrible atrocities that
took place during that imprisonment. It was merciless savagery. After
his book had become published, all of America now knew that our enemy was not
one which regarded human life as precious nor showed any semblance of human
compassion toward prisoners. To behead was no more an event than swatting a
fly...We could not understand how humans could act like that...no
Christian nation could.
As I continued travel
throughout S.E. Asia, I found that so many had suffered horrible things from
the hands of the Japanese...rape, pillage, starvation. A barbarism that
defies the imagination. And in many places I found it so deep-rooted a
scar, that many Christians found it impossible to forgive the Japanese people.
Then I visited Japan
myself...twice. Here was a bustling, lovely people...yet sadly the older
generation still seemed to be torn apart...as if there was such a deep wound
inside their hearts which could never be healed. Japan had turned itself
into a world trade giant, but there was no world acceptance...the isolation still
affected them in every way.
Once, a Japanese minister
asked me, "Sister Adams...what is wrong with us? Why do we have
these feelings?" I looked at his inquiring face...knowing he was three
generations removed from those war years, yet still suffering "the sins
of the fathers." It was then I told him the story of Mitsuo Fuchida.
Most Americans are unaware
of this story...Mitsuo was the Japanese commander who led the raid on Pearl
Harbor. As they returned to their aircraft carrier, having left Pearl in
ruins, it was Mitsuo who shouted the code word "TORA! TORA! TORA!"
(Tiger! Tiger! Tiger!) to show that complete surprise had been achieved.
This daring raid was
Mitsuo's crowning achievement. Since a young boy, he had read the
stirring accounts of naval victories and his ambition was to be a national
hero. After this event, Mitsuo was just that...and enjoyed a ticket-tape
welcome back home, with many honors. Later, Mitsuo was wounded at the
battle of Midway, and was then assigned to other positions as the war ended.
But a strange event happened to him that would change his life forever.
Called to Tokyo to attend
the war trials tribunals, Mitsuo was in the court room giving his testimony.
Outside of the building was a young man who had stayed behind after the war
ended, though he had been a prisoner of war for 3 1/2 years. It was
during his imprisonment that Jake DeShazer became a Christian. After
enduring torture and endless starvation, Jake decided (on his own) to become a
missionary to his captors. He had printed up some simple tracts which
said, "I was a prisoner of the Japanese for 3 1/2 years, but I forgive
them all". As Mitsuo came out of that courtroom, Jake handed this
man a tract.
Later, in his hotel room,
Mitsuo began to read the little tract which told of the forgiveness of God and
how Jesus, even dying upon a cross, forgave those who crucified him.
Forgive? This was not a Japanese concept....to forgive your enemy? To
lose face was almost unendurable! What shame and humiliation...how could this
be? Most Japanese committed hari-hari to end their lives rather that
face the horror of being wrong. Yet, Mitsuo purchased a Bible and read
further...and became a Christian. Later, he also became an
evangelist...to the chagrin of his fellow Japanese. He suffered much
Jake DeShazer? He
also became an evangelist...to the very people who had brought him so much
misery. Ironically, Jake had been a volunteer on the Doolittle raid on
Tokyo and been shot down.
What are we saying here?
Simply, that there is but one way for all of us...to forgive one another.
War has many reasons for its roots...but millions of roots are affected by its
reasons. Children are deprived of fathers, homes torn apart, scarred
memories and demons of fear torment so many...even today.
As we reflect upon the
supreme price paid by so many...let us not forget who it was that paid the
price for every man on each side...and His sacrifice still remains the only
answer to war and the only way for peace...in any heart.
MARY E. ADAMS
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