Later this week, December 7, 2018, will be the 77th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. This attack propelled the United States into World War II. President Roosevelt declared it a “Day of Infamy.” In light of this infamous moment in American history, I wanted to share a personal reflection of a little-known story related to this event. I titled this post:
I Bombed Pearl Harbor
It was 1961. As a ten-year-old boy living in Decatur, a suburb of Atlanta, movies and television shows about cowboys and Indians fascinated me. Anything related to the Civil War or World War II also consumed my attention.
Whenever my family went to the movies, we only had a few theater options. Come to think of it, if we didn’t go to the local Decatur Theater, a family movie night typically meant a trip to one of four downtown Atlanta theater locations, the Fox, the Roxy, Loew’s Grand or Martin’s Rialto. Only the Fox Theater remains today.
One weekend in 1961, my dad suggested the family go out for a movie. I recall being intrigued with a new film titled “I Bombed Pearl Harbor” and thought for sure dad would agree with me that this would be the best choice for our family movie night. Unfortunately, he asked mom what she wanted to see. It wasn’t “I Bombed Pearl Harbor.” I am sure I sat with arms crossed and a frown on my face throughout the Doris Day flick, “Please Don’t Eat the Daisies.”
10-year-olds do not appreciate Doris Day romantic comedies.
I never forgave my dad for choosing Doris Day over my recommendation. That is until thirty odd years later in the 1990s. To my great surprise, one of the cable channels had scheduled “I Bombed Pearl Harbor” for a Friday evening broadcast. Finally! I get to see that movie. Thirty minutes into the telecast, I changed channels. Let me just say that reality bombed my expectations. Dad, you are forgiven.
Nevertheless, I remain fascinated with military history. My father and three uncles served in World War II. My wife had an uncle who was one of the few survivors of the Battleship Arizona. My home library has an ample number of real-life stories and testimonies of the WWII era. One of my current favorites, Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken, the story of Louis Zamperini, recently made its movie debut.
A few years ago, I came across an unusual article that prompted these memories to surface. Paul Newell, writing in WORLD Magazine, grabbed my attention with the headline, From Tora! Tora! Tora! To giving God the glory. (1) The article tells the story of the Japanese pilot who led the attack on Pearl Harbor. “Tora, Tora, Tora” was a two-syllable codeword that meant “lightning attack.” It was used by the Japanese Commander Fuchida to signal their achievement of complete surprise. Mitsuo Fuchida amazingly survived World War II.
Injured during the Battle of Midway in June 1942, he spent months recuperating before being assigned as a land-based staff officer for the remainder of the war. He narrowly missed being killed at Hiroshima. While attending a week-long military conference with other Japanese army officers, Fuchida was recalled to Tokyo the day before Hiroshima was hit with the atomic bomb.
Following the war, Fuchida was shocked to learn that war crime trials had started. In response, he decided to gather evidence of the abuse of Japanese POW’s. Doing his own research, he found an old friend who had been in an American POW camp. Surprised to learn how well treated the Japanese prisoners had been, he was stunned to learn of an American woman who displayed kindness and respect for the Japanese POW’s even though the Japanese had killed her Christian missionary parents in the Philippines earlier in the war. A life-long Buddhist, Fuchida grew curious about this god of Christians.
The article goes on to share how this pilot that led the raid on Pearl Harbor not only converted to Christianity but later became a missionary to the Japanese people. The author of three books, Fuchida published the story of his Christian conversion in a book titled, From Pearl Harbor to Calvary.
I am convinced that if Paul Harvey were still alive, this would become one of those “The Rest of the Story….” broadcasts.
I may have been a disappointed 10-year-old when I didn’t get to see that movie. But now, decades later, I am impressed and inspired with this ironic twist of a little-known story of that Day of Infamy. Mitsuo Fuchida may have shouted Tora, Tora, Tora as he led the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. But it was he, who years later, surprised by the kindness and respect of a Christian missionary’s daughter, surrendered to the love of Christ, and lived out his days giving God the glory.
In his book titled From Pearl Harbor to Calvary, Fuchida wrote, “I would give anything to retract my actions of twenty-nine years ago at Pearl Harbor, but it is impossible. Instead, I now work at striking the death-blow to the basic hatred which infests the human heart and causes such tragedies. And that hatred cannot be uprooted without assistance from Jesus Christ.” (2)
And that, my friends, is the rest of the story.