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Part I: A Light in Prison

Mitsuo Fuchida, Commander of Attack Squadrons at Pearl Harbor

When Flight Commander of the Sunday morning sunrise attack on Pearl Harbor, Mitsuo Fuchida, cried 'All squadrons, plunge in to attack,' over the radio of his 97-type torpedo plane, Jake DeShazer from Seattle, Washington, was doing K.P. duty in a California army camp. When the radio announced the sneak attack, Jake kicked a sack of Idaho spuds over, leaped up and flung a half-peeled potato against the wall. "Jap," he shouted, "just wait and see what we'll do to you!"

DeShazer Throws a Spud

Forty months in a Japanese prison can tame the most cantankerous mule and even break his spirit, but not so Jake DeShazer. If anything, all the torture and starvation and brutality of the guards just made him angrier and more belligerent. The main thing that sustained him through the countless beatings was the delicious thought of Doolittle's raid on Tokyo, a splendid feat in which he participated as a bombadier.

Night after night, day after day in the stinking wards of the camp, his eyes lit with the gleam of revenge briefly satisfied. What a beautifully planned and executed mission that had been! He hadn't flown in Colonel Jimmy Doolittle's plane, and couldn't claim that great honor, but to be under his command was almost as good. It was close to being in heaven, he figured, when he and the other crew members sailed almost unopposed into the skies over the Japanese capital, taking them by surprise. The home islands, they had been told by Tojo and other other government heads, were impregnable.

A ring of spy ships had been set as a cordon hundreds of miles at sea, an early warning system that prevented any surprise attack of the enemy. Yet General Jimmy and his B-25 bombers had successfuly launched off the Hornet, an aircraft carrier, and flown six hundred miles out from their target and done the impossible, penetrating the fortress-like security of the main islands, then striking directly at the heart of the Japanese empire, the imperial capital itself! It wasn't Colonel Jimmy's fault they had run out of fuel.

Sighted by some spy boats before they could reach waters closer in, the Hornet either had to turn back, mission unaccomlished, or risk losing Doolittle's badly needed B-25s on a considerably extended flight to the Japanese home islands. It was Col. Doolittle and Admiral Nimitz who agreed the mission should not be scrapped. The plan was altered to account for the extra flight time it needed to reach Japan from 600 miles out.

They were fly to Tokyo, unload their bombs, then head for a certain free Chinese city to the south, refuel there, then head inland for Chungking, where the free Chinese forces were headquartered. It was a good, revised plan, but none of Doolittle's planes made it to Chungking, much less Chuchow, which was seventy miles inland.

Jake, imprisoned by the Japanese, then released and convalescing in Hawaii and Californa almost four years later, heard the news for the first time about his mission. Some planes ditched in the China Sea, in shark-filled waters. Others crash-landed in northern Korea and Manchuria, then were captured by the Russians and, though allies, imprisoned in Russian-held territory further to the north. Colonel Doolittle's plane was destroyed, when they couldn't make it to Chuckow, without any radio contact from there to tell them where it was in the dark. Doolittle and his men jumped from the plane when the gas gauge needle dropped to zero. Thirteen hours had passed since they lifted off the carrier.

They survived, and Colonel Doolittle was taken to Washington, D.C. and given a medal and congratulated by President Truman, and he was even made a general. But Doolittle confessed to anybody who wanted to know what the hero was really feeling and thinking that he wasn't thinking of a Congressional Medal of Honor falling to him after friendly forces returned him to American units. He had parachuted down into a rice paddy, landing in a heap of night soil. Reeling from the smell of his clothes, he was even more upset by the prospects his men faced. The thought of them scattered over a third of China's coast or trying to fight off sharks in the China Sea was too much for him.

Paul Leonard, one of his crew, found him first and asked him, "What do you think will happen when you go home, Colonel?" Doolittle replied slowly, "Well, I guess they'll court-martial me and send me to Ft. Leavenworth."


DeShazer Over Tokyo

Even the glorious memory of the raid (with the conclusion Jake DeShazer was not to know until over three years had passed) began to fade under the almost daily tortures inflicted on him and his fellow prisoners. If he did anything to anger the guards, he got a beating. Often, they dragged him from his cell and beat him without any provocation whatsoever. He lost count how many times it happened. He now lived, he thought, only for revenge.

Sensing the hatred in him, his guards tried all the harder to break him down, to humble him enough to beg like a whimpering animal for their mercy. Knowing their intent, Jake grew all the more resolved to deny them the satisfaction of seeing him humbled and humiliated. But a human body can take only so much. DeShazer watched once strong men crumble and die right before his eyes, unable to take any more beatings and starvation.

The night before his cellmate died, he said to Jake, "My heart's hurting bad!" Then Jake listened, and their was no more said, for what could he do or say that could possibly help the dying man. Everyone knew that a starved man's heart pained like that before he died. It was a sure sign.

In the morning, his cellmate was dead, but he, Jake, was still alive--but barely alive. How much longer did he have, before his heart pangs began? Nothing could help him then. For the first time, as guards swore and dragged his cellmate out to be thrown in a pit like a dog with other Americans who had died in the night, Jake began to think that he too wouldn't make it to the end of the war.

He had kept track of time, along with the others, for the first thing a prisoner wants to know is when he will be getting out. How can a prisoner know that without keeping record of the days in order to tally up how much time they had spent there and possibly, possibly, the days left of their interment that remained to be endured somehow. If they could keep track, then hope could live. They weren't animals brutalized into senselessness, but still human beings conscious of where they had been and where they were but, most importantly, where they would be going as soon as the war ended with a victory for America and her allies.

Knowing well how vital morale was, the guards deliberately used what stock they had of English words to break the men's spirit and hope of release. After thirty six months in the Nanking hellhole of a prison, Jake was feeling their attacks hitting home. "American," they snarled at him, "three year you be here with us! Ha! You stay here till you die! Nobody know where you are! Nobody come for you! You die here! And if somebody come, we kill you first, then run into mountains and fight and never give up till we drive Americans into the sea! Nobody can beat us! We beat everybody. We use the Divine Wind! We beat you too, American! Hahaha!"

Of course, to prove their point, they always gave him an additional beating. Afterwards, thrown back into his cell like a load of rubbish, and kicked senseless if he put up the slightest resistance, Jake lay for sometime wishing he were dead. Sometimes he thought he was dead. But pain returned, and with it consciousness, then wave after wave of pain drove him nearly wild. Every move he made was torture to him. He was a mass of sores, wounds, wrenched muscles, bruises, cuts, and--just as bad--bugs. He couldn't escape any of the lice and vermin that abounded. They feasted on him when he lay unable to do anything for himself, even drag himself to cell's latrine hole. Unable to move for hours, he later found himself lying in his own urine, with flies and vermin drawn to him as if he were a pot of honey.

Starved and brutalized like that, he couldn't keep going just on hate and hope of revenge. Jake felt his spirit breaking, a sure sign he was done for. He was lying there in his cell, wondering how soon his death would occur, when he heard a former Jimmy Doolittle raider call to him in a whisper. They had to be careful, communicating cell to cell through the corridor. No guards had to be present, or they would be dragged out and beaten mercilessly. It only happened rarely that the hall guards were taken off duty to be given special rations, if they had become available. That could take ten or fifteen minutes. It was so rare that it had happened only once before in thirty six months. Surprised, he dragged himself to the door, then climbed up to the judas to hear better.

"Jake, do you hear me?" Jake tried to whisper back, but nothing came out. Instead, he rapped his name. "Good! You're still alive! Guards will be back soon, just know that we got a Bible given us by the guards. Want to read it? Then ask and the guard will let you have it. But the officers have first go at it. Sorry, It might be a couple weeks before you get your chance. But hold on, buddy! You'll get your time with it, if you just hold on!"

Jake groaned, then slid back down to the floor. "Bible? What was the fuss about? Why would he want to read the Bible? Had his buddies all gone crazy from the torture and no food? Had they gone religious on him?"

Just the same, when a couple weeks passed, he remembered, and when the guard came and passed threw two half-cooked fish heads into his cell for his meal of the day he asked the guard to let him see the book his fellow Americans had been reading.

This time the guard didn't curse him, but looked at him without expression, which meant he was studying him for some reason. Then the guard stomped away. An hour later a book was thrown in through the door, which was swung open only long enough to get the book through, then slammed in Jake's face.

Jake picked up the book, amazed at the thought he was holding the first book he had held in years, and it was the Bible of all things! He went and sat on his mattress. There was just enough light to read. Where should he begin, he wondered, with his hand idly thumbing the soiled and tattered pages.

He thought of something, and quickly ran through the pages, looking for messages from his fellow prisoners. But the guards had censored any there might have been by simply ripping out that page or anything else that looked suspicious. All he found were certain words here and there that had been underlined, but when he read them, he couldn't determine if they were random words or deliberate messages of some kind. He found words like "grace" and "love" and "mercy" underlined, and "love" was about the most commonly underlined word from cover to cover. Love of God, love of man, love, love, love! How he hated that word! What had love ever done for him? Love for justice for the Japs had landed him in the Nanking hellhole, hadn't it? Love of country had brought him there too. Love was going to be the death of Jake DeShazer, not hatred. Hate was the only thing really keeping him alive, wasn't it?

Thirty six, then almost forty months passed, and now he wasn't quite so sure hate was cracking up to what he thought it was. His body, he sensed, was dying, and though he hated the guards all the more, a lot of good that did him! He was still going to die a miserable death, still imprisoned in the Nanking hellhole!

In growing despair he kept reading. More love words and phrases underlined. As he kept reading, the words of love began to burn strangely in his own heart. He gave up fighting them, and for the first time began to allow them to sink into his own deep pain and darkness, glowing there like a light long after he let the book go in order too sleep.

Jake finished the New Testament and began the Old Testament at Genesis, but even before that he felt the light in the word of God take over, flooding him. From May to June 1944 he read the scriptures, and meanwhile he began to look at his captors differently. Before they were beasts in his view that he wanted to exterminate the moment the tables were turned and he had the chance. Now he began to see them as sinners that Christ loved and died for. His hate turned gradually to love and pity. Christ on the cross had prayed for them, "Father, forgive them, for they don't know what they are doing."

One morning, sharp pains interrupted his reading. it was what he had long dreaded. His heart was giving out! He was dying!

Jake slid off his mattress and knelt with his heart beating in his chest like a clanging bell. He starting praying. Seeing him through the judas, a guard rushed in and began beating him. It no longer mattered to Jake. He knew the guard could not change anything. He was going to die, very soon.

Hours later, Jake awoke. A dream had startled him back into consciousness. he had, in the dream, gone somewhere wonderful, where the stars shone blue and violet and royal purple and a bridge unlike any he had seen in his life shone across the gulfs of starry skies through which he was flying on the back of a great, soaring, blue-winged angel. The dream took him right to the bridge, and close enough to see the people on it! All kinds of people! And they saw him and waved at him, as if to beckon him to land and join them. What were they doing? They all were gathering at the ends, where the bridge jutted out unfinished, and the people on both halves of the bridge were, he saw, reaching toward each other across the gulf.

At that moment in the dream, someone spoke to him:

"My son, love your enemies as I first loved you. I will send you back to them, and you will draw them to Me through you love and forgiveness. Wait until I send you. I will call you. Wait for my call, and let my love grow in you, until the time I call you again to my Bridge."

"Who are you, Lord?" he cried in his dream. Instantly, he was standing on a high, stoney hill, outside a walled city. There before him were three crosses, and some bystanders, among them Roman soldiers and some robed Jews, some weeping, but most jeering and mocking and shaking their fists at the one who hung between the other two crosses and the men crucified on them. Jake peered up at the man crucified in the center, but he couldn't recognize him. There was utterly no resemblance to the sweet pictures of Christ he recalled from a long-ago week spent in Sunday School in a little Baptist church in his neighborhood.

Christ on the Cross

Amazed he was still alive, amazed even more by the dream and his standing on the hill of Calvary beneath Jesus's cross, he desperately clung to life. Now he had hope! God had heard his prayer, when he thought he was dying for sure. There was no doubt God had saved his life and called him, of all things, to return to Japan someday after the war's end and show love and forgiveness to the defeated and despairing. Could anything be more amazing than that prospect? he wondered in those first hours of regained life. He was still amazed when, weeks later, Japan turned him over to the American forces in a prisoner exchange. Japan fought on, but it was increasingly evident that it was a losing struggle despite the success of Divine Wind, the kamakaze squadrons sent to push the Americans, Russians, and British back from the home islands.

When Jake no longer resisted and hated his guards, his guards could not believe it, and vented their frustration and their fears on him, which he took it without complaint or resentment. Gradually, the guards began leaving him alone, and his food allotment increased. They no longer sought to beat him down into submission and death, but actually began showing him little bits of kindness. One or two admitted to him they were afraid of the war's end, and what would happen to them and their waiting families hidden in the hills and mountains. The Americans, British, and Russians had invadedd the home islands, and were sweeping down, island to island, with the Japanese--following the Divine Wind--perishing rather than surrendering. Would any of their people be left alive? The guards began to despair and to run off from their posts, fleeing despite the death sentence for desertion.

Recuperating in a hospital in Hawaii, then transferred to California, Jake had time to think over his experience and the dream too. But he found he was truly changed at heart. He had no hate left in him for the Japanese, which marked him so differently from his fellow Americans, who cheered at every news break when Japan suffered yet another reverse, and the Japanese committed suicide rather than submit to capture.

Later, walking down the streets of his hometown, Jake felt even more committed to obeying the call of God. He felt so out of place at home. He no longer was one with his fellow Americans in their hate for their enemies. All people wanted was unconditional surrender and, along with it, the utter crushing of Japan, so that it would never be able to fight anybody again. That meant utter destruction, of course, and the deaths of millions.

Fortunately, America's superweapons, first the nuclear bomb, then the experimental death ray transmitted to the war zone, had failed or, in the case of the death ray, hadn't worked as well as it had been hoped. The savage fighting continued, with suicides and massacres, but at least the death ray hadn't been able to wipe out millions with a single blast.

1947 came, and the war was over! Japan's defeat brought victory for the allies, which were exhausted by the costly Pyrhhic triumph by being restricted to conventional weapons to combat the Divine Wind. That same year Jake, who had studied at a Seattle university to prepare himself, stepped off an American boat and entered a shattered Japan. He had no medicines, clothes, food, and other needed things--all he had was himself and one thing more: it burned in his heart, just as brightly as a bush had once burned before the eyes of a certain shepherd on the backside of Mt. Horeb.

Mosheh and the Burning Bush

Once he had dreamed of victory and riding a prancing, white horse in a parade of American forces through the streets of Tokyo. But that horse had died in Nanking, and instead of riding high and mighty a new Jake DeShazer walked slowly and sensitively through the ruins of the devastated, despairing city.

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