Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Captain Fuchida: the Most Incredible Forgiveness Story of the 20th Century?

The wind was cold on his face in the pre-dawn darkness of December 7, 1941.  Mitsuo Fuchida* shivered briefly, as he stood there on the flight deck of the Japanese aircraft carrier Akagi, contemplating the coming hours, during which he personally would lead the greatest airstrike in military history.

What Commander Fuchida could never have guessed that day was that not many years later, two small acts of forgiveness would "mess with his mind" so badly that he would come to sincerely regret this day, the day that would make him the greatest national hero of wartime Japan and grant him a personal audience with the emperor.  

A couple of weeks earlier under greatest secrecy, the heavy aircraft carriers Akagi and Kaga, together with four other carriers and a total of 423 attack aircraft embarked had slipped out of Japanese waters unnoticed.  Escorted by the battleships Hiei and Kirishima and a dozen cruisers and destroyers, the task force took a circuitous route to Hawaiian waters... 

Fuchida from the 1970 moive, Tora Tora Tora!

Fuchida Survives the War...Miraculously

A few hours later, Commander (later Captain) Fuchida came back from the Pearl Harbor raid and landed on the Akagi's flight deck to discover about 20 flak holes in his B5N "Kate" torpedo plane and his rudder cable held together by a thread.  Surveying the damage, he was surprised to be alive.  Months later, at the Battle of Midway, he barely survived the sinking of the Akagi, breaking both his ankles in the process.  Called away suddenly from the city of Hiroshima to a meeting in Tokyo the day before the atom bomb was dropped, he returned with an investigation team two days later to survey the unimaginable destruction.  Everyone on that investigation team died of radiation poisoning.  Fuchida, though, never had the slightest symptom!

The Post-War Change of Heart

Fuchida had been brought up to hate the United States.  Forced to testify in war crimes trials against certain Japanese officers after the war, he was filled with rage, considering this "victor's justice".  Convinced that Americans must have tortured and murdered Japanese prisoners too, he became obsessed with proving it.  

So he headed out to meet with some repatriated Japanese prisoners where, to his complete shock, he met his former flight engineer, Kazuo Kanegasaki, who he thought had been killed at Midway five years earlier.  Much to Fuchida's chagrin, his engineer told him that not only were Japanese prisoners never tortured or abused, but they were even lovingly served by a young American woman whose parents had been murdered by Japanese soldiers in the Philippines.  

Deeply confused, Fuchida didn't know what to make of this.  According to the Japanese warrior code of Bushido**, you don't forgive your enemies, you kill them.  To forgive the murder of one's own parents seemed bizarre indeed. 

A year later, the still puzzled Fuchida came across something written by Jacob DeShazer, a US Army Air Force pilot from the famous Doolittle Raid, who had been captured and tortured by the Japanese in China.  DeShazer wrote about how he had found God and received the strength to love and forgive his captors.  The two met in 1950 and became fast friends - the man who started the war and the man from America's first counterstrike now talked regularly!

Fuchida and DeShazer in 1950

Fuchida ended up identifying himself as a Christian, teaching the value of love and forgiveness in Japan, later moving to the US and even becoming an American citizen. 

Very few people are aware that the man who led the air attack on Pearl Harbor, the "day that will live in infamy", later expressed deep regret for his actions and became a citizen of the very country he had attacked...

...and all because one young lady and one American pilot genuinely forgave their enemies!

Fuchida teaching after the war.

This is the power of forgiveness.  A firm and loving forgiveness causes miracles to happen.  Why?  Because when you forgive, you align your inner being with the Absolute Power behind the universe.  

Some of us were taught in our youth that God is judgmental and doesn't forgive so easily.  According to the ancient Christian tradition, by the way, that's nonsense.  God forgives everyone everything all the time with no exceptions whatsoever. You can do the same.  Is it always easy?  No.  Is it worth the effort?  "Hell yes!"

A life of absolute and unconditional love and forgiveness works miracles.  It changed Mitsuo Fuchida's life.  It changed Jacob DeShazer's life.  It changed that young woman's life.  It can change yours and mine too.  

~ Dr. Symeon Rodger

*Fuchida passed away of natural causes in 1976.  He wrote several books, including From Pearl Harbor to Calvary.  His life is beautifully portrayed in George Prange's book, God's Samurai.  

**Bushido, the "way of the warrior" - the ethical code of the Samurai - was basic to the Japanese culture of Fuchida's time.  Was this a valid interpretation of Bushido itself?  That's highly debatable.  What is certain is that many leaders of Japanese Zen Buddhism supported Japan's barbaric military campaigns and the nationalist spirit that fueled them.  In fact, much of Japanese Buddhism had become far more "Japanese" than Buddhist, since Buddhism itself is antithetical to nationalism and violence, and itself preaches love and forgiveness.    



  1. This is my all time favorite forgiveness story as told by Caroline Myss:

  2. that is a pretty powerful story... I wonder how the books in Japan depict him now.