Jacob DeShazer (1912-2008) was born in Oregon (USA), in a Christian family. He later rejected his parents’ faith. In 1942, during the World War II, he enlisted in the Air Force. He was on board the ‘USS Hornet’ in the Pacific Ocean preparing for the attack against Japan. The Easter service was held inside the aircraft’s carrier. All men attended it but he refused. After that, they took off and they threw the bombs on the city of Nagoya, Japan. This attack called ‘The Doolitle raid’ was designed to be ‘one way trip’. The men in the plane were to land with parachutes over the neutral China. Unfortunately, the plane strayed over Japan territory and Jacob was taken as a prisoner of war by the Japanese. The next three years were hell on earth for Jacob and his mates who survived. They were tortured to make confessions and kept for months in solitary confinement. Several were publicly executed. Jacob survived by cultivating an intense hatred against the Japanese. He planned that one day he will avenge himself. He and others were later transferred to a prison in China. They were given food just enough to survive. The prison officers also gave them a Bible. They shared it among themselves. Because he was so lonely and bored, when it came to his turn to have the Bible, he read it from Genesis to Revelation. When he read Romans 10:9, the Holy Spirit opened his heart and he believed. “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Rom 10:9). This is how he became saved. He repented of all his sins and confessed them to others. He knew the joy of forgiveness and peace with God. He later wrote: “How my heart rejoiced in my newness of spiritual life, even though my body was still suffering so terribly from the physical beatings and lack of food”. In the lowest depth of agony, God has given life to Jacob DeShazer’s soul! Praise the Lord!
His life now changed. He asks God for gifts to serve Him. The Holy Spirit gave him first the gift of prayer. He spent much of his time in the cell praying for the prison guards and for the Japanese people in general. His conversion included learning a few words of Japanese and treating his captors with respect, which resulted in the guards reacting in a similar fashion. Everybody heard about this prisoner called Jacob. In the past, when the guards beat him he will insult them. Now he will bless them and tell them words of love! After the war, he went back to the US. The American Government decorated him with many medals. He enrolled into a Bible college affiliated with the Free Methodist denomination, preparing himself to go back to Japan as a missionary. He married a wonderful Christian woman called Florence and in 1948 they both went to Japan as missionaries. In 1959, they moved to Nagoya to establish a Christian church in the city he had bombed. After the bombing, Nagoya was rebuild.
He wrote Christian tracts. He later met the Japanese Captain Mitsuo Fuchida who bombed the Americans at Pearl Harbor. He became converted too after reading Jacob’s conversion. Together, they preached the Gospel of Christ in many places. Theirs was a lifelong friendship. I find that to be especially beautiful…that one of the main participants of the Doolitte raid would befriend the leader of the attack on Pearl Harbor whose actions resulted in the deaths of 2,403 Americans. Fuchida went on and became a missionary to Asia. When he died in 1977 his close friend, Jacob DeShazer led the funeral, gave a sermon and said goodbye to his close friend.
DeShazer retired after 30 years of missionary service in Japan and went back to his home town in Salem, Oregon where he spent the last years of his life in an assisted living home with his wife, Florence. On 15 March 2008, DeShazer died in his sleep at the age of 95, leaving his wife and five children: Paul, John, Mark, Carol, and Ruth. At his funeral service it was said: “At this time in our history, we feel it is ideal to honor a man who was a genuine war hero, [but] who after his sacrificial service put on gloves of peace, and touched the entire world with grace and humility.” God alone takes all the glory for such a wonderful salvation!
(In the Pictures, The bombing over Nagoya, Jacob and Florence DeShazer going to Japan as missionaries, Jacob doing evangelism in Nagoya, Japan and the City of Nagoya as it is today)