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From Prisoner to Missionary: Jacob DeShazer

Famous Missionaries, Japan, Uncategorized Add comments

Jacob DeShazerIt was December 7, 1941 when the Japanese attacked Peal Harbor. Jacob DeShazer was a 29 year old seargent in the US army. When he heard about the raid, he made it his goal to pay back the Japanese. He volunteered to join a special group that would attack Tokyo and turned the tide of the Pacific war. Unfortunately, after his successful mission, he and his team had to ditch their planes, parachuting into enemy territory. They were captured.

For the next three years, he paid a heavy price for his bravery as the Japanese beat, tortured and starved him as a “war criminal.” He was held in a series of P.O.W. camps both in Japan and China for 40 months — 34 of them in solitary confinement. He was severely beaten and malnourished while three of the crew were executed by a firing squad, and another died of slow starvation.

Filled with hatred and rage towards all Japanese, something seemingly impossible happened. DeShazer vowed to spend his life as a missionary, telling the Japanese of Christ’s love. So, what changed him? He asked for a Bible towards the end of his imprisonment and had a radical conversion experience that changed his life forever.

Here are some excerpts from a tract that DeShazer wrote and had distributed around Japan about his experience.

I WAS A PRISONER OF JAPAN
by Jacob DeShazer (1950)

“I was a prisoner of Japan for forty long months, thirty-four of them in solitary confinement

When I flew as a member of General Jimmy Doolittle’s squadron on the first raid over Japan on April 18th, 1942, my heart was filled with bitter hatred for the people of that nation. When our plane ran out of gas, and the members of the crew of my plane had to parachute down into Japanese-held territory in China and were captured by the enemy, the bitterness of my heart against my captors seemed more than I could bear.

Taken to Tokyo with the survivors of another of our planes, we were imprisoned and beaten, half-starved, and denied by solitary confinement even the comfort of association with one another, these terrible tortures taking place at Tokyo, Shanghai, Nanking and Peiping. Three of my buddies, Dean Hallmark, Fill Farrow and Harold Spatz, were executed by a firing squad about six months after our capture, and fourteen months later another of them, Bob Meder [a strong Christian], died of slow starvation. My hatred for the Japanese people nearly drove me crazy.

It was soon after Meder’s death that I began to ponder the cause of such hatred between members of the human race. I wondered what it was that made the Japanese hate the Americans, and what made me hate the Japanese. my thoughts turned toward what I had heard about Christianity changing hatred between human beings into real brotherly love, and I was gripped with a strange longing to examine the Christian’s Bible to see if I could find the secret. I begged my captors to get a Bible for me. At last, in the month of May, 1944, a guard brought the Book, but told me I could have it for only three weeks.

I eagerly began to read its pages. Chapter after chapter gripped my heart. …

How my heart rejoiced in my newness of spiritual life, even though my body was suffering so terribly from the physical beatings and lack of food. But suddenly I discovered that God had given me new spiritual eyes, and that when I looked at the Japanese officers and guards who had starved and beaten me and my companions so cruelly, I found my bitter hatred for them changed to loving pity. I realized that these Japanese did not know anything about my Saviour and that if Christ is not in a heart, it is natural to be cruel. I read in my Bible that while those who crucified Jesus on the cross had beaten Him and spit upon Him before He was nailed to the cross, He tenderly prayed in His moment of excruciating suffering, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” And now from the depths of my heart, I too prayed for God to forgive my torturers, and I determined by the aid of Christ to do my best to acquaint the Japanese people with the message of salvation that they might become as other believing Christians. …

At last freedom came. On August 20th, 1945, American parachutists dropped onto the prison grounds and released us from our cells. We were flown back to the United States and placed in hospitals where we slowly regained our physical strength.

I have completed my training in a Christian College, God having clearly commanded me: “Go, teach the Japanese people the way of salvation through the blood of Jesus Christ,” and am now in Japan as a missionary, with the one single purpose to lead me – to make Christ known.

I am sending this testimony to people everywhere, with the earnest prayer that a great host of people may confess Jesus Christ as their personal Saviour.”

In one of the most inspiring stories and miraculous stories to come out of this story, Fuchida, the Japanese pilot who bombed Pearl Harbor, and DeShazer, the Doolittle Raider who bombed Tokyo, became close friends. Fuchida became a Christian in 1950 after reading the DeShazer’s testimony above – and, like DeShazer, he spent the rest of his life as a missionary in Asia

Here is a video interview with Jacob DeShazer from CBN

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I was a Prisoner of Japan is DeShazer’s story as told to Don R. Falkenberg of The Bible Meditation League (BML), 1950.

One Response to “From Prisoner to Missionary: Jacob DeShazer”

  1. James Says:

    A new book is coming out honoring the story and life of Jacob DeShazer: “Return of the Raider: A Doolittle Raider’s Story of War and Forgiveness”.

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