A PLACE CALLED PEARL
I can still hear the wail of our local fire station siren, even sixty years later. It had wailed and wailed. That siren was the local alarm that not only summoned the volunteer firemen, but told us when events of importance were happening...and soon there were screams as distraught men and women ran through the streets of our small town. How frightened I was! I too ran out of the movie theatre that Sunday afternoon and heard about a place far away called Pearl Harbor.
At that time, I was well into the war...we grew up with it. We knew places like the Rhine, Paris, and where the allies were fighting Hitler's nazi armies, because our nightly activity revolved around a huge radio with live reports...because our little hands loaded up the trucks with scrap iron and made the bandages at the local Red Cross...because we hoed our Victory gardens and did without tires on the car...because we took baked goods to the homes of grieving parents and widows. We heard the bombs...we lived war. We soon learned that Pearl Harbor meant the war had shifted to our part of the world...we had suffered a personal attack. It was no longer Europe's war...it was OUR war.
During those long years from 1941-44, our heroes were not television or movie actors...they were the older brothers of our best friends... skinny high school graduates in sleek navy uniforms, or goggled-pilots in leather jackets. But I also soon learned it was not all patriotic hoopla when my father took me to the crash site at a local fighter training base. Why he took us there I do not know, perhaps it was to teach us in a morbid way what death was about. There I picked up the remnant of a flight jacket zipper and the charred remains of his wrist watch, I knew then that war meant death and dying on both sides.
It took a long time for me to finally visit Pearl. I was on my way to other parts of Asia doing mission work and found myself with about a half day to kill. I decided to go to the Arizona memorial...by myself. How glad I am that I went alone...for it was during my time there that I had a profound experience that affected me the rest of my life. No...it was not the overwhelming thought of those thousands of young boys who died and lay entombed in that sunken ship. Ironically, it was to see the hundreds of Japanese crying at that place! It had never occurred to me that Japanese would even come there...much less weep openly!
My thoughts of the Japanese people had been affected by having known a young pilot (who lived three doors down the street from our house). He had endured the Bataan Death March and escaped to come back home and tell of the horrible atrocities that took place during that imprisonment. It was merciless savagery. After his book had become published, all of America now knew that our enemy was not one which regarded human life as precious nor showed any semblance of human compassion toward prisoners. To behead was no more an event than swatting a fly...We could not understand how humans could act like that...no Christian nation could.
As I continued travel throughout S.E. Asia, I found that so many had suffered horrible things from the hands of the Japanese...rape, pillage, starvation. A barbarism that defies the imagination. And in many places I found it so deep-rooted a scar, that many Christians found it impossible to forgive the Japanese people.
Then I visited Japan myself...twice. Here was a bustling, lovely people...yet sadly the older generation still seemed to be torn apart...as if there was such a deep wound inside their hearts which could never be healed. Japan had turned itself into a world trade giant, but there was no world acceptance...the isolation still affected them in every way.
Once, a Japanese minister asked me, "Sister Adams...what is wrong with us? Why do we have these feelings?" I looked at his inquiring face...knowing he was three generations removed from those war years, yet still suffering "the sins of the fathers." It was then I told him the story of Mitsuo Fuchida.
Most Americans are unaware of this story...Mitsuo was the Japanese commander who led the raid on Pearl Harbor. As they returned to their aircraft carrier, having left Pearl in ruins, it was Mitsuo who shouted the code word "TORA! TORA! TORA!" (Tiger! Tiger! Tiger!) to show that complete surprise had been achieved.
This daring raid was Mitsuo's crowning achievement. Since a young boy, he had read the stirring accounts of naval victories and his ambition was to be a national hero. After this event, Mitsuo was just that...and enjoyed a ticket-tape welcome back home, with many honors. Later, Mitsuo was wounded at the battle of Midway, and was then assigned to other positions as the war ended. But a strange event happened to him that would change his life forever.
Called to Tokyo to attend the war trials tribunals, Mitsuo was in the court room giving his testimony. Outside of the building was a young man who had stayed behind after the war ended, though he had been a prisoner of war for 3 1/2 years. It was during his imprisonment that Jake DeShazer became a Christian. After enduring torture and endless starvation, Jake decided (on his own) to become a missionary to his captors. He had printed up some simple tracts which said, "I was a prisoner of the Japanese for 3 1/2 years, but I forgive them all". As Mitsuo came out of that courtroom, Jake handed this man a tract.
Later, in his hotel room, Mitsuo began to read the little tract which told of the forgiveness of God and how Jesus, even dying upon a cross, forgave those who crucified him. Forgive? This was not a Japanese concept....to forgive your enemy? To lose face was almost unendurable! What shame and humiliation...how could this be? Most Japanese committed hari-hari to end their lives rather that face the horror of being wrong. Yet, Mitsuo purchased a Bible and read further...and became a Christian. Later, he also became an evangelist...to the chagrin of his fellow Japanese. He suffered much persecution.
Jake DeShazer? He also became an evangelist...to the very people who had brought him so much misery. Ironically, Jake had been a volunteer on the Doolittle raid on Tokyo and been shot down.
What are we saying here? Simply, that there is but one way for all of us...to forgive one another. War has many reasons for its roots...but millions of roots are affected by its reasons. Children are deprived of fathers, homes torn apart, scarred memories and demons of fear torment so many...even today.
As we reflect upon the supreme price paid by so many...let us not forget who it was that paid the price for every man on each side...and His sacrifice still remains the only answer to war and the only way for peace...in any heart.
MARY E. ADAMS