Jake DeShazer in military uniform

Shortly after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt ordered a retaliatory air assault on Japan.

Jake Deshazer
Photo courtesy of SPU Photo Archives

JAKE DESHAZER ’48 was part of the special unit formed to carry out this storied attack, known as  the Doolittle Raid. In April 1942, DeShazer and his crew bombed an oil installation and a factory located just south of Tokyo. They then continued toward an ally base in China but, after nearly 14 hours of flying, their plane ran was out of fuel. The crew was forced to parachute over enemy territory.

DeShazer was captured, tortured, and held in a Japanese prison camp for 40 months. During his long captivity, he thought of the faith he had grown up with — DeShazer’s father was a Church of God minister.

“I begged my captors to get a Bible for me,” he wrote in I Was a Prisoner of Japan, a religious tract he published in 1950. Amazingly, a guard brought him an English-language Bible. “I discovered that God had given me new spiritual eyes and that when I looked at the enemy officers and guards who had starved and beaten my companions so cruelly, I found my bitter hatred for them changed to loving pity.”

Days after Japan surrendered in 1945, DeShazer and the other prisoners were liberated. DeShazer enrolled at Seattle Pacific College, where he studied to become a missionary and also met his future wife, FLORENCE MATHENY ’48.

In 1948, the DeShazers moved to Japan, where they lived for the next 30 years. By sharing his story, he brought thousands of Japanese — including two of his former prison guards — to Christ. Mitsuo Fuchida, the Japanese naval flier who led the attack on Pearl Harbor, was also among those who became a Christian because of DeShazer, and the two men preached together on several occasions.

Over his lifetime, DeShazer was awarded numerous decorations including a Purple Heart, a Distinguished Flying Cross, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and a Congressional Gold Medal.

In a nomination letter for the Congressional Gold Medal, Executive Director of the Oregon War Veterans Association Greg Warnock wrote, “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 world with grace and humility.”

For more from Response about Jake DeShazer, read Flight Into Eternity in the spring 2004 issue.

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