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Jacob DeShazer - A Job to Do

Updated: May 29, 2023

Jacob DeShazer is a national hero and an inspiring friend from history you need to know. DeShazer's testimony has been transforming lives for decades. He is the epitome of a life utterly changed by the Gospel. If we could only live with the kind of forgiveness and compassion that he had we could change the world!

Jacob DeShazer was one of Doolittle's Raiders that bombed targets in Japan, just about four months after Pearl Harbor. He was the bombardier on the 16th and final flight off the deck of the USS Hornet. Their target was in Nagoya and they had a successful drop. However, they did not have enough fuel to make it to safety and had to bail out in Japanese occupied territory. Below is an excerpt from my book, *All Nations, which tells his story.

“If we are given the commandment to love one another, it is surely possible for us actually to do so.” - Jacob DeShazer

A Job to Do

“Get ready, boys. We’ve got a job to do,” pilot William Farrow told his crew.

Jacob DeShazer had been ready for hours. Early that morning their crew boarded the last of sixteen bombers to take off from the USS Hornet aircraft carrier. The goal of the raiders was to bomb targets in Tokyo, Yokohama, Kobe, and Nagoya! Jacob was the bombardier on his crew. Nothing could stifle his joy at being able to inflict damage on his enemy. Not even the risky take off from the deck lessened his glee. He was going to bomb Japan and he was wonderfully happy about it!

The ocean was rough and the deck pitched up and down in the swell. As their plane taxied to the starting line, the ship dipped so low that the crew found themselves staring into the ocean. That’s when the deck officer gave them the signal to take off. The engines went to full power and the plane vibrated wildly. The pilot released the brakes. At the last moment, the ocean swell lifted the ship and it seemed to catapult them into the air.

For five hours, they flew across the Pacific. Jacob could only think of revenge. The cowardly Japs attacked Pearl Harbor without cause. They killed 2,400 people, and now they were going to pay. Yes, Jacob was more than ready when they reached Tokyo Bay.

When Lt. Farrow opened the bomb doors, Jacob was exhilarated. He saw his first target, an oil refinery. “Bombs Away!” he yelled and released the first bombs.

From his gun turret, Sgt. Harold Spatz had a great view. “We got ‘em!” He shouted. “The whole building’s in flames!”

Jacob dropped more bombs on an aircraft factory. He was delighted to see billows of smoke rise beneath him. The crew began cheering the success of their mission. As they completed their bombing raid, they set their sights on mainland China hoping to have enough fuel to reach safety. They soon realized that their chances of surviving the rest of the mission was slim. They were going to run out of fuel before they could get to a safe landing zone in China. Jacob didn’t care if he died. He had just bombed his most hated enemy. He was happy to give his life destroying them.

The sun had set when they neared the China coastline. When their fuel was nearly gone, Lt. Farrow opened the hatch and instructed them to bail out. One by one they jumped into the darkness. Jacob drifted down, down, down. He knew the ground had to be getting close, but he couldn’t see. Suddenly, he landed so hard that he broke some ribs.

He was disoriented and struggled to move. After a few minutes, he managed to get his bearings. He was in utter blackness. Unfortunately, their plane went down right in the middle of Japanese territory. Jacob was soon captured along with the rest of his mates.

Three members of another crew had also been captured. They were blindfolded, handcuffed and imprisoned in the Japanese-controlled city of Shanghai, China. The prison was filthy. The prisoners were completely isolated from one another most of time. They were barely fed and were randomly beaten just for sport.

After a few months, they were dragged through a trial where they were all found guilty. The Japanese killed Lt. Farrow and Sgt. Spatz as well as Lt. Dean Hallmark who had piloted the number six plane. Jacob’s hatred seethed within him. The more he suffered, the more he hated his enemies. His conditions were dreadful. The only food he had each day was a maggot-filled bowl of rice. His skin was covered in painful sores due to malnutrition. Each beating left him weak and angry. The long periods of isolation led him to despair.

On the few occasions that the prisoners were allowed to see one another, Jacob noticed Bob Meder. He had been the co-pilot of the other plane. Bob was different than the others. He thanked the guards for the rotten rice. When the guards beat him, he responded with kindness. Sometimes, he even asked the guards about their families. Once, when the guards allowed the prisoners to be together, Jacob told Bob that someday, they would be able to get their revenge on all the Japanese guards. Bob told Jacob not to hate the Japanese. Bob said they acted the way that they did because they needed Christ. Bob actually prayed for the guards who tortured him!

After about fourteen months in the prison camp, Bob died from starvation and disease. Jacob noticed something strange. The Japanese soldiers - his evil enemies - seemed sad about Bob’s death. They built him a coffin and placed flowers and a Bible on the top of it. They allowed the four remaining prisoners to pay their last respects to him. Jacob was confused. What was it that caused these hateful enemies to show sorrow over Bob’s death?

Jacob knew it was Bob’s faith in Christ.

Suddenly, Jacob was consumed with finding out what Bob believed. He begged the guards for the Bible that was on Bob’s coffin. They never brought it. When winter arrived, Jacob became very sick but somehow, he survived to spring. By summer his body was covered in boils and he was so sick that he became delirious. He was convinced he was dying and asked for the Bible again. Before he died, he wanted to know what it was in that Book that made such a difference in Bob Meder’s life. Finally, one day, a guard brought him the Bible. Jacob nearly cried.

He read it all the way through in less than a week. Then, he read it again. Some of the books he read several times. One day he read that to be saved, he needed to confess with his mouth that Jesus was Lord and believe in his heart that God had raised Jesus from the dead. That’s what Jacob did in that cell. He wept with tears of gratitude to God. It didn’t matter that Jacob was in unspeakable filth and suffering. He had found Jesus and his soul was free!

God’s Word changed him. For three long years all he ever wanted was to kill his enemies. Now he looked upon them with pity. He was consumed with a love for these people who had never heard that God loved them. A few days later, a guard beat him mercilessly. Jacob reacted in love. The next time Jacob saw that guard, he smiled at him. Jacob asked him about his health and family. Jacob continued to show God’s love whenever he saw him. Soon, the guard started giving Jacob extra food. He even brought a doctor in to treat all of the sores on Jacob’s body. Jacob and the guard were still enemies, but Jacob no longer hated him.

In August of 1945, forty long months after he had been captured, Jacob DeShazer was rescued by American soldiers. On his trip home, he kept thinking about how his guard acted when he was exposed to God’s love. Jacob knew that if the Japanese people could just hear about Jesus and accept Him as their Savior, their entire lives would change. Jacob remembered that when Jesus went to heaven, he gave his followers a job to do. He told them to be witnesses of Him to the ends of the earth. That’s what Jacob DeShazer intended to do.

He returned home and went to Bible college. He met a godly woman named Florence and they were married. Jacob wrote a gospel tract entitled I Was a Prisoner of Japan. He had no idea that more than a million copies of it had been distributed in Japan. After he graduated he returned to Japan to tell the people about Jesus. Thousands of Japanese people greeted him. They had read his tract. Two of the people in the crowd that day were former guards that had beaten him. After reading his tract, they had become Christians.

Later, Jacob met a man named Mitsuo Fuchida. Jacob’s tract was one of the tools that led to Fuchida’s salvation. Fuchida told Jacob that he was the man who had led the attack on Pearl Harbor. The man who bombed Pearl Harbor and the man who bombed Tokyo stood face to face. They were no longer enemies but brothers in Christ. They hugged recognizing the miracle God had done in them. “Brother, we have a job to do,” Jacob told Fuchida. For the rest of their lives, the two former enemies traveled throughout Japan telling others of Jesus.

Suggested reading: Jacob DeShazer: Forgive Your Enemies by Janet and Geoff Benge, YWAM Publishing, 2009, and Wounded Tiger by T. Martin Bennett, Onstad Press, 2016 and From Pearl Harbor to Calvary by Mitsuo Fuchida (original pub. date 1961) current edition by Verdun Press, 2016. The foreward in Fuchida's book is by Florence DeShazer, Jacob's wife.

Also, if you'd like to check out more missionary stories, one of our personal family favorite series is from YWAM (Youth With a Mission) Publishing. Click on image below to check out some of their great resources.

*The above excerpt is from my book All Nations which is a companion book for the Illuminate homeschool curriculum published by Union Gospel Press. It's release date has not yet been set, but stay tuned! I'll be sure and let you know when it is available.


Disclosure: Bear in mind that some of the links in this post are affiliate links and if you go through them to make a purchase I will earn a commission. Keep in mind that I link these companies and their products because of their quality. The decision is yours, and whether or not you decide to buy something is completely up to you. Please read full disclosure here.


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