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War and Forgiveness
Wall Street Journal
March 25, 2008; Page A22
The veterans of World War II are now at that age where they are dying ever more frequently, and their deaths should be an occasion to remember their achievement and sacrifice. Take the heroism and remarkable forgiveness of Jacob DeShazer, a bombardier on the famous Doolittle raid over Japan of April 18, 1942.
The Doolittle bombing raid was close to a suicide mission, a one-way trip to bring the war to the Japanese homeland for the first time. Coming not long after Pearl Harbor and before the Pacific island victories to come, the raid was a huge boost to domestic morale. Corporal DeShazer was one of five crewmen on Bat Out of Hell, a B-25 aircraft that took off from the aircraft carrier USS Hornet, dropped incendiary bombs over Nagoya, and then flew on to Japanese-occupied China, where the crew was forced to bail out.
DeShazer was taken prisoner, and was starved, beaten and tortured by his Japanese captors. For 34 of his 40 months in captivity, he was kept in solitary confinement. His pilot (Lieutenant William Farrow) and engineer-gunner (Sergeant Harold Spatz) were killed by firing squad. But DeShazer survived the war, was liberated after V-J Day in August 1945, and went on to get a degree in Biblical literature from Seattle Pacific College (now Seattle Pacific University). In 1948, he returned as a Christian missionary to the country that had nearly killed him, and he would continue his ministry in Japan for 30 years.
DeShazer died on March 15 at his home in Salem, Oregon, at age 95. It is one of life's safer bets that he is resting in peace.