December 7, 2011, is the 70th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. It drew the United States into a war which already had been raging for over two years in Europe and ten years in Asia. The life of almost every family in this country was affected by this event, some more than others. The attack on Pearl Harbor fundamentally impacted our family.
When the Japanese Imperial Navy bombed Pearl Harbor, my mother and her parents and siblings were living in Seattle. They experienced the blackouts which were imposed on the West Coast. Grandpa Herzog was a blacksmith at the Olympic Foundry, which produced war materials. Mom sewed for a uniform manufacturer. Her two brothers entered military service, one in the Navy, the other in the Army. In addition, a neighbor family was taken to a detention camp (they lost their property). Rationing limited what you could buy and how much.
My father’s family was likewise affected. Dad was already in the U.S. Army. His brother Herb became a soldier, too. Some of Dad’s nephews also joined the military.
In December 1941, Dad was in the U.S. Army Signal Corps in Fairbanks, Alaska. At that time he was enrolled in the University of Alaska and expected to continue his college after his enlistment expired at the end of the year. Pearl Harbor changed all that. After the attack, his enlistment was extended indefinitely, at least to the end of hostilities. Then he was transferred to Kodiak and Seattle, then the Aleutians. While stationed in Seattle, he met Mom. Later they were wed while he was on emergency leave. I was born almost a year before the end of the war while Dad was in the Aleutians. He served on Adak and landed on Shemya.
After the war, Dad decided to make the Army a career, so about half my childhood was spent in Alaska: Juneau, Nome, Kodiak, and Adak. Two of my sisters were born in Alaska, Roberta in Juneau and Marie in Nome. The third sister, MariLyn, was born on an Army base (Fort Lawton) in Seattle. Dad retired at the end of 1959 after 20 years of service. Coincidentally, Alaska became a state in 1959, and Hawaii gained statehood soon afterward.
The attack on Pearl Harbor not only changed the lives of my parents, it shaped our family. Because of it, Dad met and married Mom, and I and my sisters were born where we were. Because of it, Dad stayed in the service and Seattle became our hometown, and this influenced my decision to attend Warner Pacific College in Portland, Oregon.
Now the story comes full circle. Capt. Mitsuo Fuchida was the lead pilot of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Three years after the surrender of Japan, the dispirited Fuchida found a tract written by a former US airman, Jacob DeShazer. He became a Christian, then an evangelist. While I was a student at Warner Pacific College, Capt. Fuchida came to visit and spoke in chapel. That is when I met him personally and took his hand as a brother in Christ. Not only had Pearl Harbor shaped my family, Jesus Christ had changed the man who led the attack. Because of that, meeting Fuchida is one of the most memorable moments of my life.
This story of Pearl Harbor begins with an act of war and ends with reconciliation. Enemies became friends and brothers. This would not have been possible without God. Jacob DeShazer was reconciled to God, then to his former enemies. The Apostle Paul says, “God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself . . . in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them . . .” (2 Cor 5:18-19). He did this through the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ, on the cross (Col 1:20).
Paul also said that God “gave us the ministry of reconciliation” and is “entrusting us with the message of reconciliation” (2 Cor 5:18-19). Mitsuo Fuchida was reconciled to God after reading a tract written by Jacob DeShazer. Fuchida and DeShazer later met and became friends and partners in ministry. God reconciled one person to Himself, then used that person to reconcile that person’s enemy to Himself, then reconciled them to each other.
As we observe the 70th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor and remember the impact on our nation and our people, also keep this in mind: On December 7, 1941, Japan and the United States were enemies. Now we are friends, reconciled. Thanks to God through Jesus Christ, DeShazer and Fuchida, who had been enemies, were reconciled as friends and brothers. Also thanks to God, through Jesus Christ many of us have been reconciled to Him and live. Romans 5:10 says, “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.” God reconciles us to Himself, then to each other, and then uses us to bring others to Him for reconciliation.
Seven days from the end of this month we celebrate Jesus’ birth. This is why He was born, to reconcile us, the enemy, to God.
Wesley G. Vaughn, '69
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All Scriptures from the English Standard Version.