Obituary: Jacob DeShazer, bombardier in 1942 Doolittle raid against Japan
Salem, Ore. - Jacob DeShazer, a bombardier in the storied Doolittle raid over Japan in World War II who endured 40 months of brutality as a prisoner of the Japanese, then became a missionary in Japan, died March 15 at his home in Salem. He was 95.
His death was announced by his wife, Florence.
On April 18, 1942, crewmen in 16 Army Air Forces B-25 bombers, commanded by Lt. Col. James H. Doolittle, flew from the carrier Hornet on a daylight bombing raid that brought the war home to Japan for the first time since the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
The raid resulted in only light damage to military and industrial targets, but it buoyed an American home front stunned by Japanese advances during the war's first four months.
Cpl. DeShazer, a native of Oregon and the son of a Church of God minister, was among the five-member crew of Bat Out of Hell, the last bomber to depart the Hornet. His plane dropped incendiary bombs on an oil installation and a factory in Nagoya but ran out of fuel before the pilot could try a landing at an airfield held by America's Chinese allies.
The five crewmen bailed out over Japanese-occupied territory in China and all were quickly captured. In October 1942, a Japanese firing squad executed the pilot, Lt. William G. Farrow, and the engineer-gunner, Sgt. Harold A. Spatz, along with a captured crewman from another Doolittle raid plane. DeShazer and the other surviving crewmen from his plane, Lt. George Barr, the navigator, and Lt. Robert L. Hite, the co-pilot, were starved, beaten and tortured at prisons in Japan and China - spending most of their time in solitary confinement - until their liberation a few days after Japan's surrender in August 1945.
Amid his misery, DeShazer had one source of solace.
"I begged my captors to get a Bible for me," he recalled in "I Was a Prisoner of Japan," a religious tract he wrote in 1950. "At last, in the month of May 1944, a guard brought me the book, but told me I could have it only for three weeks. I eagerly began to read its pages. 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 and me so cruelly, I found my bitter hatred for them changed to loving pity. I realized that these people did not know anything about my Savior and that if Christ is not in a heart, it is natural to be cruel."
Upon returning home, he enrolled at Seattle Pacific College (now Seattle Pacific University) and received a bachelor's degree in biblical literature in 1948. He arrived in Japan with Florence, also a graduate of Seattle Pacific and a fellow missionary in the Free Methodist Church, in late December 1948. A few days later, he preached his first sermon there, speaking to about 180 people at a Free Methodist church in a Tokyo suburb.
In 1950, he gained a remarkable convert.
Mitsuo Fuchida, the Japanese naval flier who had led the Pearl Harbor attack and had become a rice farmer after the war, came upon the DeShazer tract.
Fuchida later had become an evangelist and had made several trips to the United States to meet with Japanese-speaking immigrants.
DeShazer spent 30 years in Japan doing missionary work, interrupted only by a sabbatical to earn a master's degree at Asbury Theological Seminary in Kentucky in 1958.
As best that I can tell, there are only 15 surviving Raiders left.