Friday, July 27, 2007

Doolittle Raider Tribute--Jake Deshazer

Today, on the suggestion of an 8th Air Force man, we are going to take the day off from the 8th Air Force and the air war in Europe and honor the men who flew the suicidal Doolittle Mission against Tokyo in April of 1942. Most people know the story of the Doolittle Raid, but a quick summation is in order.

In 1942, only a few months after the Japanese surprise attack killed thousands of unsuspecting Americans at Pearl Harbor, aviation legend Jimmy Doolittle put together a top secret mission to raise American morale and strike a blow back at Japan. The mission called for volunteer airmen to fly 16 B-25 medium bombers off the flight deck of an aircraft carrier and bomb Tokyo itself.

Every man recruited for this mission undertook it knowing that it was, essentially, a suicide mission. Once the planes had bombed their targets, they would either fly on and land in China or crash when their fuel ran out.

The crew of #16 (from left): George Barr (navigator), William Farrow (pilot), Harold Spatz (engineer gunner), Robert Hite (copilot) and Jacob DeShazer (bombardier).

On April 18, 1942, the 16 B-25's roared down the pitching flight deck of the USS Hornet, timing their takeoff rolls so that they would leave the deck as it crested a wave. Loaded with bombs and men, the planes strained to remain airborne. All defensive armament had been removed to lighten them. All the planes made it into the air safely.

However, the mission had now truly become suicidal. The Hornet had been spotted by several Japanese fishing boats and the commander was afraid that their location would be relayed to the Japanese Navy. The decision was made to launch the planes immediately, even though they were still 640 miles from the Japanese mainland. This was a full 200-300 miles farther than the plan had called for.
Bombardier Jake DeShazer's B-25 bomber was the last to take off from the lurching deck of the U.S.S. Hornet. Ahead lay the enemy territory of Japan.

The B-25s screamed in low and fast, ripping their targets from very low altitude and under heavy flak barrage.

Some of the crews and planes made it to China, where they crashlanded and were picked up by the friendly Chinese. However, several of the planes went down in enemy territory, and the men were captured.

About five years ago, I made the acquaintance of a man by the name of Jacob Deshazer, who goes by the shorter 'Jake'. Deshazer's plane had gone down in enemy territory. At least one of the crew was killed in the crash, and the rest became prisoners of war. They would remain so until the end of the war. During their incarceration, the Japanese charged some of the crewmen with war crimes for bombing civilian targets. Several of the men were eventually executed.

As the war dragged on, Deshazer and the surviving members of his crew struggled with fear, depression, and painful torture. However, Deshazer had an ally. He was a strong Christian and as he sat in his cell for three years, he found his faith growing daily.

After the war ended, Jake Deshazer became a Christian evangelist. He vowed to return to Japan and share the word of Christ with his former enemies, and so he did. In fact, one of his converts was the pilot who led the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.
Mitsuo Fuchida trained hard for his mission on December 7, 1941. When the day dawned he was filled with excitement about his mission to devastate American posts at Pearl Harbor. (Image courtesy of

Nine years after bombing Pearl Harbor, Mitsuo Fuchida came to faith in Jesus Christ because he read the testimony of God’s power of forgiveness that had changed Jacob DeShazer’s life. The met and encouraged one another in Tokyo, Japan. (Image courtesy of

In my communications with Mr. Deshazer over the years, he has graciously shared parts of his story. However, there are several books that I highly recommend to learn more about the Doolittle Raid. All are excellent. I'm going to provide links to them below.

Thirty Seconds over Tokyo: (Pilot Ted Lawson's classic tale of the raid, made into a famous movie--the movie is also excellent)

Not As Briefed, By Ross Greening. (Greening was a Doolittle Raider who then went to Europe and ended up a POW. He was a talented artist, and this may be the best book of art to come out of World War Two)

The First Heroes: (My favorite book overall on the raid itself, well-told and highly recommended)

DeShazer: (The amazing story of Jake Deshazer's spiritual journey--I gave one of my former students a signed copy when he was confirmed in my church. Mr. Deshazer is one of my personal heroes. He took evil and turned it into good)

Destination Tokyo: (The best pictorial history of the Doolittle Raid)

I have been a Doolittle Raid buff for many years, and though I've only had direct communication with one, I feel like I know and love all those brave men.

An excellent site written by Deshazer can be found by clicking this link:
Among DeShazer’s many military decorations for service and bravery are the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Purple Heart and the Chinese Breast Order of Yung Hui.

1 comment:

Richard Havers said...

Brilliant work Rob! Your site should be standard issue on all school curriculum.

I wish I had had a teacher like you when I was at school