Jacob DeShazer

Jacob DeShazer was never interested in religion. His mother and stepfather were devout Christians and while he admired their faith, Jesus didn't matter to him. Christ was just another person who died on a cross.

After graduating from high school in the midst of the Great Depression, he abandoned his dreams of college because his family didn't have enough money to send him. Instead he worked and saved up enough to start a turkey farm, but it failed. Single, young, and broke, he signed up for the army in 1940. On December 7, 1941 Japanese soldiers bombed Pearl Harbor. Jacob was furious and vowed, “Japan is going to pay for this!” Early in 1942, Jacob's captain called together a group of men and asked if they wanted to volunteer for a secret, dangerous mission. They were given no other information than that. Jacob really didn't want to join, but everyone else in the room raised their hand, so he did too.

The plan, led by Lieutenant Colonel Jimmy Doolittle, a legendary aviator, was risky at best. It consisted of sixteen modified Mitchell B-25 bombers and a carrier called the USS Hornet. The men would take off four hundred miles away from the coast of Japan. After bombing the cities of Tokyo, Kobe, Nagoya, and Yokohama, they'd refuel in China and fly out to Chungking. The mission was successful, but Jacob's plane, Bat (Out of Hell), was separated and the crew was forced to abandon the Bat and landed in China. The next day they were captured by the Japanese and became prisoners of war. Jacob was beaten, malnourished, and shuttled from one camp to another. He fell into the hands of the Kempei-Tai, Japan's military police. While in prison, Jacob got his hands on a Bible and became a Christian. During the three weeks he had the Bible, he learned Jesus wanted him to love his enemies. Jacob put that into practice and began to speak politely to his guards and treated them with respect. This confused the guards, but they responded in the same way and treated him better.

On August 20, 1945, after forty months of imprisonment, Jacob was released. He went back to the United States and after being discharged enrolled into Seattle Pacific College, where he spoke about his time in Japan and met Florence Matheny. She and Jacob became friends, then boyfriend/girlfriend, then engaged. They both wanted to be full time Christian missionaries and planned to go into the field after they graduated. They got married, had a baby, graduated, then headed out to be missionaries to Japan. Jacob wanted to serve the people that had held him in captivity for over three years.

Together Jacob and Florence served in Japan for twenty-nine years. But they weren't ready to retire yet! They held missionary meetings, then Jacob served as an assistant pastor in a church in Salem, Oregon. He made three trips back to Japan after retiring from mission service. As the years progressed he found out he had advanced Parkinson's disease and dementia. One day while his pastor was visiting he asked if Jacob remembered being a POW. in Japan. Jacob had no idea what he was talking about. Then the pastor asked if he remembered being a missionary in Japan. Jacob's eyes lit up. “Yes,” he said. “How I love the Japanese people.” He had forgotten and forgiven his captors, but he recalled and loved the people he served.

Jacob died March 15, 2008. leaving behind Florence, their children Paul, John, Mark, Carol, and Ruth, as well as several grandchildren. He was given the twenty-one gun salute at his funeral and buried with military honors. His awards includes the Purple Heart and the USAAF Bombardier Badge.

Posted in

No Comments