December 7, 2013 by genelup
On that Dec. 7 Sunday morning when the island exploded, a scared 19-year-old soldier crouched behind a machine gun. From his perch on top of a 60-foot tower, Charles W. Blazek was ordered to fire at the enemy – Japanese bombers and fighters that were attacking Pearl Harbor.
In the air leading the attack on the Hawaiian island was Mitsuo Fuchida, a captain in the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service. He had 361 airplanes under his command. When the attack ended, two United States battleships, a minelayer and two destroyers were either sunk or damaged beyond repair. A total of 188 U.S. aircraft were destroyed, and 2,388 people were killed and another 1,178 were wounded.
Fuchida returned to his Japanese aircraft carrier triumphant and a war hero. Even Emperor Hirohito summoned Fuchida for an audience.
Blazek, however, was shaken for days.
“I don’t believe there was an enlisted man who didn’t expect the attack,” recalled Blazek some 20 years after the onset. “The way things were buttoned down and the guard doubled, we knew that something was going to happen.”
Blazek was a member of the 62nd ordnance company. Three months earlier, it had been ordered to move the eight-inch guns from a carrier into shore batteries on hills overlooking the bay.
When the attack came, Blazek, of Milwaukee, said, “I was so scared that I was mentally numb. It took two days before I realized what had happened.
“Some of the planes came so close that I could have spit on them. I know I raked several planes from the front to the back as they flew overhead. I heard some of them sputter, but I don’t know if they went down.”
Blazek may have hit Fuchida’s plane. When the commander returned to his aircraft carrier, he found 20 large anti-aircraft holes and the main control wire barely held together by a thread.
Blazek went through the war island-hopping in the Pacific, coming out as a master sergeant. Some 20 years after the war, Blazek was appointed to organize the Wisconsin chapter of the Pearl Harbor Survivors’ association. At the time, he was the only one from Wisconsin although nationwide there were 10,000 members.
Meanwhile, Fuchida’s life after the war changed dramatically. In fact, he even came to American shores as a Christian missionary.
But that’s getting ahead of this story. After Japan’s defeat, Fuchida went through a period of depression. His hope for the Japanese empire expanding throughout the Pacific was crushed.
An American missionary handed him gospel literature on the street a few years after the war. Fuchida read the message written by an American airman who was in a Japanese prison camp during the war. The airman related how he once hated the Japanese people, but after his conversion, he loved them.
Fuchida read the tract and it inspired him to buy a Bible.
While thumbing through its pages, he read how Jesus Christ, while hanging on the cross, forgave those who were crucifying Him.
With this assurance of the greatness of Jesus’ love, Fuchida, too, forgave his enemies and was converted.
In 1952, Fuchida was asked to become the chief of staff of the reorganized Japanese air force. He told his superiors to give the position to one of his friends.
“For me, I’ll never come again with bombs but with Bibles; never a soldier of hate and war, but a soldier of love and peace in Christ,” he said.
Five years later, Japanese Premier Nobusuke Kishi offered Fuchica the minister of defense position. Fuchida refused, and asked if another man could have the job.
“I’ll spend the rest of my life trying to encourage my people to adopt the Christian way of life,” he told the premier.
He authored a book, From Pearl Harbor to Calvary, and also was featured in Reader’s Digest.
He made missionary trips to the United States.
“I believe the Lord permitted me to be the Pearl Harbor leader so I can now lead many of my Japanese people to the Lord and the Christian way of life,” he said. “When I speak under the title ‘From Pearl Harbor to Calvary,’ many who would not come to hear other Christian pastors or missionaries speak, would come to hear me, having remembrance of Pearl Harbor.”
Thirty-one years after the war, on May 3, 1976, Mitsuo Fuchida died at age 73 in Kashiwara, near Osaka.
(From Fish Catches Man, a collection of short stories by Gene Luptak. This story first appeared in The Milwaukee Journal)