Pearl Harbour Bomber is Reborn

Captain Mitsuo Fuchida is known by historians as the man who led the first wave of Japanese bombers during Japan’s attack on the US Navy base at Pearl Harbour on 7th December, 1941. His green flare from the cockpit of his plane signalled the order to attack. He then ordered his radio operator to send the message “Tora! tora! tora!,” meaning, “Attack! attack! attack!” The Japanese forces soon realised that they had achieved complete surprise. In 1970, “Tora! Tora! Tora!” was the title of a Hollywood movie dramatisation of the battle.

The attack on the US base in Hawaii resulted in the death of 2,403 American sailors together with 64 Japanese naval servicemen who were shot down. The following day the United States officially declared war on Japan and ‘the war in the pacific’ began, officially turning the War in Europe into World War Two.

But there is also another side to Captain Fuchida which was revealed a few years later.


Born in 1902, Mitsuo Fuchida entered the Imperial Japanese Naval Academy at Hiroshima as a nineteen-year-old rookie in 1921. He became friends with classmate Minoru Genda and discovered that they had a mutual interest in aircraft. After graduating as a midshipman in 1924, Mitsuo quickly rose through the ranks becoming an ensign in 1925 and a sub-lieutenant in 1927. In December 1930 he was promoted to full lieutenant and began to specialise in horizontal bombing. Excelling in this speciality, he became an instructor and was promoted to lieutenant commander in December 1936. Mitsuo gained combat experience following the outbreak of the Sino-Japanese war in 1937 and joined the aircraft carrier Akagi in 1939 as commander of the air group. As Japanese ambitions for dominance grew in the Pacific, war was clearly brewing with America and the west. Lieutenant-Commander Fuchida was an exceptional officer and was again promoted to full commander in October 1941.

Commander Fuchida became infamous when he led the first wave of Japanese bombers against the Pearl Harbour base shortly before Christmas in 1941. As the first wave returned to the carriers, he circled over the target area to assess the damage and to observe the second-wave of bombers as they attacked their targets. After the second wave had completed its mission, he realised that the planned third wave was unnecessary and returned to the Akagi. With great pride, he announced that the U.S. fleet had been destroyed. The successful assault made him a national hero in Japan. As a result, Commander Fuchida was one of the few Japanese officers to be granted a personal audience with Emperor Hirohito.

In February 1942, Commander Fuchida led a devastating air raid on the city of Darwin, Australia. He also led a series of air attacks against the British Naval base in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), the headquarters of the British Eastern Fleet. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill called this attack “the most dangerous moment” of World War Two.

Surviving Three Near Death Experiences

In June 1942, while on board Akagi, Commander Fuchida was wounded at the Battle of Midway. The famous aircraft carrier which had carried the Japanese attack force to victory at Pearl Harbour  was sunk just six months later, but a seriously injured Mitsuo amazingly survived. This was his first near escape from death. After spending several months recuperating, he spent the rest of the war in Japan. Two years later in October 1944 he was promoted to the rank of captain. 

Then, in August 1945, Captain Fuchida was in Hiroshima attending a military conference. He was ordered back to Tokyo on 5th August, the day before the first atomic bomb was dropped on the city. Following this second near escape, he was sent back again to Hiroshima from Tokyo on 7th August, the very day after the atom bomb obliterated the city. Captain Fuchida was appointed to lead a team of experts to assess the devastation. All the other members of the team later died of radiation poisoning, but Fuchida miraculously had no symptoms and lived for another 31 years.

Post-war Personal Challenges

Following the surrender of Japan on 2nd September,1945, Captain Fuchida’s military career ended just a few weeks later in November with the American-led occupation of Japan.

Soon he was called on to testify at the trials of some of the more senior Japanese military for Japanese war crimes. He was furious at the time, seeing the whole affair as farcical or “victors’ justice” as he called it. Convinced that the U.S. had treated the Japanese prisoners of war with the same brutality that the Japanese were infamous for, he went to Uraga Harbour near Yokosuka to meet a group of returning Japanese POWs. Mitsuo was shocked to find his former flight engineer, Kazuo Kanegasaki, who everyone believed had died in the Battle of Midway, looking in great shape. Kanegasaki told him that they were treated well and were not tortured or abused by the Americans. The former flight engineer then went on to tell him about Peggy Covell, a kindhearted young woman who served them with the deepest love and respect despite the fact her Christian missionary parents had been murdered by Japanese soldiers in the Philippines. .

A New Moral Code

The now retired Captain Fuchida found this difficult to comprehend. The Bushido Code (a brand of conduct originating with the Samurai warriors) did not just permit revenge for such actions, it was expected as “a responsibility” for an offended party to carry out revenge to restore honour! The murderer of a person’s parents would become a sworn enemy for life! This outcome was a little crazy and he found itv hard to accept.

In the Autumn of 1948, Mitsuo Fuchida was at Shibuya Railway Station when he was handed a pamphlet about the life of Jacob DeShazer, a US pilot who was captured by the Japanese after his B-52 bomber crashed in occupied China. In the pamphlet, DeShazer told the story of his Christian “awakening” during his torture at the hands of the Japanese military. Reading of his experience increased Fuchida’s curiosity of the Christian faith. Fuchida got hold of a copy of the Bible and began to avidly read it for himself. After some time studying the Bible, he decided to commit his life to following and serving Jesus Christ. In September 1949 he discarded his Shinto beliefs for good and became a Christian. 

Less than a year later in May 1950, Fuchida and DeShazer met for the first time. Fuchida created the “Captain Fuchida Evangelistic Association” based in Seattle, Washington. For the next twenty-three years of his life he was dedicated full-time to speaking of his Christian conversion. His presentations were usually entitled “From Pearl Harbour To Calvary”. In 1952, just ten years after the devastating Pearl Harbour attack, the former Japanese navy captain toured North America with The Worldwide Christian Missionary Army of Sky Pilots. His infamy resurged again In February 1954 when The Reader’s Digest published his story of the attack on Pearl Harbour. 

The Evils of the Atomic Age

Whether or not the allies should have dropped the two atomic bombs on Japan in 1945 has been greatly debated for decades. Around 225,000 people died as a result of the devastating explosions. But Captain Fuchida had no doubts as to whether this was the right thing to do. In 1959, he met General Paul Tibbets, the pilot who flew the ‘Enola Gay’ Boeing B-29 Superfortress which dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima. It was quite a conversation when the man who led the attack on Pearl harbour, which started the war in the Pacific, met the man who effectively ended that same war. General Tibbets said ”You sure did surprise us at Pearl Harbour.” Captain Fuchida, replied, “What do you think you did to us at Hiroshima?” Fuchida then added, “You did the right thing. You know the Japanese attitude at that time, how fanatical they were, they’d die for the Emperor … Every man, woman, and child would have resisted that invasion with sticks and stones if necessary … Can you imagine what a slaughter it would be to invade Japan? It would have been terrible. The Japanese people know more about that than the American public will ever know.” For a former Japanese officer to make such an admission was quite something. 

Mitsuo Fuchida spent the rest of his life working to bring the love of Jesus Christ to as many people as he could. He spent much of his time in the United States, but also had prolonged periods in Japan. He died of complications from diabetes in Kashiwara,  near Osaka in May 1976 at the age of 73.

Captain Fuchida wrote three books: one on the Battle of Midway, one a personal memoir, and one on his Christian conversion.


Story by Ralph Burden

Photo attribution: Public Domain

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