We Remember: World War II
by Robert Ricks, Becketwood Member
World War II and its aftermath set the course of my life.
I didn’t see my father from 1942 to 1945, when he returned from the service. My father was a dentist. After Pearl Harbor, he knew dentists would be in high demand and he could supplement his income to care for our young family, so he enlisted. He was successful: he once treated Admiral Nimitz, who praised him highly.
My own story was post World War II by a few years. I was a teenager and the pastor in our area sponsored a youth group who ran a radio program once a week—we had music, special guests, and various features. I did the interviews for some of the guests. One day my pastor told me, “You’re going to interview a very unusual guest tomorrow.”
“Oh? Who is it?”
“You’ll have to wait and see.” It was a kind of game we played—I couldn’t know ahead of time the questions I’d be asking. But I was especially unprepared to see the pastor walking in with a serious, thin but fit-looking Japanese man, with military bearing. What on earth was he doing in our country?
Mitsuo Fuchida, I learned, was a brilliant but humble man, a war veteran like my father, though on the other side, the enemy. He was a captain in the Japanese Navy and a bomber aviator before and during World War II. In fact, he was known for planning as well as leading the first air-wave attacks on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.
“The first time I came to your country I had hate in my heart for your people,” he told me. I nodded, worried. “But now I come with love because of the love of Jesus Christ.” I kept listening. What did that have to do with why he was here, and talking on the radio?
His story was a strange one. He survived the war but barely: in fact, he was blown off a carrier—off an operating table!—as he was having his appendix removed. He landed in the ocean and lost consciousness, but somehow was rescued to return to Japan. The next chapter of Fuchida’s tale was even more mysterious to me. In Tokyo he met a young soldier who told him of his wife’s parents who were missionaries in the Philippines, executed by Japanese soldiers. The young man gave him a Japanese copy of the New Testament, explaining that Jesus taught forgiveness of enemies.
Fuchida became deeply interested in trying to understand how anyone could treat their enemies with love and forgiveness. In his own Samurai code of conduct, known as Bushido, the warrior must maintain loyalty, courage, truthfulness, compassion, and honor. In that code, an offended party must carry out retaliation to restore honor. The murderer of one's parents would be an enemy for life. But now, a new understanding in the person of Jesus had entered his heart. The power of love transformed his earlier values. Now, he was spending his days speaking to Japanese—and American—youth about his conversion to the Christian faith in presentations titled "From Pearl Harbor To Calvary."
For a person of my years, this story was a lot to take in. Nevertheless, I think it showed me a path to follow for my life, as I studied theology and became a pastor.
Tail Gunner Vince
By John Teisberg
Vince grew up in Ortonville, a small town in west central Minnesota, and his dad owned a butcher shop/meat market. When World War II started, help was hard to get and Vince dropped out of school at sixteen to help his dad. When he reached age 18, he decided that the service would be more fun than working in the butcher shop and he enlisted. He wound up being a tail gunner in a B-17. On one bombing run, there was a tremendous amount of flak and the plane was bouncing around from the concussions and the sound was deafening. One of his crew members radioed Vince and said, “This is awful!” Vince radioed back, “You think this is bad? You should try scalding hogs in Ortonville!”