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He was once, one of the most hated men in the United States of America... One of the most skilled pilots in the Imperial Japanese Navy... the man who helped plan and would ultimately lead the attack on the American naval base at Pearl Harbor.



Mitsuo Fuchida was born in on the 3rd of December, 1921 in Nara Prefecture, Japan. Throughout his youth and later as a cadet he saw how the western powers treated Japan like a second rate nation and how Japanese men and women were forced by their poverty to work in Hawaii and California, only to be poorly treated and discriminated against by their white overseers. He grew to hate the west and all that it stood for and embraced the fascist nationalist movement that was coming to power in Japan. He joined the Imperial Japanese Navy and eventually transferred to their air corps, specializing in horizontal bombing. He went on to fight against the Chinese in the 1930's and, by the advent of war in Europe had become one of the top pilots in the naval air corps.



In 1941, in response to America's freezing Japanese assets and declaring an oil embargo on Japan (which was itself a response to Japanese military moves on French Indochina as well as continued hostilities against the Chinese) the warlike Japanese government decided that war was imminent. Realizing the near impossibility of victory against so great an economic giant, fleet admiral Isoruku Yamamoto decided that a swift surprise attack, in the same vein as their attack on Port Arthur in 1905, would cripple the American Pacific fleet and allow Japan to 'run wild' for several months, hopefully long enough to conquer Asia and create a powerful barrier of island fortresses amongst the Pacific archipelagos. Planning for tactical surprise and maximum destruction was placed in the hands of Japan's most experienced pilot - Mitsuo Fuchida.



On December 8 (Pacific Time), 1941, Fuchida led the Japanese strike force against the sleeping American Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor. It was his plane that sent the historic message - To-Ra, To-Ra, To-Ra, signalling the beginning of the attack.



Hundreds of miles away, at a US Army camp in Oregon, a rude, tough sergeant was doing KP duty when he heard news of the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. In a fit of rage, Jacob de Shazer threw the potato he was peeling into the pile and vowed that the Japanese would pay for this - and that he would exact the vengeance.

The next few months saw the Japanese run wild across the Pacific and Southeast Asia. Fuchida and the men of the Combined Fleet were the heroes of Japan. Meanwhile, a top secret force was gathering at Eglin Airbase, on the Gulf coast, training with B-25 Mitchell bombers for extreme low level bombing. Jacob de Shazer was one of the men there. By April, as they embarked aboard the carrier USS Hornet, ostensibly to transport these bombers across the ocean, they got the real score. They were going to bomb Japan.


Staff Sergeant Jacob de Shazer, bombardier on the B-25 "Bat out of Hell" on the Doolittle Raid

The Doolittle Raid punctured the Japanese illusion of invincibility and greatly embarrassed the Combined Fleet, from Admiral Yamamoto on downward. The admiral decided on a more aggressive strategy that would push the bounderies of the Greater-East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere even further into American territory, culminating in a daring raid on the advanced American outpost, halfway across the Pacific - the tiny atoll of Midway.



Fuchida was not to lead the grand aerial attack on the American carriers as he had hoped. He was incapacitated with appendicitis and confined to his ship, the carrier Akagi. One day, he heard a voice inside him prompt him to go up on deck. This was the same voice that had guided him back to his ship as a young pilot who had lost his bearings in the gathering darkness. Fuchida obeyed - just in time to escape the cataclysmic attack by the American SBD divebombers that would fatally damage three of the four Japanese fleet carriers including Fuchida's own ship.



After Midway, the war turned against the Japanese. Revenge was taken on the Doolittle raiders who had fallen into Japanese hands, including Jacob de Shazer. Several of the raiders were executed as 'war criminals' and the rest were imprisoned in horrific conditions. Another raider, Robert Meder, died of disease. The only thing that de Shazer and the others had to read was a page of the Bible. As he read it, de Shazer became a changed man. In the hell of Japanese prison, Jacob de Shazer turned to heaven.

Meanwhile, Fuchida watched helplessly as the American advance came ever closer to the home islands. Then in August 1945 it all came to an end. In his cell, de Shazer heard a voice within him prompting him to pray as he had never prayed before, that the war would end. That day, America dropped the first atomic bomb on Japan. Fuchida was one of those detailed to make a report on the effects of the 'special bomb' on Hiroshima. While the other men who had been assigned this task eventually succumbed to radiation poisoning, Fuchida remained healthy. But his soul had grown sick. He wrote a pamphlet "No More Pearl Harbors" and sought to find a way out of the hatred and vengefulness that had so consumed his life. Then, during the war crimes trial in Tokyo, two things happened that changed Fuchida's life forever.



Fuchida had been assigned to interview several returned Japanese pilots who had been captured by the Americans. He was determined to show that even as the Allies had accused the Japanese of atrocities, that they had themselves committed atrocities on Japanese prisoners of war. One man was his former flight engineer, Kanegasaki, who Fuchida had thought dead since Midway. When interviewing Kanegasaki, the aviator revealed that they had been cared for by a young American woman, Peggy Covell, who was always conscientious and caring toward them. When asked why she did this to the enemies of her country, Ms.Covell revealed that it was because her parents, American missionaries in the Philippines, had been murdered by Japanese soldiers. But instead of hating the Japanese, she was doing what her parents would have wanted her to do - to show the Japanese the love of God. For Fuchida, who had been raised in the Bushido code where vengeance, particularly for the murder of one's parents, was to be undertaken even if it took a thousand years, this was earth-shattering.



Then, a year later near Shibuya railway station, Fuchida was handed a small tract in Japanese which said simply, "I was a prisoner of Japan". This was the story of Jacob de Shazer who, after being repatriated to America at the end of the war, had gone to a Christian seminary and, in 1948, returned to Japan as a missionary. The overwhelming power of forgiveness in the face of the torture that his own people had inflicted on this one-time enemy of his, cut Fuchida to the heart. He began to examine the Christian faith. A year later, after studying the Bible, Fuchida became a Christian.

Fuchida became a missionary of reconciliation and forgiveness both for Japan and America. He toured across America, many times facing the families of the men who he had either killed or were dead because of him with a simple message. "I am sorry. I wish for you to forgive me for what I have done and experience the release from the hatred, the vengeance and the violence that I have experienced." He also wrote of his wartime experiences and became one of the most (for good or ill) influential voices in writing the history of the naval war in the Pacific.

Mitsuo Fuchida died on May 30, 1976 at the age of 73. Once a man of blood and hatred, he had become God's samurai.

Source:
Goldstein, Donald, Katherine V. Dillon and Gordon W. Prange. God's Samurai: Lead Pilot at Pearl Harbor (The Warriors). Washington, DC: Potomac Books, 2003.
 

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Nice! To add a little trivia to the film if I may, a friend of the family who was a co-producer of the film and lived in Greece was highly amused when it was miss translated over there, as "Torah" in Greek means "now" so a lot of uninformed rushed to see it!LOL.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
It's really interesting how many ways 'Tora' can be taken. It means so many things at once - Tora as it is means Tiger, which would be an inspiring thing as it is - General Yama****a was famously known as the 'Tiger of Malaya' (Marai no Tora). However, it also is a combination of Totsugeki or Totsugeskiseyo, which means 'charge' (as in 'attack' or 'sound the charge') and Raigeki meaning 'torpedo attack'. The idea was for the torpedo planes (which needed to fly in low and slow to launch successful attacks) to make an initial attack without needing to deal with American antiaircraft fire and if total surprise had been achieved then the torpedo planes were supposed to latch on to the high value targets (battleships and aircraft carriers) and very quietly and unassumingly make their runs before the high level bombers and dive bombers let all hell break loose.

Furthermore - and this was shown over and over again in WW2 - high level bombing was next to useless against anything but ships at anchor while dive bombing, while more effective, just wasn't as effective at sinking ships with one or two hits as was torpedo attacks (logically, since torpedoes puncture below the waterline) so the idea was that these other two types of bombers were to hit ground installations and the airfields (Ford Island, Kaneohe, Haleiwa).

So - charge and make torpedo attack - To-Ra, To-Ra, To-Ra!
 
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