My wife, Cindy, and I took a 10-day vacation in Hawaii to celebrate our 25th anniversary, doing all the "touristy" things like taking guided tours, snorkeling, going to luaus, and generally having fun. But our visit to Pearl Harbor—and especially the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial—was a somber, sobering event. I already knew a good deal about the Japanese surprise air attack on the morning of December 7, 1941. But Cindy and I still learned a good deal more at the museum and exhibits there.
At the Arizona Memorial, it's incredible to see the massive hulk of the sunken battleship just under the water, knowing that hundreds of men are still entombed there. The film reel shown at the museum depicting the exploding ship, lifting its mass 10 feet above the water, was jaw-dropping. Most of the men on board, probably sleeping on an early Sunday morning, never had a chance—and likely never knew what hit them. Walking through the memorial was somewhat eerie, with people talking in hushed tones, if talking at all. The large wall at the end of the memorial, listing all the men who perished there, is nothing short of mind-numbing. But I noticed many Japanese visitors looking up at the wall, and then bowing their heads and closing their eyes in contemplation, in reverence. You cannot leave the memorial without feeling humbled.
I was particularly interested in learning more about Mitsuo Fuchida, the commander of the Japanese attack force on Pearl Harbor. He orchestrated the bombing and strafing of the ships in the harbor, killing thousands of military personnel and civilians. He was also the one who uttered the famous "Tora Tora Tora" ("Tiger Tiger Tiger"), the code phrase indicating the surprise attack had been successful. After Pearl Harbor, he personally led air attacks against American and other allied bases throughout the Pacific.
Most people don't know that, shortly after the war, Fuchida converted to Christianity and became an evangelist, touring the United States and parts of Asia, spreading the Gospel for the remainder of his life. He came to love America and even obtained a resident card—although he never became a citizen. My understanding is that he felt he didn't deserve to be a citizen. I found it fascinating that Fuchida, who despised America during the war and, with a samurai mentality, was bent on revenge, found forgiveness in the United States and came to love its people.
One reason I was so interested in Mitsuo Fuchida is that I own a signed copy of his book, From Pearl Harbor to Golgotha, published in 1953. Beneath his name is a Bible verse written in Japanese. The reference is to Luke 23:34—"Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do."
Think about that for a minute.
I have long thought about Fuchida's inscription in the book. During our visit to the Arizona Memorial, we witnessed Japanese visitors bowing in reverence before the lists of names of those young men still entombed beneath the memorial. And it then occurred to me: Our enemies of today are often our friends of tomorrow. We hold no animosity toward the Japanese, nor do they toward us. What happened at Pearl Harbor was a sad, painful moment in our past—for both nations. Mitsuo Fuchida certainly came to understand this.
Perhaps, 30 or 40 years from now, our current enemies in the Middle East will be visiting the Twin Tower Memorial, reflecting in quiet reverence on the past and of the many lives that ended there, much like our Japanese friends who now visit the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial.
We can only hope ...