Last Thursday marked the seventy-sixth anniversary of the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor Naval Base in Hawaii. Over 2400 Americans were killed and over 1000 more were wounded. The U.S. Naval fleet was severely crippled.
The Japanese lead pilot in the attack was Mitsuo Fuchida. He was one of only a handful of Japanese pilots who survived the war. He was made to give testimony in the war crimes trials that followed. It was his belief that the Americans must have treated Japanese prisoners no differently than the brutal treatment many American prisoners received at the hands of the Japanese.
To confirm his belief, he went to the camps of the repatriated Japanese prisoners and interviewed them. He was astonished to learn that none of the brutalities inflicted on Americans in Japanese prison camps had been perpetrated on these returning Japanese prisoners.
One of the returning prisoners told Fuchida the remarkable story of an 18-year-old girl named Margaret Covell, who volunteered as a social worker among the Japanese in one of the prison camps near the Colorado/Utah border. He related how that this girl, they called Peggy, would do all she could to help them. Touched by her kindness, some prisoners one day asked her why she did this. Her reply left them thunderstruck. She said, “It’s because the Japanese killed my parents.”
The Covells had served in Yokohama as missionaries till the war came, and them went to the safety of the Philippines. When the Philippine Islands fell to the Japanese the Covells were found with a small radio, tried as spies and were beheaded by the Japanese military court. Peggy, who and been sent back to the states when the war broke out, didn’t learn of the parent’s fate till after the war.
Initially she was filled with hate for the Japanese for what they had done, but after a time she realized that the forgiveness that her Saviour offered was even offered to those who had done the most wicked of deeds. Her hate soon was transformed into love, and she told the Japanese prisoners that what she did, she was sure was what her parents would want her to be doing.
In his biography Mitsuo Fuchida wrote, “This beautiful story overwhelmed me and made me ashamed.” The Covell story cured him of his spite and set him on a quest for that kind of peace. He came across an American who was selling Bibles on a street corner, and bought one. He read with a searching heart. In September of 1949, he saw the light of truth while rereading the gospel of Luke, and he trusted in Christ as his Saviour.
God used this man who once rained death from the skies to now bring the truth of the gospel to thousands of Japanese people who would come to hear of the conversion to Christianity of one of their war heroes. But it as began with the selfless Christianity of one 18-year old girl…