Pearl Harbor: A Perspective with Christian Applications

On December 7, 1941, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in the Hawaiian Islands, bringing the United States into World War II. While many people know of this event, they often wonder what prompted the Japanese to attack the United States. In recognition of this day, I would love to take a moment to recap the main events and highlight the biblical importance of standing ready. 

It started back in the 30s during the Great Depression as tensions progressively got worse between the two countries. One of the primary tensions was Japan’s plan to invade China to help their economy. However, the League of Nations, founded by President Woodrow Wilson, denounced the invasion, so Japan left the League of Nations, founded after World War I to solve world disputes. Despite opposition, Japan continued trying to expand globally. As a result, the United States placed an embargo on trading with Japan. On September 27, 1940, Japan, Italy, and Germany signed the Tripartite Pact, making them allies. Negotiations were ongoing between Tokyo and Washington for months leading up to the Pearl Harbor attack, but to no avail. Japan knew war was imminent, and they believed their only chance was a surprise attack. 

Pearl Harbor was made the main base for the U.S. Pacific Fleet during this time, but it was not well protected since the United States never expected anyone would attack it. The attack was planned by Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, a Japanese Naval Academy graduate who was a strong advocate of air power and popular among the Japanese military elite. In 1940, the Japanese government, which controlled their military, pressured him into planning an attack on the United States. At this point, the United States was neutral in World War II, and Yamamoto felt they shouldn’t attack. He tried to convince the Japanese government to stay neutral for Japan’s good, stating, “I can guarantee to put up a tough fight for the first six months, but I have absolutely no confidence about what would happen if it went on for two or three years… I hope you will make every effort to avoid war with America.” However, the government didn’t listen, so against his better judgment, Yamamoto planned an attack against the United States: the bombing of Pearl Harbor. 

This tragic event occurred on December 7, 1941 and completely shocked the unsuspecting United States. The attack killed 2,403 people, 68 of whom were civilians. The attack also destroyed 19 Navy ships, eight of which were battleships. This was a devastating event that turned the tide of World War II, motivating the United States to get involved. 

Image curtesy of Britannica.

The unpreparedness of the United States made me think of the importance of being ready. In Matthew 24:42, Jesus said, “Therefore keep watch because you do not know on what day you Lord will come.” Just like the Japanese believed war with the United States was imminent, so much more so is the return of Jesus. Are we ready? What about others, are they? Just as it’s crucial for the United States or any nation to be prepared for an attack, the human race needs to be ready for when Jesus returns. In Matthew 28, Jesus gave us the Great Commission to tell everyone the good news. God has invited us to play a huge role in preparing for Jesus’ return, and it is important we do not waste the time we have to prepare. 

So, what happened to Fuchida, the man who led the attack? On April 14, 1950, he accepted Jesus Christ as His Lord and Savior. The testimony of Jacob DeShazer, a prisoner of war, made Fuchida want to know more about Jesus. Fuchida became an evangelist. He spent the next 25 years of his life as “an ambassador of peace” and died in Japan in 1976 from diabetes complications. Before dying, he penned two books: From Pearl Harbor to Calvary and Midway: The Battle that Doomed Japan