CHATTING WITH A FORMER ENEMY
The program at Navy Journalist School at Great Lakes Naval Training Center, near Chicago, in the 1950s included “Weekend Assignments,” in which students would spend Saturday with a reporter-photographer team from one of the Chicago papers (The Tribune, The Daily News or The Sun Times). The student would shoot photos at whatever news event the newspaper team was covering and take notes to write his or her own report of the event. On Sunday, the student would develop and print his photos, write up his story, clip out the subject article and photo from the Sunday paper and submit all of it to the instructor on Monday morning for critique and grading.
When I was a student at the school in 1957 my most memorable weekend assignment involved a visit to the Moody Bible Institute to interview Mitsuo Fuchida, who had been a pilot in the Imperial Japanese Navy during World War II. He was a flight leader for the attack on U. S. military facilities at Pearl Harbor in 1941, coordinating the strikes by the Japanese bombers against battleship row, Ford Island Naval Air Station and other facilities. After the war, he was offered the position of commander in chief of the newly-formed Japanese Air Self Defense Force. He declined because he had converted to Christianity and was active with a Christian youth program based on aviation, called Sky Pilots. His visit to the Moody Bible Institute was in connection with that youth program.
It seemed a little surreal to sit in quiet conversation with a man who, fifteen years before, had been instrumental in the killing of thousands of Americans wearing the same uniform I was wearing. The main impressions I took away from meeting Mr. Fuchida was his small physical stature (no more than five foot four or five foot five, I estimated) and his soft-spoken manner. He might have been a teacher or businessman or shop owner, rather than a warrior who had inflicted significant losses on the U. S. Navy at Pearl Harbor and during the war.
Over my years of Navy service I met several other historically significant individuals, American as well as former enemies. For me it was not just “Join the Navy and see the world,” which I did, but also encounter many fascinating people.