Friday, November 29, 2013

From Pearl Harbor to Calvary by Mitsuo Fuchida

I read a lot of books about World War II, but rarely from a Japanese point of view.  This booklet, written in 1951, tells the story of Mitsuo Fuchida, the man who led the first wave of attacks on Pearl Harbor on Dec 7, 1941.   It is a powerful testimony of how God turns enemies into brothers.  

From Pearl Harbor To Calvary relates not only Fuchida’s story, but also the stories of others who should have been embittered by the war: Peggy Covell, a young woman whose missionary parents were killed by the Japanese and Jacob DeShazer who had been a POW in a Japanese prison camp. 

When he retired from the military, Fuchida became a farmer, but he struggled with depression:    

Why was I still alive when men all around me had died like flies in the four years of conflict? Gradually I came to believe that I had been supported by some great unseen power.  My sullenness began to be diffused and dispelled by a sense of gratitude.  Moreover, as I continued to live in close relation to the earth through the plants and the cattle, and the other aspects of farm life, I was gradually led to think in terms of a Creator of all these things. . . .  Formerly the “War catechism” had been the sum total of my ideology. . . . I set my mind to the problem of what would be the proper way for Japan to exist as a nation.   Finally, I arrived at a conclusion.  I concluded that the only way for the Japanese to survive and prosper and find a place in the sun again would be through the doctrines of peace, irrespective of other nations’ conditions. . . . Impelled by a desire to warn my people, I determined to send out into the world a book entitled “No More Pearl Harbor” no matter how insignificant my work might be.  As my writing progressed, however, I came to realize that in my appeal for no more Pearl Harbor, there must be an assurance among men of the transforming of the power of hatred to the power of true brotherly love.  But how was that transformation to become a reality?. . .  The problem resolved around a person.  Who, I asked myself, could accomplish the task of banishing suspicion and war.  My mind turned toward God, the Creator of all things.

When he heard about Peggy Covell’s kindness to Japanese POWs in the U.S., he could hardly believe it:   

It was a beautiful story but I could not understand such enemy-forgiving love.  Where did man find such love?  I had never heard of people returning good for evil.  I desired all the more to discover this source of power that could remove hatred from the hearts of people and change them into friendly, loving individuals.  Only when I found that answer could I write a satisfactory conclusion to my book.  

He then writes of his encounters with various others who learned to forgive their enemies through faith in Jesus Christ and concludes the book with his own change of heart.   A quick and interesting read.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Lesser-Known WWII Films #1

I love obscure British films about the war:

1) Millions Like Us (1943) was filmed in the middle of the war and focuses on the changes the war brought to the average family.  In particular it shows women joining the workforce and the breakdown of class distinctions. Millions Like Us is filmed with gritty realism, yet manages to be quite charming.  Worth a look if you are interested in life on the homefront.

2) Carve Her Name With Pride (1958) tells the story of Violette, a young widow, who is recruited to join the SOE (Special Operations Executive) during World War II.  She teams up with fellow spy Tony Fraser to work with the French underground. This movie is more realistic than happy, but its grittiness was understated enough for someone as squeamish as I am.  The filming and acting are top notch. 

3) A Town Like Alice (1956) takes place in Kuala Lumpur in 1942. Jean Paget and her female colleagues have been captured by the Japanese. The women are marched from city to city but no prison camp will take them in. They eventually settle down in a Malay village until the end of the war. The film is based on the Nevil Shute novel and stars Virginia McKenna and Peter Finch. Their romance is an integral part of the story, but, thankfully, doesn’t take up too much screen time. This is an excellent film for the squeamish.  Plenty of tension and suspense without the gore.

4) Pimpernel Smith (1941) This lesser known World War II film is a treat for lovers of British literature as well as British movies.  It was written and produced by Leslie Howard who also had the leading role. He was the Scarlet Pimpernel in the 1934 film, but here, instead of saving French aristocrats from the guillotine, he saves men and women from the Nazis. Although a low-budget production (the Germans have British accents!), the script and acting are above average.  The references to Lewis Carroll and Shakespeare are fun and the dialogue is intelligent and witty.

Note: I watched some of these on Netflix and some on YouTube.

More obscure war movies are reviewed here and here.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Miss Buncle's Book by D.E. Stevenson

I used to like D.E. Stevenson very much. Now, thanks to Miss Buncle, I LOVE her. I am obligated to Sarah for making me aware of the Miss Buncle books, but since they are pricey I didn't take the plunge until recently when Miss Buncle's Book went on sale for Kindle. (Sadly the sequels are $10 so check and see if your local library has them.)

Honestly, this book was just plain fun. Free of profanity and immorality, yet full of wonderful characters and good writing, it allows the reader to relax and enjoy the ride. Written 75 years before The Help, it tells a similar story of a woman who writes a novel about people in her hometown, infuriating those who are caricatured in the book. They set out to discover the anonymous author, never suspecting the dowdy, middle-aged Barbara Buncle.

As a result of the book, some of the more domineering characters have a heart change and some of the "door-matty" ones learn to stand up for themselves. One small fly in the ointment came near the end of the book when the husband of an overly bossy wife decides to date other women.

Overall, Miss Buncle's Book is a delightful (often laugh-outloud funny) story. The heroine is perfectly dear and I hope to read more of her adventures in the future.

I reviewed another Stevenson title here. And a list of all her novels is here.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Flyboys by James Bradley

Flyboys focuses on a slice of World War II that took place on Chichi Jima and Iwo Jima.  It especially highlights the lives of eight American fliers who lost their lives in their effort to wrest these islands from the Japanese.  (The story is not to be confused with the 2006 movie of the same name which features fliers from the First World War.)

Cons: Bradley writes from a liberal perspective, comparing the brutality of the Japanese with the "white supremacist” treatment of Native Americans, which seemed more than a little out of place considering the immense difference in the way the Allied and Axis nations treated their prisoners of war.  His view of Chinese history was skewed, to say the least, when he described Mao Tse Dung as law-abiding and dismissed Chiang Kai Shek as ruthless. In addition, his prolonged and repetitious descriptions of cannibalism among the Japanese were unnecessary. 

Pros: That said, this book had the most comprehensive explanation I’ve ever read on why the Japanese behaved as they did.  In light of their training to despise any soldier “cowardly” enough to surrender, it is amazing that some of the Japanese befriended the pilots who were captured.  Bradley does a good job of piecing together the stories of each of the eight flyboys many years after they lost their lives.

Lauren Hildebrand’s Unbroken awakened my interest in military airpower so I was delighted with paragraphs such as this in Chapter Sixteen: The B-29 was to airplanes what rifles were to slingshots.  It was the biggest, longest, widest, heaviest, fastest, and longest-flying airplane in history.  Its four propellers were each sixteen feet long.  It could carry ten tons of bombs and still fly 357 miles per hour.  It could remain airborne more than sixteen hours while providing living room-like comfort to its eleven-man crew.  Other planes required bulky clothes and cumbersome oxygen masks in the minus 50-degree cold at thirty thousand feet.  But this “Cadillac of the skies” had pressurized crew quarters, so airmen could lounge comfortably in their regular clothes.  And once the kinks had been (mostly) worked out, it became the most devastating weapon of WWII.

Bradley also does a good job of emphasizing the sheer enormity of the Flyboys’ task: The Pacific war was fought over the largest theater in the history of warfare.  Islands - sometimes spits of sand or hard, unforgiving rocks like Iwo Jima – determined America’s strategy.  The Marianas – Guam, Tinian, and Saipan – provided the long airfields needed for the B-29s to bring the war to the island of Japan. . . . The biggest obstacle on a bombing run was presented by Iwo Jima… It would have to be eliminated as a threat for the Flyboys to effect the downfall of Japan. . . . Flyboys bombed Iwo Jima for seventy-two straight days before the February 19 invasion.  After the war, navy analysts declared the tiny island the single most intensely bombed spot of the Pacific war. . . .  All for this tiny speck of cooled lava in the middle of the vast Pacific.  Driving your car on the highway, it takes just five minutes to go five miles.  It took the slogging, dying Marines thirty-six days to conquer the same distance. (from Chapter Fourteen)

A fascinating and informative book.

(Orginally published on 9/7/12 on my WWII blog - now defunct)

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Six Books on Christology

It's been several years since I have taught my Christology course so in addition to dusting off my lectures, I've also been reading several books to refresh my thinking. Since these books were written for average Christians (rather than seminarians or theologians), I thought I'd mention them here.

1) The Supremacy of Christ by Ajith Fernando - With his experience in reaching Hindus, Muslims and Buddhists, Fernando deftly explains why Christianity is not just one among many religions. 288 pages

2) On the Incarnation: Saint Athanasius (Popular Patristics) by Athanasius (99 cents on Kindle) - Probably the least "user-friendly" of the books because of old-fashioned language, but not as difficult as I expected. 98 pages. (Unlike the book pictured above, mine did not have the introduction by C.S. Lewis. I'd LOVE to get my hands on that version someday.)

3) Blood Work by Carter and Anthony - 150 pages, most "user-friendly" of all the books I read, but instead of emphasizing the common beliefs of evangelical Christians, this one emphasizes election and limited atonement (the idea that Christ did not die for all mankind.)

4) Who Is Jesus? by R.C. Sproul - Just over 100 pages, this is an excellent and inspirational overview of the subject. It was free for Kindle the last time I checked.

5) The Cross of Christ by John Stott - I'm still working my way through this one, but it's considered a classic on the subject. 380 pages

6) Creeds in the Making: A Short Introduction to the History of Christian Doctrine
 by Alan Richardson - 128 pages, brief explanation of how the Early Church Fathers fought to preserve the basic tenents of Christianity and to protect the Church from heresy. Richardson is spot on when discussing history, but a little off center in his own views (universalism).

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Results of Poetry Naming Contest

A couple of weeks ago I sent out a plea for ideas for naming a new feature on my blog. I wanted to begin highlighting devotional poetry a couple of times per month, but couldn't think of anything interesting to call my posts. I was pleased with the many good responses that came in - some in the comments, some on facebook, and some via e-mail.  In fact, so many came in that I had difficulty choosing. Finally, though, I settled on Dorie's suggestion of "Rhyme and Reason" because it encapsulates exactly what I wanted to say. I will be focusing on poems that make us think about faith in fresh ways. Thank you, Dorie. And thank you to everyone else who participated.

                   RHYME & REASON