Saturday, October 24, 2020

Good Deeds May Be Repaid with Evil in This Life

A Doolittle Raider headed to Tokyo, Japan
I am researching the life of John Birch, a Baptist missionary in China who was assassinated by communists on August 25, 1945, just days after the end of World War II. Some call Birch the first victim of the impending World War III

During my research, I discovered that Birch providentially met Lt. Col. James Doolittle on April 20, 1942, in China as the Doolittle Raiders attempted to escape Japanese-occupied China after crash landing their planes there on April 18, 1942. Col. Doolittle and his men had bombed Tokyo, the capital of the Japanese Empire, in retaliation for the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. The improbable mission called Target Tokyo launched just a little over four months after the attack on Pearl Harbor. The Raiders devasted Tokyo with their bombing run, and the Japanese became shocked and frightened that American B-25 bombers (sixteen of them) could reach Tokyo and bomb the city. It was a major victory for the American armed forces and it rallied the American people back home.

There were eighty Doolittle Raiders. All of them volunteered for the mission and knew that they did not carry enough fuel to return to the carriers from which they launched. They flew into the mission knowing they would have to crash land in China and somehow to make their way out, finding assistance from the Chinese people who did not like their Japanese invaders. \

Doolittle Raiders assisted by the Chinese

The Chinese people did help the American airmen.

They hid them in their homes. They fed them. They passed word ahead to family members in other Chinese villages that the Americans were coming. The Chinese were the ones who found John Birch and brought him to Doolittle. Birch served as an interpreter for the American soldiers until they safely exited Japanese-held territory. 

But the Chinese people paid dearly for their good deeds. 

James M. Scott, in his superb 2016 book Target Tokyo, highlights what the Japanese soldiers did to the Chinese people - men, women, and children - who assisted Doolittle and his men escape.

The Japanese marched into the walled city of Nancheng at dawn on the morning of June 11, beginning a reign of terror so horrendous that missionaries would later dub it “the Rape of Nancheng.” Soldiers rounded up 800 women and herded them into a storehouse outside the east gate. “For one month the Japanese remained in Nancheng, roaming the rubble-filled streets in loin clothes much of the time, drunk a good part of the time and always on the lookout for women,” wrote the Reverend Frederick McGuire. “The women and children who did not escape from Nancheng will long remember the Japanese—the women and girls because they were raped time after time by Japan’s imperial troops and are now ravaged by venereal disease, the children because they mourn their fathers who were slain in cold blood for the sake of the ‘new order’ in East Asia.”

At the end of the occupation, Japanese forces systematically destroyed the city of 50,000 residents. Teams stripped Nancheng of all radios, while others looted the hospitals of drugs and surgical instruments. Engineers not only wrecked the electrical plant but pulled up the railroad lines, shipping the iron out. A special incendiary squad started its operation on July 7 in the city’s southern section. “This planned burning was carried on for three days,” one Chinese newspaper reported, “and the city of Nancheng became charred earth.”

Over the summer, the Japanese laid waste to some 20,000 square miles. They looted towns and villages, then stole honey and scattered beehives. Soldiers devoured, drove away, or simply slaughtered thousands of oxen, pigs, and other farm animals; some wrecked vital irrigation systems and set crops on fire. They destroyed bridges, roads, and airfields. "Like a swarm of locusts, they left behind nothing but destruction and chaos,” wrote one eyewitness.

Those discovered to have helped the Doolittle raiders were tortured. In Nancheng, soldiers forced a group of men who had fed the airmen to eat feces before lining up ten of them for a “bullet contest” to see how many people a single bullet would pass through before it stopped. In Ihwang, Ma Eng-lin, who had welcomed injured pilot Harold Watson into his home, was wrapped in a blanket, tied to a chair and soaked in kerosene. Then soldiers forced his wife to torch him.

“Little did the Doolittle men realize,” the Reverend Charles Meeus later wrote, “that those same little gifts which they gave their rescuers in grateful acknowledgement of their hospitality— parachutes, gloves, nickels, dimes, cigarette packages—would, a few weeks later, become the telltale evidence of their presence and lead to the torture and death of their friends!”

Japan’s secret bacteriological warfare group, Unit 731, launched an operation to coincide with the withdrawal of Japanese troops from the region.

In what was known as land bacterial sabotage, troops would contaminate wells, rivers, and fields, hoping to sicken local villagers as well as the Chinese forces, which would no doubt move back in and reoccupy the border region as soon as the Japanese departed. Over the course of several meetings, Unit 731’s commanding officers debated the best bacteria to use, settling on plague, anthrax, cholera, typhoid, and paratyphoid, all of which would be spread via spray, fleas, and direct contamination of water sources. For the operation, almost 300 pounds of paratyphoid and anthrax germs were ordered.

Technicians filled peptone bottles with typhoid and paratyphoid bacteria, packaged them in boxes labeled “Water Supply,” and flew them to Nanking. Once in Nanking, workers transferred the bacteria to metal flasks—like those used for drinking water— and flew them into the target areas. Troops then tossed the flasks into wells, marshes, and homes. The Japanese also prepared 3,000 rolls, contaminated with typhoid and paratyphoid, and handed them to hungry Chinese prisoners of war, who were then released to go home and spread disease. Soldiers left another 400 biscuits infected with typhoid near fences, under trees, and around bivouac areas to make it appear as though retreating forces had left them behind, knowing hungry locals would devour them.

“After they had been caught unawares by the falling of American bombs on Tokyo, Japanese troops attacked the coastal areas of China, where many of the American fliers had landed,” Chiang Ka-Shek cabled to Washington. “These Japanese troops slaughtered every man, woman and child in those areas. Let me repeat—these Japanese troops slaughtered every man, woman and child in those areas.”

“They shot any man, woman, child, cow, hog, or just about anything that moved, They raped any woman from the ages of 10 – 65, and before burning the town they thoroughly looted it. None of the humans shot were buried either, but were left to lay on the ground to rot, along with the hogs and cows.”

It is estimated the Japanese soldiers killed between 250,000 to 500,000 Chinese in retaliation for the good deeds the Chinese gave the American Doolittle Raiders.
The story of the Chinese people and the Doolittle Raiders is a reminder to us all that doing what is right and honorable is often repaid with evil in this life. 

Do what you do in this life not because of the rewards you might receive while alive, but in anticipation of meeting the Creator who is by His very nature righteous and compassionate.

"If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY,” says the Lord. “BUT IF YOUR ENEMY IS HUNGRY, FEED HIM, AND IF HE IS THIRSTY, GIVE HIM A DRINK; FOR IN SO DOING YOU WILL HEAP BURNING COALS ON HIS HEAD.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good."


Christiane said...

“And I saw the river over which every soul must pass to reach the kingdom of heaven

and the name of that river was suffering:

and I saw a boat which carries souls across the river

and the name of that boat was Love.”

(St. John of the Cross)

Rex Ray said...


My uncle, Rex Ray, was a missionary in China for 30 years. He left China in 1949 when the Communist took over.

Benjamin Ady said...

You laud Doolittle's raiders for successful retaliation for the attack on Pearl Harbor, and in the next breath suggest vengeance is not to be sought. Confusing.

Wade Burleson said...


"War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse."

John Stuart Mill

No individual vengeance. However, the "sword of justice" is carried out by governments.

Rex Ray said...


Years before Pearl Harbor, my uncle, Rex Ray, was on a boat in China that was sunk by Japanese bombs. Under his threat that America would declare war on Japan; their Consul paid him $750 for his loses.

At the time, Japan was buying tons of scrap iron from America. Rex wrote many letters to our government that Japan was making bullets and bombs from the scrap iron to kill us, but no one paid attention.

By the way, saw a cartoon where one person said to another, “Biden and Harris were sent by God.”

“Why? Did He run out of locusts? :)

Christiane said...

Is a film that reminds me a bit of your post, WADE, called 'Of Gods and Men' and in it is said
"Love endures all things"

and sometimes, 'love' seems to be defeated in this world, but we KNOW that there is always the 'third Day' and we have hope eternal
so, the film's premise was a moral choice to do good, and take the consequences as there was a risk, but it was done out of great love

In your post, we may not know what comes in the future, but it is evil we cannot do in hope that good may come from it;
we can do good and there is no penalty for that from God, although the world may treat us as it will, but then there is always 'the Third Day', and we are not to be afraid to do good

'in this world you can expect troubles' Our Lord promises this, but then He says take hope, that He has overcome the world. So we know.

An excerpt from a story about the sacred power of mercy that will in the end overcome the ancient evil:

“He felt his hunger no longer as a pain but as a tide. He felt it rising in himself through time and darkness, rising through the centuries, and he knew that it rose in a line of men whose lives were chosen to sustain it, who would wander in the world, strangers from that violent country where the silence is never broken except to shout the truth. He felt it building from the blood of Abel to his own, rising and spreading in the night, a red-gold tree of fire ascended as if it would consume the darkness in one tremendous burst of flame. The boy’s breath went out to meet it. He knew that this was the fire that had encircled Daniel, that had raised Elijah from the earth, that had spoken to Moses and would in the instant speak to him. He threw himself to the ground and with his face against the dirt of the grave, he heard the command. GO WARN THE CHILDREN OF GOD OF THE TERRIBLE SPEED OF MERCY. The words were as silent as seed opening one at a time in his blood.”
(Flannery O'Connor, The Violent Bear It Away)

sometimes the only thing that makes sense to me in this strange world is a crucifix,
and then, only because of the Third Day