Meet Florence DeShazer, wife of War Hero Jacob DeShazer

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Florence DeShazer is a resident of CRISTA

By Shari Winstead

During my service as Shoreline’s mayor, I was privileged to meet and speak to many interesting people and groups. It was towards the end of my two years as Mayor that I received an invitation to meet Florence DeShazer. Mrs. DeShazer is the widow of Jacob DeShazer, a bombardier in the famous WWII Doolittle Raid. Mrs. DeShazer is also a resident of Crista, right here in Shoreline.

I have to admit that I didn’t know much about Doolittle’s Raid, and my knowledge of WWII is not as broad as I would like. I have, however, had the honor of emceeing the City’s Veterans’ Day celebration for the last two years, and that experience has exposed me to many great real-life history lessons - many about World War II. I’ve also had the pleasure of meeting many wonderful men and women who have served our country through peace and war times.

Jacob DeShazer, WWII hero
ca 1945
Jacob DeShazer was a WWII hero, a recipient of the Congressional Gold Medal, as well as other significant awards. But Sergeant DeShazer was much more than a medal recipient. He was a beacon of peace and forgiveness - quite remarkable for a man who was a bombardier, captured and held as a prisoner of war for 40 months, 34 of those in solitary confinement.

During his time as a POW, the guards were directed to “be nicer” to the prisoners, and so when Sgt. DeShazer asked for a Bible, his request was granted. Through his reading of the bible (sometimes for 15 hours a day), he became a Christian. He made it his mission to spread the Lord’s word, as well as the message of peace and forgiveness. After his discharge from the service, he studied at Seattle Pacific College (now University) and became a missionary, doing most of his work living in Japan.

Mrs. DeShazer, at 94, is still sharp as a tack and full of stories and memories.

She and Jacob were married after his discharge from the military, after he had been freed from the prisoner of war camp. They met at Seattle Pacific Colllege, where they were both students, Jacob there on the GI bill, with at that time of a ratio of 9 women to every man. At that time Florence had read about him in the newspaper, and knew his sister was a student at Seattle U. Florence had hoped to meet him and shake his hand, but ended up being his bride shortly after meeting him.

I asked Mrs. DeShazer what it was like being married to a former POW. In the past ten years, we have learned so much about PTSD, and have so much more compassion than in the late 1940s. It is hard to imagine the kind of long lasting effects being a POW would have on a person. Mrs. DeShazer told me that her husband was always a wonderful man, and the only noticeable difficulty he had at first was with his speech, as he had been in solitary confinement for 34 months.

When she spoke, the gleam in her eye and the smile on her face showed the remembering of a very special man, who was sweet and kind. His actions, the way he lived his life after his wartime experience, are a testimony to his being a pillar of forgiveness. It was clear that they were partners, not only as husband and wife and parents, but in their mission in life. She remarked that they had a wonderful time traveling and being together.

Not only was it interesting to speak with Mrs. DeShazer about her husband, but also to hear about her life after they were wed. They moved to Japan when their first child was just a year old, and had three more children, born in Japan. Their youngest daughter and fifth child was born in the United States. Mrs. DeShazer shared an interesting perspective about the difference between doctors and hospitals in the US and Japan.

Surprisingly, it sounded like the medical treatment she received in Japan was kinder and gentler than our typical U.S. care.

The standard of care is different everywhere, as well as our perspective on how we treat pregnant woman. A great example was when a United States doctor told her to be careful about how much weight she was gaining, whereas in Japan, the doctor wanted to make sure she had a good appetite. Maybe Japanese healthcare, and the Japanese people, were more compassionate than we were led to believe.

Mrs. DeShazer shared many stories with me that day, but the one that touched me most deeply was of her husband’s baptism. It wasn’t in a church, or at a river, but rather through the rainwater that came in through the tiny, high-placed window in his POW cell. After so much time reading the bible, and wanting desperately to be baptized, Sgt. DeShazer saw the rain coming in his window as an opportunity to wash away his sins, and to give his life to Jesus. Where there is a will there is a way. Sgt. DeShazer found his baptism inside that small cell where he was a prisoner of war. The cell could hold him prisoner, but could not keep him from his destiny, to be a man of God.

Sgt. DeShazer’s missionary work was mostly done in Japan, the country he had been part of bombing.

Quite the paradox, but again a testimony to his religion, love and forgiveness. He is also well know for befriending Capt. Mitsuo Fuchida, the Japanese captain who led the attack on Pearl Harbor, the event that brought on the Doolittle Raid. The two friends went on to serve the Lord together, as missionaries.

Return of the Raider
was written about Jacob DeShazer
There’s no doubt that Sgt. DeShazer’s life has served as an example of true forgiveness - and the stories are too many for me to include here. I hope you will take the time to learn more about one of the special people connected to Shoreline. There is a brief story on Wikipedia, or better yet, take the time to read the book Return of the Raider, A Doolittle Raider’s story of War and Forgiveness. The book is coauthored by Carol Dixon, daughter of Jake and Florence, who is also a Shoreline resident. There are many other books and sources of information about Sgt. DeShazer, as well as the Doolittle Raiders, also on the Wikipedia page.

Our great city of Shoreline is full of interesting people and places. If you know of a secret gem in Shoreline - person, place or thing, drop a message to me at If you are interested in Shoreline’s history, take a trip to the Shoreline Historical Museum, there is more to learn than you could even imagine!

See you around Shoreline!

Updated 01-22-2016


PastorJeff January 22, 2016 at 9:10 AM  

Thanks for the wonderful article. FYI... the book referenced (Return of the Raider) is co-authored by Florence and Jake's daughter, Carol Dixon, also a resident of Shoreline!

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