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An inspirational story about a Japanese pilot who, during the attack on Pearl Harbor, couldn’t release a bomb on the Hawaiian temple has circulated for decades among Latter-day Saints, but is it true?
According to Lance D. Chase, who was a BYU-H professor and did research on the subject, the story goes like this. “A Japanese pilot returning from Pearl Harbor with a bomb still undelivered spotted the Hawaii Temple. Determined to destroy the building, a target of opportunity, before it became necessary to jettison his bomb harmlessly into the nearby sea, he dived on the temple. His bomb would not release.
“He then decided to dive again and strafe, but his guns would not fire. It is unclear whether he made three or more passes, but on what may have been a third pass his controls failed to work even as he contemplated a suicide dive. Fearful of expending his fuel before reaching his ship, he headed out to sea now. He worked his bomb release mechanism and the bomb fell now. His guns responded. Feeling disgraced but encouraged by his now properly functioning plane, he decided to try a last strafing run at the building. A final time his controls refused to respond, and he was forced to continue back to his ship.”
This information is from the journal of Robert Thomas Stout, who had learned of it when tracting as a missionary. Stout reported that on Sept. 9, 1957, he had been in Matsumoto City and met a middle-aged man who had been a Japanese pilot in the Pearl Harbor attack. As Stout was talking to him about the Church, he showed him a post card aerial view of the Hawaiian temple. When the pilot saw this picture, he “turned pale and was shocked” and then told his story. He said he had tried to bomb that temple the morning of the Pearl Harbor attack, but his controls froze and the bomb would not release.
On his last attempt he felt “a strange power protected that white building with its blue pools.” He felt a powerful influence and felt he had angered God. He did not even look back so great was his fear. The elders told him about the temple “to which the man replied, ‘it has giant magic…You two missionaries make me feel those feelings again. You must leave me again and not torment my mind and heart.’”
Robert Stout returned to Japan more than 50 times, including once as a mission president from 1977-80. In 1983 Stout and his wife, Kay, visited the Hawaii Temple on their 25th wedding anniversary and told the story to temple President Bob Finlayson. Later Stout sent his journal to the Hawaii Temple for their archives.
The temple president had already heard the story from one of his own temple workers, Robert Kahawaii, who said he witnessed the event, though he told it with some variation…
Read more at Meridian Magazine