Oregon War Hero Considered for the Presidential Medal of Freedom
By Oregon War Veteran’s Association
Salem, OR On April 21, 2008, the White House confirmed that Salem Native- The Reverend Jacob “Jake” DeShazer is being considered for the prestigious Presidential Medal of Freedom. DeShazer, who died last month would receive the award posthumously.
The Presidential Medal of Freedom is America’s highest civilian award and, among all American honors, it ranks second to only the Congressional Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military award. This great honor is reserved for individuals the President deems to have made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.
Rev. DeShazer would be the first Oregonian to receive the medal, according to Greg Warnock, the director of Oregon War Veterans Association (OWVA), who nominated Rev. DeShazer for the Medal.
SSgt. DeShazer, U.S. Army Air Corps, was well known as a war hero who flew with Col. Jimmy Doolittle’s “Doolittle Raiders” in the first attack on the Japanese homeland, a few months after the infamous bombing of Pearl Harbor.
What distinguishes DeShazer from other American war heroes is that after the bombing raid and his subsequent capture as a POW and 40 months of torture by the Imperial Japanese Army, Jake decided to return to Japan after the war- as a voice of forgiveness. He was initially invited by the Army and Gen. MacArthur’s chief of chaplains to come back to Japan and help bring a sense of reconciliation to the Japanese populous. Incredibly, he stayed in Japan for 30 years, sharing his message of peace and Christian forgiveness and as a missionary of the Free Methodist Church.
DeShazer is now known as a war hero to the Americans and a hero of peace to the Japanese. He has been credited by many to have made more of an impact on the modern Nation of Japan, than any other American.
OWVA has also nominated DeShazer for the Congressional Gold Medal, through Congresswoman Darlene Hooley’s office, and established a perpetual “DeShazer Award” of their own in 2002 to honor other war veterans who spend their post-war lives in humanitarian service.
In a phone call on Friday, DeShazer’s wife, Florence told Warnock, “Jake never wanted this sort of attention, but our grand children are especially proud of the honors he has received.”
Warnock, in his letter to President Bush wrote, “Please consider Rev. (SSgt) Jake DeShazer for the medal. Very few people in the history of mankind have served their country- and all of mankind has he did.”
“At this time in our history, we feel it is ideal to honor a man who was a genuine war hero, who after his sacrificial service put on gloves of peace, and touched the entire world with grace and humility,” Warnock stated.
Chara Bray, the White House Deputy Director for Awards confirmed the nomination in a letter to Warnock stating, “I appreciate receiving your comments in support of Mr. DeShazer for this prestigious honor, and will be sharing them with the advisory staff members who provide the President with recommendations in this area. Please be assured that your endorsement will be given every consideration.”
The Presidential Medal of Freedom was established by President Harry Truman in 1945 to honor service during WWII. President John F. Kennedy revived the medal and began the tradition of awarding the medal annually, on or near July 4. The award is awarded to several people annually. U.S. recipients include John F. Kennedy, Jesse Owens and Colin Powel.
Unlike many other U.S. awards, the Presidential Medal of Freedom can be awarded to non-US citizens. In 1945 it was known as the U.S. Medal of Freedom. Non-U.S. recipients include Blessed Mother Theresa and His Holiness Pope John Paul II.