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Last Letter of Lieutenant Junior Grade Hitoshi Fukuda to His Parents

On November 20, 1944, Lieutenant Junior Grade Hitoshi Fukuda died in a special (suicide) attack at the age of 22 when submarine I-47 launched his kaiten manned torpedo at Ulithi Atoll. On November 8, 1944, submarine I-47 made a sortie from Ōtsushima Kaiten Base in Yamaguchi Prefecture with four kaiten pilots who were members of the Kaiten Special Attack Corps Kikusui Unit. He was from Fukuoka Prefecture and graduated in the 53rd Class of the Naval Engineering School. He received a promotion to Lieutenant Commander after his death by special attack.

Fukuda's last letter is addressed to his father, but its contents indicate that the letter is for both of his parents. The beginning of the letter has the death poem of Yoshida Shōin (1830-1859) in tanka form (31-syllable poem with a syllable pattern of 5-7-5-7-7). Yoshida strongly advocated the Emperor's restoration to power, which challenged the ruling shogunate. An English translation of Fukuda's last letter is below:

Parents' heart surpasses children's heart for parents
How will they hear the news of today?

Please forgive me for not repaying in any way your kindness that you showed to me since I was born into this world 23 years ago [1] and for my lack of filial piety in going before you. Now when the Empire is at an extremely critical crossroads of life or death, I have the incomparable honor of being selected to be able to participate in this heroic undertaking.

Even though it is fate whether or not this happens, we go with determination to offer ourselves to defend the Empire's 3,000-year history. Moreover, even though I die, my spirit will live forever, and I will offer myself to protect the Empire. Finally, I pray for great happiness for you first and for everyone.

Please give my best regards to Masuda-sensei, Yamazaki-sensei, and everyone in Tajiri Village.

Like all final letters, just before the crash attack I am in extremely high spirits. When you hear that I have fallen splendidly, give me three cheers. I must not have faint-hearted conduct in what I must do.


Letter translated by Bill Gordon
August 2018

The letter comes from Matsugi (1971, 150, 152). The biographical information in the first paragraph comes from Matsugi (1971, 150) and Mediasion (2006, 43-4, 79).

Note

1. The traditional Japanese method of counting age, as in much of East Asia, regards a child as age one at birth and adds an additional year on each New Year's day thereafter. This explains why the letter indicates his age as 23 whereas the current way of counting age based on his birth date in Matsugi (1971, 150) indicates that his age was 22 at time of death.

Sources Cited

Matsugi, Fujio, ed. 1971. Kaigun tokubetsu kōgekitai no isho (Last letters of Navy Special Attack Corps). Tōkyō: KK Bestsellers.

The Mediasion Co. 2006. Ningen gyorai kaiten (Kaiten human torpedo). Hiroshima: The Mediasion Co.