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Last Letters of Navy
Special Attack Corps
(1971)

 
Last Letter of Ensign Kōichi Honda to His Father

At 0527 on May 14, 1945, Ensign Kōichi Honda took off from Kanoya Air Base as pilot in a Zero fighter carrying a 500-kg bomb and died in a special (suicide) attack east of Tanegashima at the age of 22. He was a member of the Kamikaze Special Attack Corps 6th Tsukuba Squadron. He was from Hyōgo Prefecture, attended Hōsei University in Tōkyō, and was a member of the 14th Class of the Navy's Flight Reserve Students (Hikō Yobi Gakusei).

He wrote the following final letter with two death poems at the end:

Dear Father,

Tomorrow is my grand departure for the battlefront.

I am determined to fall together with the cherry blossoms, but I am somewhat delayed. I certainly will do this once-in-a-lifetime great work.

With your kind heart you were able to raise me without any inconveniences for me for 24 years [1]. I caused you many worries, but please forgive me because of the taiatari (body-crashing) attack.

My life until today has been extremely exciting, and it has been a life without any regrets. I am a person who should care for my parents, but the present time is different, and you only have taken care of me.

"Now survival of the nation is more crucial than survival of the family."

I am praying only that Masaya have complete recovery of his health. Since Masaya has not gone out into the current world at all, please take good care of him.

Masaya is an important person in the family. I earnestly ask that you treasure him. Since now there is nothing on my mind, I only will hit an enemy ship.

Please take enough care of your health. There is nothing in my bags, but please use them. Having joy in my life from beginning to end, I go to die.

I am praying for happiness for everyone.

I am the oldest son, but since I do not know anything concerning the house, I have nothing to say about this.

My being able to go bravely without one concern is due to your arranging it yourself without telling me. I will be shouting bravely "long live Japan" from the land of Okinawa.

A man one time a cherry blossom
Bravely goes to southern seas
In continual summer certainly will sink enemy
Time has come for country to flourish

Now I have a noble important mission
To attack and fall with cherry blossoms
Friends in tears with spirits saying will follow me

Kōichi Honda was a noted first baseman at Hōsei University who participated in the Tōkyō Six Universities baseball competition. While at the barracks at Kanoya Air Base prior to his sortie, he enthusiastically played catch with Ensign Shinichi Ishimaru, former Nagoya-gun professional pitcher. In the movie Ningen no Tsubasa (Wings of a Man) (1995), early in the morning of May 11, Ishimaru and his friend Honda go outside the barracks to play catch with the new ball given to Ishimaru by the Nagoya Team. Honda challenges Ishimaru to throw ten strikes, which he does in ten pitches as the men gather around them. When Ishimaru gets in his plane to depart, he wraps the baseball in his hachimaki (headband) and throws it out to the people gathered to cheer their departure. The hachimaki has the following message written on it, "My life is over at 22. Nothing but loyalty and filial piety." Honda made his sortie three days later on May 14, 1945.


Letter and poems translated by Bill Gordon
May 2018

The letter and poems come from Matsugi (1971, 173-5). The biographical information in the first paragraph comes from Matsugi (1971, 173) and Osuo (2005, 199).

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 24 whereas the current way of counting age based on his birth date in Matsugi (1971, 173) 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.

Osuo, Kazuhiko. 2005. Tokubetsu kōgekitai no kiroku (kaigun hen) (Record of special attack corps (Navy)). Tōkyō: Kōjinsha.