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Last Letter of Ensign Takatsugu Ichikawa to His Parents

On February 26, 1945 , Ensign Takatsugu Ichikawa died at the age of 23 when submarine I-370, which was carrying five kaiten manned torpedoes, was sunk in an engagement with the enemy between Iwo Jima and Saipan. On February 21, 1945, submarine I-370 made a sortie from Hikari Kaiten Base in Yamaguchi Prefecture with 79 crewmen and five kaiten pilots who were members of the Kaiten Special Attack Corps Chihaya Unit. All men on board died when the submarine was attacked. Ichikawa was from Niigata Prefecture, attended Waseda University in Tōkyō, and was a member of the 4th Class of the Navy Branch Reserve Students (Heika Yobi Gakusei). He received a promotion to Lieutenant after his death, which was recognized by the Navy as part of a special (suicide) attack.

He wrote the following final letter on the day before his sortie from Hikari Kaiten Base:

Dear Father and Mother,

Dealing with this changing world during my life of 25 years [1], at last tomorrow morning I will make a sortie as a member of the Kaiten Special Attack Corps Chihaya Squadron.

What I would like to say to you now is that I deeply appreciate your love. Concentrating on blowing up and sinking the enemy, I only expect to succeed.

I will ride a Kikusui [2] weapon. I have hidden a photo of you inside my white hachimaki (headband), and I will wear my senninbari (thousand-stitch belt worn for good luck) around my midsection. Please imagine my figure as I dash forward to destroy the enemy, and be glad that I can do a small useful deed for the country.

Well then, I will go.

February 20, 1945

Kaiten Special Attack Corps Chihaya Squadron
Navy Ensign Takatsugu Ichikawa


Letter translated by Bill Gordon
June 2018

The letter comes from Mediasion (2006, 93). The biographical information in the first paragraph comes from Konada and Kataoka (2006, 161-73, 377), Mediasion (2006, 50, 81, 93), and Ōtsushima Kaiten Monument.

Notes

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 25 whereas the current way of counting age indicates that his age was 23 (Mediasion 2006, 93) at time of death.

2. Kikusui means water chrysanthemum and was the symbol of the family of Kusunoki Masashige, a 14th century samurai who symbolized courage and devotion to the Emperor. Kikusui was the symbol adopted by the Kaiten Special Attack Corps.

Sources Cited

Konada, Toshiharu, and Noriaki Kataoka. 2006. Tokkō kaiten sen: Kaiten tokkōtai taichō no kaisō (Special attack kaiten battles: Kaiten special attack corps leader's reminiscences). Tōkyō: Kōjinsha.

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