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Last Letter of Ensign Taichi Imanishi to His Father and Younger Sister

On November 20, 1944, Ensign Taichi Imanishi died in a special (suicide) attack at the age of 25 when submarine I-36 launched his kaiten manned torpedo at Ulithi Atoll. On November 8, 1944, submarine I-36 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. Imanishi's kaiten was the only one that could be launched by submarine I-36. He was from Kyōto Prefecture, attended Keiō Gijuku University in the Economics Department, and was a member of the 3rd Class of the Navy Branch Reserve Students (Heika Yobi Gakusei). He received a promotion to Lieutenant after his death by special attack.

He wrote the following final letter:

Dear Father and Fumi,

Today I will make a sortie as a member of the Kaiten Special Attack Corps. Being born as a Japanese man, there is no honor that surpasses this. Of course there is nothing to debate regarding life or death. We just know that today's Japan needs our crash attacks.

I am a unique person who was taught during my life of 26 years [1] this way of serving to pay back the person above me. I am glad for today when I can accomplish my way of living in that way. The Commander in Chief of the Combined Fleet gave us each a short sword and celebrated our sortie. Also, the Commander said that the Navy Minister, who could not come to the mainland, conveyed a message from our Fleet Commander in Chief that this short sword was in recognition of our position to protect the country. (portion omitted)

When I returned home to make my final farewells, I had expected that there would be more distressing things at my own place. However, making this attack surely is not something special. I believe for today in Japan it is a natural thing. Not having a heroic feeling, I had an enjoyable time in that way. During the visit to the graves of my predecessors Ryōma Sakamoto, Shintarō Nakaoka, and Takayoshi Kido [2], I thought secretly that I felt their determination. I think that there is no excuse for not being able to say anything to you, but please forgive me for only this.

Father, when I think about Fumi's lonely life, I cannot say anything. However, Japan is facing a time of crisis. It is natural for a person who is Japanese to take part in this battle tactic. I , who have been able to live this true way as a Japanese person, am not thinking about my lack of filial piety to my parents. I understand well about being lonely. However, this is the most that you will endure. I am fully aware that up to today you lived depending on me. Even so there are things that cannot be stopped.

Fumi, please be a fine Japanese girl and live happily. Other than this I have no wishes for you. I ask that you take care of Father. I have been freed of worries, and I will go this way. I ask that you make up for my absence. Whatever others may say, Father is the world's best, and Mother was Japan's finest mother. Please be a Japanese mother who will not disgrace them. You, who inherited the character of Father and Mother, have capabilities of only them. I, who did not take any actions, cannot stop my tears when I think about you.

However, Fumi and Father, please do not cry. I have such happiness in going to that place to die, and also I have inside me the joy of being able to be with Mother soon. At the place where the ship's flag waves splendidly in the sky with the kikusui (water chrysanthemum) emblem, in the hearts of us who will make a sortie what should we say?

Taichi Imanishi of the Kaiten Special Attack Corps Kikusui Unit simply will make a sortie.

Father and Fumi, I am praying for your health and happiness.

A warrior's corpse in wilderness covered with grass
Blooming fragrant Yamato [3] carnations

I go in high spirits.

Morning of sortie

Taichi


Letter translated by Bill Gordon
September 2018

The letter comes from Matsugi (1971, 137-40). The biographical and mission information of submarine I-36 come from Matsugi (1971, 137) and Mediasion (2006, 44, 78).

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 26 whereas the current way of calculating age based on his birth date in Matsugi (1971, 137) indicates his age was 25 at death.

2. The graves of these three men are on the grounds of Kyōto's Ryōzen Gokoku Jinja, which is a shrine dedicated to those who died to protect the country with several other monuments dedicated to those who died in wars. Ryōma Sakamoto and Shintarō Nakaoka worked together in the movement to overthrow the Tokugawa shogunate and return power to the Emperor. They were assassinated together by unknown assailants in December 1867 in Kyōto, and their graves are next to each other. Takayoshi Kido was one of the leaders of the Meiji Restoration that restored power to the Emperor in 1868, and he became one of the most important leaders in the new government until his death in 1877.

3. Yamato is an ancient name for Japan.

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.