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Heroic Kamikaze Special
Attack Corps: Collected last
letters of youth that
would not return
(1983)

 
Last Letter of Ensign Shizuo Komuro to His Mother

At 1345 on April 6, 1945, Ensign Shizuo Komuro took off from Kushira Air Base as navigator/observer in a Type 97 Carrier Attack Bomber (Allied code name of Kate) carrying a 800-kg bomb. He was a member of the Kamikaze Special Attack Corps 1st Gokō Shirasagi [1] Squadron from Himeji Naval Air Group. He died in a special (suicide) attack off Okinawa at the age of 23. He was from Shimane Prefecture, attended Yokohama Higher Technical School, and was a member of the 13th Class of the Navy's Flight Reserve Students.

He wrote the following final letter to his mother with two death poems in tanka form (31-syllable poem with a syllable pattern of 5-7-5-7-7) at the end:

There is no excuse for not writing to you for such a long time. Please rest assured since everyday I am serving in high spirits. The war finally has reached a climax, and the American counteroffensive also has become more and more intense. I am unable to suppress my joy that the day has come when I also will obtain honor with my first battle. As a child of His Majesty, I am happy that the day has come when I will meet an enemy aircraft carrier. I will become a cornerstone for the country's eternal glory. I will follow after my senior, Commander Seki [2], by making a taiatari (body-crashing) attack. I will live for an eternal cause. This is the kamikaze spirit.

I absolutely will not forget the kindness shown to me for 25 years [3] until now by you, Grandfather, Grandmother, and all of the relatives who raised me. It is understood what was said by Uncle, "How should a person die?"

Now I have no negative emotions. I think that participating in this war as a Navy crewman will be an honor for all generations of the family. Death is natural because I participated in the war. Definitely please do not be sad. With the destruction of the country, what family will there be? I entrust everything regarding family matters to everyone. I think that Kiyoko also can understand well my inner feelings.

I have no last words. Please give my best regards to those people who have cared for me until now.

I saw Izumo Grand Shrine [4] from above in my plane. I also viewed the Oki Islands from the distance. I also saw Matsue Grand Shrine.

I am praying for your health.

It is my poor work, but I will leave a couple of poems.

As for this favor of being born in a glorious country
I will fall as a cherry blossom and return

For the country to win against a foreign country
I will be a sakimori of the skies

A sakimori was a soldier in Japan during the 7th to 9th century who protected the western frontier of Japan. Poems written by sakimori are included in the Manyōshū, the oldest surviving anthology of Japanese poetry compiled in the last half of the 8th century.


Letter and poems translated by Bill Gordon
May 2018

The letter and poems come from Kitagawa (1983, 126-7). The biographical information in the first paragraph comes from Kitagawa (1983, 126) and Osuo (2005, 221).

Notes

1. The word Gokō means protecting the Empire. Shirasagi means white egret. Himeji Castle, which dates back to the 14th century, has the name of Shirasagi Castle.

2. 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 based on his birth date indicates that his age was 23 at time of death.

3. Izumo Grand Shrine and the other places mentioned in this paragraph are in Komuro's home prefecture of Shimane.

4. Lieutenant Yukio Seki made the first recognized taiatari (body-crashing) attack of the Kamikaze Special Attack Corps in the Philippines on October 25, 1945. He was promoted two ranks to Commander after his death by special attack.

Sources Cited

Kitagawa, Mamoru, ed. 1983. Sōretsu kamikaze tokkōtai: Kaerazaru seishun no isho shū (Heroic Kamikaze Special Attack Corps: Collected last letters of youth that would not return). Tōkyō: Nihon Bungeisha.

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