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Lieutenant Junior Grade
Seiichi Maebashi

 
Last Letter with Blank Space
by Matsuzo Maebashi (Seiichi's younger brother)

I go in good spirits.

That was the letter with his farewell of only one line. Even now I clearly remember it. One day in March 1945, a postcard was delivered to our hometown of Kawanabe Town in Kawanabe-gun from my older brother, Seiichi Maebashi. There remained plenty of extra space on that postcard, and there was nothing but one line of characters lined up in the middle.

I, who was a first-year student at Kawanabe Junior High School under the old educational system, looked at that postcard and was immediately surprised. "Why, the writing is too simple." But some time passed, and I felt a lump in my throat when I thought that this might be his last letter.

That dark premonition turned out to be true. In April when the cherry blossoms had already completely fallen, the official announcement of my older brother's death in battle was made known in my hometown.

There is one more mystery about the postcard that turned out to be my brother's last letter. The postcard's addressee was not my parents and their children but rather my uncle. Why didn't my older brother deliver directly his last words to his own family? After the war I continued thinking about that for a long time, but even now I have not solved the mystery.

But when I try to think it over, my brother was a career officer from the Naval Academy. He had to fly together with his juniors, university students who had entered the military. For them their father, mother, and younger brothers and sisters probably came to mind. They probably wanted to say farewell in many words before their final journey.

However, I came to think that perhaps his strong sense of being a career officer restrained his emotions toward his family and made him write a last letter of only one line addressed to my uncle. The thoughts of my older brother, which were not passed down to his family's younger brothers and sisters, must surely have been recorded on the large amount of blank space on that postcard.

My older brother was in the 72nd Class of the Naval Academy. The register of his class states that he took off from Kokubu No. 2 Base as a leader of the Kamikaze Special Attack Corps 1st Seito Squadron and dove into an enemy ship off the coast of Okinawa North Airfield on April 6, 1945. According to another reference source, 14 Type 99 (Val) Dive Bombers from the Hyakurihara Air Group participated in the Kikusui Operation No. 1 on April 6 in order to attack the fleet of transport ships off Okinawa. Planes took off from Kokubu Base from 1:30 p.m. to 2 p.m. The name of Lieutenant Junior Grade Seiichi Maebashi as section leader is recorded on the list of names.

In my brother's youth he was raised in Nase on the island of Amami Oshima in connection with my father's work. He went on to the Naval Academy from Oshima Junior High School under the old educational system. On his way toward Okinawa, he flew over Amami Oshima. Surely he looked out over the islands with deep emotion.

My brother was the oldest son of five boys and three girls. My parents have passed away, but his seven younger brothers and sisters are all in good health.

Essay translated by Bill Gordon
May 2009

Source of Article and Photo

This essay and photo are from Iwamoto and Tsutomu (1992, 122-4). Kiyoshi Iwamoto kindly granted permission for their use.

Source Cited

Iwamoto, Kiyoshi, and Tsutomu Mukaida, eds. 1992. Chinkon -- shirakumo ni norete kimi kaerimase: Tokkou kichi daini kokubu no ki (Repose of souls -- riders of the white clouds, come back to us: Record of Special Attack Corps Kokubu No. 2 Air Base). Mizobe Town, Kagoshima Prefecture: Jusanzukabaru tokkouhi hozon iinkai (Committee to Preserve the Jusanzukabaru Special Attack Corps Monument).