Lieutenant Junior Grade
Last Letter with Blank Space
by Matsuzō 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 Seitō 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 Ōshima
Junior High School under the old educational system. On his way toward Okinawa,
he flew over Amami Ōshima. Surely he looked out over the islands with deep
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
of Article and Photo
This essay and photo are from Iwamoto and Tsutomu (1992, 122-4). Kiyoshi
Iwamoto kindly granted permission for their use.
Iwamoto, Kiyoshi, and Tsutomu Mukaida, eds. 1992. Chinkon
-- shirakumo ni norete kimi kaerimase: Tokkō 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: Jūsanzukabaru tokkōhi hozon iinkai (Committee to Preserve the
Jūsanzukabaru Special Attack Corps Monument).