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Last Letter of Flight Petty Officer 2nd Class Mitsuo Matsuda to His Mother

On April 27, 1945, Flight Petty Officer 2nd Class Mitsuo Matsuda died in a special (suicide) attack at the age of 20 when submarine I-36 launched his kaiten manned torpedo at a group of enemy ships off Okinawa. On April 22, 1945, submarine I-36 made a sortie from Hikari Kaiten Base in Yamaguchi Prefecture with six kaiten pilots who were members of the Kaiten Special Attack Corps Tenmu Unit. Four of the six kaiten pilots died when launched on April 27, but the kaiten weapons of two pilots did not function and were unable to be launched. Submarine I-36 with the two remaining kaiten pilots returned to Hikari on April 30. Matsuda was from Ibaraki Prefecture and was a member of the 13th Kō Class of the Navy's Yokaren (Preparatory Flight Training Program). He received a promotion to Ensign after his death by special attack.

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

Before my sortie, my true feeling is that I wish that I could see you Mother at home even for a little while. However, I am glad to go and fall for the country as your child. If I were a mother, I would feel that my child should be assured to be able to do his public duty.

Mother, ah Mother, I will become a spirit to protect the country. I pray that on the horizon displayed in the periscope I will return home to see you.

My body
With American fiends
Even if it sinks
Smiling I will return
In my mother's dreams


Letter translated by Bill Gordon
July 2018

The letter comes from Matsugi (1971, 179). The biographical information in the first paragraph comes from Konada and Kataoka (2006, 221-8, 376), Matsugi (1971, 179), and Mediasion (2006, 57, 83).

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.

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.