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Last Letter of Lieutenant Keiu Matsuo to His Parents

On June 1, 1942, Lieutenant Keiu Matsuo died at the age of 24 during the attack of his two-man midget submarine at Sydney Harbor, Australia, after being released from submarine I-22. He was the 2nd Special Attack Flotilla Commander, which included six crewmen in three midget submarines that attacked Sydney Harbor on May 31, 1942. He was from Yamaga City in Kumamoto Prefecture and graduated in the 66th Class of the Naval Academy at Etajima. He received a promotion of two ranks to Commander after his death, which was recognized as being in a special (suicide) attack.

Matsuo wrote the following final letter to his parents:

There is nothing that surpasses the long-cherished desire of a young man assigned to honored duty earlier as Executive Officer to the Commander of the 1st Special Attack Flotilla [1] and now as O [2] Commander.

Believing firmly in divine aid under the power of His Majesty the Emperor, I certainly expect success. When I think back on the 26 years [3] since I was born, there was not a moment of spare time when your hearts were at ease. Even though I will die, at this time I am grateful for what you did. Please praise my last act of filial piety when I complete my mission.

You have shown care to me up to today. Please give my regards first to everyone in our hometown and to the teachers, seniors, and associates who made me what I am today.

Finally, as for Toshiko's [4] finding out about this, since she will not be able to bear it, I request that you please notify her directly.

Please apologize to the Kinoshita parents for my great lack of filial piety. I have no regrets in my heart. With gratitude for my falling, I bid farewell praying for your long life and everyone's happiness.

May 27

Keiu

Father, P.S. - Today is the joyous Naval Commemoration Day. At the surface of the sea here the weather is clear, but the waves are high. As I consider 37 years ago, I keenly feel deep emotions.

I will go on the path that a warrior goes on. I pray that the Emperor's heart be at peace.

There are two monuments in Kumamoto Prefecture in honor of Keiu Matsuo: Matsuo Monument (Yamaga City) and Matsuo Monument (Kikuchi Jinja). There is also an animation film about his life: Matsuo Keiu to sono haha (Keiu Matsuo and his mother).


Letter translated by Bill Gordon
January 2019

The letter comes from Yasukuni Jinja (2001, 73-4). The biographical information in the first paragraph comes from Matsuo Monument (Yamaga City), Tokkōtai Senbotsusha (1990, 221), and Yasukuni Jinja (2014, 73).

Notes

1. During the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Matsuo was aboard submarine I-22, which carried one of the five midget submarines in the 1st Special Attack Unit that were launched during the attack.

2. O indicates information that was a military secret and could not be included in the letter.

3. 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 his age based on his birth date of July 21, 1917 (Matsuo Monument (Yamaga City)), indicates that his age at death was 24.

4. Matsuo was engaged to be married to Toshiko Kinoshita (Tamura 2009, 48).

Sources Cited

Tamura, Keiko. 2009. "Triumphant return in silence." Wartime 45: 46-9.

Tokkōtai Senbotsusha Irei Heiwa Kinen Kyōkai (Tokkōtai Commemoration Peace Memorial Association). 1990. Tokubetsu Kōgekitai (Special Attack Corps). Tōkyō: Tokkōtai Senbotsusha Irei Heiwa Kinen Kyōkai.

Yasukuni Jinja, ed. 2001. Eirei no koto no ha (7) (Words of the spirits of war heroes, Volume 7). Tōkyō: Yasukuni Jinja Shamusho.