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Last Letters of Navy
Special Attack Corps
(1971)

 
Last Letter of Flight Petty Officer 1st Class Yoshiharu Nagata to His Parents

At 0558 on May 4, 1945, Flight Petty Officer 1st Class Yoshiharu Nagata took off from Kanoya Air Base in a Navy Type 1 Attack Bomber (Allied code name of Betty) carrying an ōka rocket-powered glider bomb. He was an ōka pilot in the Jinrai Butai (Thunder Gods Corps) 7th Ōka Squadron from the 721st Naval Air Group. He died in a special (suicide) attack off Okinawa at the age of 18. He was from Kumamoto Prefecture and was a member of the 1st Toku Otsu Class of the Navy's Yokaren (Preparatory Flight Training Program).

He wrote the following final letter to his parents with five death poems in tanka form (31-syllable poem with a syllable pattern of 5-7-5-7-7). The first poem was written in the evening before his sortie, and the second one was composed in the morning of the day of his sortie.

Cast out with no regrets for this world
In dreams I imagine faces of Father and Mother

Blooming in garden when storm blows
Today I go with name of divine thunder recorded

Sea eagle leaves nest and goes to southern skies
Roost where will return in forest at Yasukuni [1]

Today I leave nest to March skies
Friends not to return go smiling

Now in the season of spring warmth, I trust that everyone recently has been getting along in high spirits. The war has become more and more intense. Now there is an all-out war for the entire country. I have been prepared that there would be this day since I joined the Navy's air force. I think that the family also is prepared, but I have news for you. Recently I also have received an Imperial command, and I left the nest for the grand decisive battlefield. Since a shining example of a man is allowed to bloom, I absolutely will not die in vain. I surely am determined to sacrifice myself to destroy an enemy aircraft carrier. I will show you that I can bloom splendidly in my young life.

Please be assured.

For country in young life flower allowed to bloom
Shattered as jewel for the Emperor

When I have returned without form, please do not be sad at all and be glad. Also, please have my younger brothers and sisters follow after me who fell halfway. Though I had some intentions, I accomplished them. Well, I will make a sortie. I will go to the other world shortly before you. Father and Mother, please live in high spirits. Finally, I apologize for my lack of filial piety while alive. I pray for your health afterward.

Give my regards to all of the neighbors.

Farewell.


Letter and poems translated by Bill Gordon
January 2019

The letter and poems come from Matsugi (1971, 155-7). The biographical information in the first paragraph comes from Bungei Shunjū (2005, 54-5), Matsugi (1971, 155), and Osuo (2005, 190).

Note

1. Yasukuni Shrine in Tōkyō is the place of enshrinement for spirits of Japan's war dead.

Sources Cited

Bungei Shunjū, ed. 2005. Ningen bakudan to yobarete: Shōgen - ōka tokkō (They were called human bombs: Testimony - ōka special attacks). Tōkyō: Bungei Shunjū.

Matsugi, Fujio, ed. 1971. Kaigun tokubetsu kōgekitai no isho (Last letters of Navy Special Attack Corps). Tōkyō: KK Bestsellers.

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