Heroic Kamikaze Special
Attack Corps: Collected last
letters of youth that
would not return (1983)
Last Letter of Ensign Takenori Nakao
At 0600 on May 4, 1945, Ensign Takenori Nakao took off
from Ibusuki Air Base as crewman in a two-man Type 94 Reconnaissance Seaplane
(Allied code name of Alf) carrying a 500-kg bomb. He was a member of
the Kamikaze Special Attack Corps Kotohira Suishin Squadron from Takuma Naval Air Group in
Prefecture. He died in
a special (suicide) attack off Okinawa at the age of 22 . He was from Fukuoka
Prefecture, attended Tōkyō Imperial University to study law, and was a member of the 14th
Class of the Navy's Flight Reserve Students.
He wrote the following final letter at Takuma Air Base on April 28, 1945:
At the send-off party, I was encouraged by the people there, and also I
encouraged myself. I truly am a happy person. As someone of little
significance, even though I do not have anything to render service to
others, I am taken care of by others with true sincerity. I can go in high
spirits with more happiness than I deserve.
Letter translated by Bill Gordon
The letter comes from Kitagawa
(1983, 192). The biographical information in the first paragraph comes from
(1983, 192) and Osuo (2005, 238).
Nakao's final letter provides a good example of some typical difficulties
encountered when trying to review writings left behind by Special Attack
Corps members. Kitagawa (1983, 192) does not indicate that the above paragraph
is just an excerpt from the final letter. Haruo's final letter published in the
book Haruka naru sanga ni (In the faraway mountains and rivers) has two
more paragraphs from his final letter and indicates that this is an excerpt
from his final letter (Tōdai Senbotsu 1947, 167-8). Below is an English
translation of this letter excerpt from Todai Gakusei Jichi-kai (2005, 118).
At the send-off party, I was both encouraged by others and also
encouraged myself. I am a very lucky man indeed. An insignificant person as
I am, I have nothing that I could contribute to others, and yet others have
treated me with genuine kindness. I can now leave to fight the war with a
courage and happiness which are more than I deserve.
I have nothing more to offer at this point except my prayers for your
I have left behind the diary in which I wrote down my everyday thoughts.
I may not have accomplished much, but I pushed on with my heart's
desire to live clean and strong, and, as I look back, I am pleased to see
that I have not done anything ugly or dirty.
Ohnuki-Tierney (2006, 208-9) provides the following English translation of
Nakao's final letter that is much longer than any of the prior sources. The letter has three places where words have been omitted.
It is not clear that these omissions are her own or are also present in her
At the farewell party, people gave me encouragement. I did my best to
encourage myself. I am truly a happy person. I can meet my death with the
belief that I have been treated with sincerity by people when I have not
done anything for them. I have nothing to say at this time. I only hope for
health for you all.
My co-pilot is Uno Shigeru, a good-looking boy, aged nineteen, a naval petty
officer second class. His home is in Hyōgo Prefecture. . . . He thinks of me
as his elder brother, and I think of him as my younger brother. Working as
one heart, we will plunge into an enemy vessel. My photo, which I had taken
when I visited the home of my colleague Ensign Maeda, should be ready
shortly. They will send it to you. Please send one to Yanagiura [his best
friend]. . . . The other day I paid my visit to Kotohira Shrine and had a
picture taken. I told them to send the finished photo to you. Just in case,
I enclose the receipt. . . . I imagine you would like to come visit me. But
I don't even regret that we did not meet. I am sure we share our feeling for
our country. Please do not get discouraged, and fight to defeat America and
Britain. Please say the same to grandmother. I will leave behind my diary.
Although I did not do much in my life, I am content that I fulfilled my wish
to live a pure life, leaving nothing ugly behind me.
If you have a chance, please show my diary to Yanagiura. I have other
friends from my student days and got to know some colleagues in the navy. I
am sure Japan's future will be fine, with these people working for the
country. Yoshitaka—do your best. If the books you sent me arrive by
tomorrow, I will carry them with me. I wish to say my thanks to my uncle and
many other people. Please convey my thanks to them. Wishing you the best for
Takenori Nakao is one of the three Special Attack Corps members and seven
student soldiers covered in
Ohnuki-Tierney's book Kamikaze Diaries: Reflections of Japanese
Student Soldiers (2006, 185-211). Nakao kept a diary during his time in the
Navy (referred to in his last letter), but it was destroyed during an air raid
on Takuma Air Base. His brother, Yoshitaka Nakao, edited a book over 700 pages
of Takenori Nakao's writings entitled The Record of a Spiritual Quest:
Handwritten Diary Left by Takenori Nakao, a Student who Perished in the War
(1997). This book included the diary he kept from January 1934 to December 1943
and letters written from December 1942 to April 1945.
1. His age of 22 at death is based on the birth
date of March 31, 1923, in Ohnuki-Tierney (2006, 185).
Kitagawa, Mamoru, ed. 1983. Sōretsu kamikaze tokkōtai: Kaerazaru seishun no isho
shū (Heroic Kamikaze Special Attack Corps:
Collected last letters of youth that would not return). Tōkyō: Nihon Bungeisha.
Ohnuki-Tierney, Emiko. 2006. Kamikaze Diaries: Reflections of Japanese
Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Osuo, Kazuhiko. 2005. Tokubetsu kōgekitai no kiroku (kaigun
hen) (Record of special attack corps (Navy)). Tōkyō: Kōjinsha.
Tōdai Senbotsu Gakusei Shuki Henshū Iinkai (Committee to
Compile Writings of University of Tōkyō Students Killed in War), comp. 1947.
Haruka naru sanga ni (In the faraway mountains and rivers). Tōkyō:
Tōdai Kyōdō Kumiai Shuppanbu.
Todai Gakusei Jichi-kai Senbotsu Gakusei Shuki Hensan Iinkai (Committee
for Compiling the Writings of the University of Tokyo Students Killed in the
War, the University of Tokyo Student Council), comp. 2005.
In the Faraway
Mountains and Rivers (Harukanaru Sanga ni): More Voices From A Lost Generation of Japanese Students. Translated by Joseph L. Quinn
and Midori Yamanouchi. Scranton, PA: University of Scranton Press.