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Last letters of youth: Writings
of "Yokaren" war dead
(1968)

 
Last Letter of Flight Petty Officer 2nd Class Kunio Shimizu to His Parents

At 1400 on February 21, 1945, Flight Petty Officer 2nd Class Kunio Shimizu took off from Hachijōjima Airfield as navigator/bombardier in a Tenzan carrier attack bomber (Allied code name of Jill) carrying an 800-kg bomb. He was a member of the Kamikaze Special Attack Corps 2nd Mitate Squadron. He died in a special (suicide) attack off Iwo Jima (Iōtō) at the age of 20. He was from Nagano Prefecture and was a member of the 12th Kō Class of the Navy's Yokaren (Preparatory Flight Training Program).

The following last letter was written on February 17, 1945, at Katori Air Base in Chiba Prefecture:

Dear Parents,

In the season of the Lunar New Year, from far away I trust that you are staying in good health. Fortunately I am in robust health and fighting, so please rest assured.

The war situation truly has reached a peak in intensity. Now the time has come for me with resolve to die for the country. Parents, the many worries that I caused you were inexcusable. Finally my ardent desire has been rewarded, and it has come about that I bravely will make a sortie as a shield for the country and Emperor.

Sooner or later in order to achieve a breakthrough in this war, we had to retaliate with death. To the best of my ability, poor though it may be, I am a person who has a renewed spirit.

Parents, now I have tears of gratitude for your very warm kindness. However, now I have received an Imperial command. I am confident that repaying and serving the Emperor through the Special Attack Corps will be my greatest act of filial piety.

Since graduation from flight training, as I served at Matsuyama Base, suddenly on February 11 we received an order to depart for the 1st Air Flotilla. Immediately on February 12, all planes moved to Katori Base in two hours. One unit searched for and attacked the enemy, and it came about that planes of many classmates did not return.

Soon on the 15th and 16th, we had a huge enemy air attack, and the base suffered heavy machine-gun strafing. More than ten aircraft went up in flames, and magnificent aerial battles were displayed in all directions.

At 1 p.m. on the 17th, there was an order from Imperial General Headquarters for the 1st Air Flotilla to form a special attack unit. I will stiffen my determination even more, and I wait for the day when I will close in and attack.

Tomorrow it is planned that we will advance to Iwo Jima and then make an attack.

Please understand when the situation is as described before. I go gladly to fall as a flower in the Emperor's military force. I pray that you sufficiently watch over yourselves and that you have good health for a very long time.

With dauntless courage, I will plunge into an enemy ship.

With messy writing, I end this final letter as I suppress hot tears.

I pray for everyone's health.

Shimizu also wrote the following final letter:

To Parents at time of my farewell,

On the occasion of this unprecedented situation for the Empire, I bear on my shoulders the country's fate. Today I will rush in to destroy the American fleet as a member of the Mitate Special Attack Unit. I will die for an eternal cause.

I certainly will not forget your kindness for the past 20 years. Please forgive my past lack of filial piety. However, I will do consummate service for the Emperor. Even with my poor ability, I will go and fall splendidly as a young cherry blossom in a way to meet your expectations.

It is extremely regrettable to die at the age of 21 [1] without having completed any great deeds, but since fortunately I have received an Imperial command, I gladly will go smiling to fall as a flower to defend the country. Therefore, you can surely guess my thinking. I earnestly ask that you understand me.

There is not anything in addition to this as a final letter. Please pay sufficient attention to your health, and please raise Kimiko and Chūji to be fine persons.

Carrying a bomb, I now will make an air raid at Iwo Jima and carry out a taiatari (body-crashing) attack against an enemy ship.

I have no regrets. There is only the country.

Having determination like this, I earnestly ask that you please do not grieve in any way even with news of my death in battle. Please be glad with there being nothing that surpasses this as the long-cherished desire of a young man. Please wait for the day when it is announced in the newspapers and on the radio.

Well then, next time I will meet you at Yasukuni Shrine [2] in the springtime when the cherry trees are in full bloom.

Please give my best regards to relatives, acquaintances, friends, and all of the townspeople.

Finally, once again I pray for the family's health.


Letters translated by Bill Gordon
May and November 2018

The first letter comes from Orihara (1973, 228-30). The second letter comes from Mainichi Shinbunsha (1968, 83-4). The biographical information in the first paragraph comes from Mainichi Shinbunsha (1968, 83) and Osuo (2005, 227).

Notes

1. 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 21 whereas Mainichi Shinbunsha (1968, 83) indicates that his age was 20 at time of death.

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

Sources Cited

Mainichi Shinbunsha, ed. 1968. Seishun on isho: "Yokaren" senbotsusha no shuki (Last letters of youth: Writings of "Yokaren" war dead). Tōkyō: Mainichi Shinbunsha.

Orihara, Noboru, comp. 1973. Ware tokkō ni shisu: Yokaren no ikō (I will die in a special attack: Yokaren (Preparatory Flight Training Program) writings). Tōkyō: Keizai Ōraisha.

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