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Last letters of youth: Writings
of "Yokaren" war dead

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).

Shimizu 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.

Now carrying a bomb I will make an air raid at Iwo Jima and will 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 all of the relatives, acquaintances, friends, and townspeople.

Finally, I pray repeatedly for the family's health.

Letter translated by Bill Gordon
May 2018

The 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).


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.

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