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Last Letters of Navy
Special Attack Corps
(1971)

 
Last Letter of Flight Petty Officer 1st Class Noriyoshi Sugimoto

At 1500 on April 3, 1945, Flight Petty Officer 1st Class Noriyoshi Sugimoto took off from Kanoya Air Base in a Zero fighter carrying a 500-kg bomb and died in a special (suicide) attack south of Amami Ōshima at the age of 18. He was a member of the Jinrai Butai (Thunder Gods Corps) 2nd Kenmu Squadron. He was from Nangō Town in Miyazaki Prefecture and was a member of the 17th Otsu Class of the Navy's Yokaren (Preparatory Flight Training Program). Later he became a member of the 721st Naval Air Group.

He wrote the following final letter:

I do not choose to die for strong emotions, honor, and leaving a name for myself. We consider this to be the best path to save the Japanese people at this critical point.

However, as for our deaths being something foolish, we are not doing this for appearances and whims. A cherry blossom blooms and falls. A person, like a flower, blooms and falls. My friends, students at Nangō [1] School, went and fell smiling in the skies of Greater East Asia as a humble shield for the Empire of Japan and for the Emperor. I also will go and earnestly pray for others to follow after me.

Finally this is the farewell to everyone. Hope that you enjoy a long life forever. I will be a cherry blossom in a good place at Kudan [2].

Everyone, please stay healthy forever. I will go and come back. In a white wooden box [3] that will return. Do not cry or grieve. I will certainly come in glory in a small box of paulownia wood.


Letter translated by Bill Gordon
July 2018

The letter comes from Matsugi (1971, 126-7). The biographical information in the first paragraph comes from Matsugi (1971, 126) and Osuo (2005, 194).

Notes

1. Nangō, a former coastal town in southern Miyazaki Prefecture, was Sugimoto's hometown. In 2009, Nichinan City, Nangō Town, and Kitagō Town merged to form the new city of Nichinan.

2. Kudan Hill is the location in Tōkyō of Yasukuni Jinja, Japan's national shrine to honor spirits of soldiers killed in battle.

3. A white wooden box was how the Japanese military usually delivered the remains of war dead to their families. In the case of kamikaze pilots, the remains such as fingernails or hairs from the head would often be prepared in advance. There are also cases where the white box would arrive at the family's home with no remains.

Sources Cited

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.