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Last Letters of Navy
Special Attack Corps
(1971)

 
Last Letter of Ensign Zenji Ueno to His Father

At 1535 on April 11, 1945, Ensign Zenji Ueno took off from Miyazaki Air Base as pilot in a Ginga bomber (Allied code name of Frances) with a crew of three. He was a member of the Kamikaze Special Attack Corps 5th Ginga Squadron. He died in a special (suicide) attack south of Kikaijima at the age of 21. He was from Tochigi Prefecture and was a student at Tochigi Teachers College. He was a member of the 13th Class of the Navy's Flight Reserve Students, and after training he became a member of the 501st Attack Hikōtai of the 762nd Air Group.

He wrote the following final letter:

Dear Father,

l was shocked at the news of Mother's death on the afternoon of the 23rd with everyone's kind nursing of her not able to achieve results.

A few days ago I was surprised to hear the news of Mother's critical condition, and every day I was praying earnestly that she would fully recover from her illness. I regret that the medical treatment was not effective and that she joined the number of deceased. It really was like a dream that put me in a daze.

Even though I was thinking to visit Mother's sickbed one time, I now received an important responsibility, bearing the Empire's fate on both my shoulders. It was regrettable that I did not have a moment to spare. Although I am determined more than usual, it is unfortunate that she died before I could complete a grand feat with distinction as a shield in the skies. Also, my affectionate Mother raised me so I had no discomfort until today when I am 23 years old [1]. Up to today I did not repay even a ten-thousandth of her kindness to me, and I just cannot bear the feeling of remorse. I sincerely apologize that the only thing that remains for me is to become a corpse coloring the sea as I destroy an enemy ship as a volunteer for certain death. I am only praying that Mother's soul may rest in peace.

The war situation has become more and more severe and reached a peak, and day after day my comrades everywhere are carrying out taiatari (body-crashing) attacks against enemy planes and ships. I will not be beat by them who live for this eternal cause, and full of vigor I will strive to carry out my mission by meeting the enemy and preying on them. Please rest assured. I surely will do my best.

Mother's funeral has been completed, so give my regards to all of my relatives. Although I wanted to send letters to Older Brother and Sister [2], I did not have the opportunity to write to them. Please give my best regards to them. I pray that you take good care of yourself during the cold and hard times. From afar I pray that Mother's soul may rest in peace.

Zenji


Letter translated by Bill Gordon
March 2018

The letter comes from Matsugi (1971, 167-8). The biographical information in the first paragraph comes from Matsugi (1971, 167) and Osuo (2005, 235).

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 most likely explains why the letter indicates his age as 23 whereas the current way of counting age based on his birth date in Matsugi (1971, 167) indicates that his age was 21 at time of death.

2. The Japanese wording does not specify the number of older brothers and sisters, so there could have been one or more of each.

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.