Heroic Kamikaze Special
Attack Corps: Collected last
letters of youth that
would not return (1983)
Last Letter of Ensign Teruo Yamaguchi to His Father
At 2330 on June 21, 1945, Ensign Teruo Yamaguchi took off from Ibusuki Air
Base as pilot in a Type 0 Observation Seaplane (Allied code name of Pete)
carrying a 250-kg bomb. He was a member of the Kamikaze Special Attack Corps
12th Air Flotilla Two-Seat Reconnaissance Seaplane Squadron from Amakusa Naval
Air Group in Kumamoto Prefecture. He died in a special (suicide) attack off
Okinawa at the age of 23. He was from the Gotō Islands in Nagasaki Prefecture,
attended Kokugakuin University in Tōkyō, and was a member of the 1st Class of
the Navy's Flight Reserve Students (Hikō Yobi Seito).
He wrote the following final letter:
Please forgive the fate of me who must fall without being able to show
you any filial piety.
Suddenly I was appointed as a Special Attack Corps member, and at last
today I will depart toward the Okinawa Sea. When I was able to be appointed,
I was a Japanese person. Expecting simply success, I only will go forward on
my last mission. Nonetheless, is it a weak heart of only me who regrets
parting from the beautiful country and human kindness of Japan? When death
had been decided, the faces of you, Grandmother, and friends as before
appeared in my mind. When I think that nobody stopped hoping that I would be
a person who valued honor, I truly felt encouraged. I certainly will do it.
I must shout this to the apparitions of these persons.
However, while in the military I discovered the meaning of existence
where a person obtains a place to die, still I was not able to think that
military life, where I had to suppress my self until the end, was a nice
world to live. I can say that it was a great unhappiness for a reserve
officer who had experienced this world once. Regarding opinions on life and
death that I got several times from Lieutenant Ōkubo, I feel that while in
fact they seem penetrating, he said nothing more than military
superficialities. In the 23 years since I was born, there was also a way of
thinking that was only mine, but I will not express it since now that is
useless. Even now I feel sorrow in my heart for some politicians who deceive
the majority of the nation's people who are honest. However, since I believe
in the national identity and think that it is a lovely and beautiful thing,
I will follow orders of advisors to politicians and the high command.
Japan's national identity truly is a beautiful thing. More than classic
things and more than whether things existed or not in ancient times, I
believe in that. I love the historical forms of things from our ancestors'
pure hearts. I think that they are beautiful. The national identity is an
accumulation of things that were most beautiful for our ancestors. In
actuality, I believe that the best and supreme thing of our people is the
Imperial Family. I must protect personally with honor these beautiful and
Okinawa is the same as Gotō. I will not hold back to destroy the ones who
have invaded my hometown. For me now, Okinawa is my birthplace. In those
skies and seas, certainly Mother and Grandmother will greet me. So I am not
sad about death. I do not think that I will be fearful. I will not stop
praying for happiness for you and my many fellow countrymen. My greatest lack of filial piety was to not call you chichiue
(very polite way to say Father) even once. However, just before my crash
attack, I will be saying it as the form of address to you for the first and
last time. It is a person's childish feeling to communicate that to his
father, but please do not forget that I only called you chichiue in a
living voice on the day of the crash attack.
Amakusa truly was a good place. I did not ask to visit because of the
good qualities that Amakusa has. The mountains north of the base have places
that are very similar to Sugiyama and Magarizaka on Gotō. While lying down,
often I remembered when I went with you and Akira to the explosives
warehouse at Matsuyama and when, vaguely realizing the death of Mother, I
went by car to the crematorium at Magarisaka and recognized instinctively
that she was not able to be there.
When I die, Kazuko will be the only Yamaguchi person. There also is Older
Sister, so there is no worry. However, since I am entrusting all things to
you Father, please take care of these things.
A historical setback is not the downfall of the nation. I pray that you
will have a long life. It is expected that surely a new Japan will come. The
people cannot hasten death. Farewell.
On a separate sheet he wrote the following death poem in tanka form
(31-syllable poem with a syllable pattern of 5-7-5-7-7):
A warrior not valuing either honor or life
Will protect the island country of Japan
Letter translated by Bill Gordon
The letter comes from Kitagawa
(1983, 220-3). The biographical information in the first paragraph comes from
(1983, 220) and Osuo (2005, 240).
Another English translation of this letter written by Ensign Teruo Yamaguchi
can be found in Inoguchi and Nakajima (1958, 198-200).
Inoguchi, Rikihei, and Tadashi Nakajima, with Roger Pineau.
1958. The Divine Wind: Japan's Kamikaze Force in World War II.
Annapolis: Naval Institute Press.
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.
Osuo, Kazuhiko. 2005. Tokubetsu kōgekitai no kiroku (kaigun
hen) (Record of special attack corps (Navy)). Tōkyō: Kōjinsha.