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Last Letters of Second Lieutenant Yoshitarō Yonezu to His Mother and Older Brother

On November 13, 1944, Second Lieutenant Yoshitarō Yonezu took off from Marcot Airfield in the Philippines in a Type 4 Heavy Bomber (Allied code name of Peggy) and died east of Luzon in a special (suicide) attack at the age of 27. He was a member of the Fugaku [1] Squadron. After his death in a special attack, he received a two-rank promotion to Captain. He was from Shizuoka Prefecture and was in the 24th Class of the Army's Second Lieutenant Cadets.

According to Yasukuni Jinja (1998, 57-8), Yonezu wrote the following final letter:

Dear Mother and Older Brother,

An order has been received again to make a sortie when I will not return.

Up to now I have no regrets at all.

During my life of 27 years, I am deeply ashamed that I did not keep to the road at all as a child and as a younger brother.

I entrust everything to you, Older Brother. I freely live for an eternal cause.

However, I truly have regrets about going and leaving behind Mother in her old age. Among my remaining articles is toilet soap made in Manila that was an item given to me by the chief of staff.

I will be praying from Yasukuni Shrine [2] that you take good care of yourself and advance more and more.

According to Hara (2007, 117-8), Yonezu wrote the following two final letters separately to his older brother and mother. Several of the sentences in the two letters are the same as what is published in Yasukuni Jinja (1998, 57-8). Kōchiyama (1990, 218) has the same letter below to his older brother but indicates a portion of the letter is omitted after the second paragraph, and this version does not include the sentence about the "toilet soap made in Manila." It is not certain which source represents what Yonezu actually wrote.

Dear Older Brother,

An order has been received again to make a sortie when I will not return. Up to now I have no regrets at all. I already understand the training that is best for us as humans, and I have the mental state to go with zeal to my death. I just need to apply practically the teachings in the Imperial Rescript to Soldiers and Sailors and the Battlefield Instructions (Senjinkun). During my life of 27 years, I am deeply ashamed that I did not keep to the road at all as a child and as a younger brother.

I entrust everything to you. I freely live for an eternal cause. Nothing surpasses this as a young man's long-cherished desire.

Among my remaining articles is toilet soap made in Manila that was an item given to me by the chief of staff. I earnestly ask you to take care of Mother. Please take good care of yourself during the coming cold.

Yoshitarō


Dear Mother,

Please forgive my lack of filial piety in leaving before you. However, since I will become a protecting spirit at Yasukuni Shrine as a shield for the Emperor, I know that my deceased mother also will be glad.

However, it distresses me more than anything to cause you worries in your old age. Please forgive me.

Yoshitarō

Yonezu wrote the following letter soon after formation of the Fugaku Special Attack Squadron on October 25, 1944, at Hamamatsu Air Base in Shizuoka Prefecture:

Dear Older Brother,

Parting

With a hasty deployment, I am sorry that I cannot tell you the details.

A special attack unit, which has not been revived for some time after the special assignment at Pearl Harbor, now finally has been formed with our squadron.

It is expected that we will become war heroes of the skies. One hundred million [3] will press forward wholeheartedly in their duties.

I look forward to the battle results.


Translated by Bill Gordon
July 2018 and May 2021

The letters come from Kōchiyama (1990, 181-2, 218), Hara (2007, 117-8), and Yasukuni Jinja (1998, 57-8). The biographical information on this page comes from Yasukuni Jinja (1998, 57) and Osuo (2005, 189).

Notes

1. Fugaku means Mount Fuji.

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

3. The figure of one hundred million refers to the entire Japanese population.

Sources Cited

Hara, Katsuhiro. 2007. Chinkon: Tokubetsu kōgekitai no isho (Repose of souls: Last letters of Special Attack Corps). Tōkyō: KK Bestsellers.

Kōchiyama, Yuzuru. 1990. On'ai no kizuna tachigatashi: Tokkō taichō Nishio Tsunesaburō no shōgai (Unbreakable bonds of kindness and affection: Life of special attack squadron leader Tsunesaburō Nishio). Tōkyō: Kōjinsha.

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

Yasukuni Jinja, ed. 1998. Eirei no koto no ha (4) (Words of the spirits of war heroes, Volume 4). Tōkyō: Yasukuni Jinja Shamusho.