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Heroic Kamikaze Special
Attack Corps: Collected last
letters of youth that
would not return
(1983)

 
Last Letter of Lieutenant Naoji Fukabori to His Air Group's Commanding Officer

At 0430 on October 28, 1944, Lieutenant Naoji Fukabori took off from Cebu Air Base in the Philippines as gunner/radio operator in a two-man Type 99 Carrier Dive Bomber (Allied code name of Val) and died in a special (suicide) attack at Leyte Gulf at the age of 24. He was the 2nd Kamikaze Special Attack Unit Junchū Squadron Leader. He was from Nagasaki Prefecture and graduated in the 69th Class of the Naval Academy at Etajima.

On October 27, 1944, Lieutenant Naoji Fukabori and other aircraft in the Junchū Squadron took off from Nichols Airfield and headed toward Leyte Gulf to carry out special attacks there. Fukabori's aircraft did not carry out the attacks and landed at Cebu Airfield. There he wrote the following final letter to explain what happened and his plan for the next day.

October 27, 1944

701st Air Group Commanding Officer

At Cebu Airfield, Lieutenant Fukabori

Today my aircraft landed at Legazpi Airfield due to a broken bomb fuse mechanism. I took off immediately after it was replaced. In the skies above Legazpi Airfield only the Junchū Squadron gathered together, and we proceeded to Leyte Bay. The escort planes and the Seichū Squadron had gone ahead. The Junchū Squadron arrived at the battle area at 1850, and it was already after sunset. At an altitude of 1,000 meters we searched for about 30 minutes. Based on defensive gunfire, we could only know the whereabouts of several ships in the enemy fleet, and we could not determine the ship types. The consideration of making a taiatari (body-crashing) attack into a transport ship was very important. I abandoned the attack and headed toward Cebu Airfield. After we dispersed from the skies above the battle area, the location of the second plane in the squadron was unknown. It seems that it made a taiatari attack. Due to clouds and poor visibility, I did not see the battle result. The third plane got damaged in many places from the defensive gunfire. Unable to control the plane normally, the pilot headed toward Cebu Airfield together with me, but along the way it appears to have turned back toward the battle area. I was not able to do any searching to find it. At 2030, only I landed at Cebu Airfield. I look forward to tomorrow morning at daybreak, and I am determined to make a taiatari attack. I have recorded the lessons from today for reference, and I entrust myself to my aircraft.

  1. The bomb fuse mechanism lock certainly needs to be checked carefully prior to departure.
  2. Since the cruising speed is about 125 knots (nautical miles per hour) with one 250-kg bomb and one 60-kg bomb, the departure time needs to be set keeping this in mind. At dusk if the aircraft does not arrive by about 1820 at the latest, ship type identification and aiming at a target are difficult. Even with moonlight, underneath it is extremely difficult to see.
  3. In order to make a dusk or nighttime attack, even though it seems that one loses sight of the planes and that it is difficult to confirm battle results, I believe that satisfactory battle results can be obtained even with a Type 99 Carrier Dive Bomber. I want to ask you to communicate this to those who follow.
  4. I am considering how it would be to carry out taiatari attacks at dawn using Cebu as a stopover. If this is done, since the amount of fuel that will be left will be great, then it seems that it will be effective. Also, the chance of getting caught by fighters is low.
  5. Definitely do not become impatient. When there is an impossible situation, consider another attempt. I want to request that men following after think about this when making a taiatari attack. Generally if someone is impatient to win, there is a likelihood of missing the target.

Postscript

My squadron's aircraft truly were adorable. Today when it was time to crash dive in the battle area, each person gave a salute and smiled before dispersing. I could not help but shed tears. With this I believed firmly without a doubt in the Empire's success. This truly splendid behavior of my men even though they are young in years even now is engraved in my memory and will not leave. I believe that the persons who are Special Attack Corps members will be fine with no need to worry.

Well then, I depart.

I earnestly pray for your success.

Commander Tadashi Nakajima, commanding officer at Cebu Air Base, gave the following description of Naoji Fukabori's short stay at Cebu [1]:

Lieutenant Naoji Fukabori, for that was the pilot's name, was soon reporting to me at the command post. He was from the 701st Air Group of the Second Air Fleet and had that morning been chosen as a unit commander of the Second Kamikaze Special Attack Corps. His unit had left Nichols Field to search for enemy warships around Leyte. On the way, he had discovered that his bomb fuse was defective, and had landed at Legaspi to fix it. That done, he had taken off again, but the sun had set by the time he reached Leyte Gulf and so, unable to locate any targets in the darkness, he had flown on to Cebu.

This report was made in a most casual manner and Fukabori concluded by saying that he wished to leave early in the morning to complete the task he had started. He did not look like a man just come from an abortive suicide mission and eager for another chance to end his life.

After hearing his remarks I said, "It's all right for you to crash-dive into an enemy target alone tomorrow, but would it not be better if you returned to your base and waited for a chance to make your attack in concert with other kamikaze planes?"

I wished to remind him that a kamikaze plane stood less chance of reaching a target alone than it did when flying in a small group with escorts. He sat quietly while I spoke. We both knew that it was the duty of every special attack pilot to make the utmost use of his ability. He was giving deep consideration to the matter. When he spoke his response was soft but firm: "What you say is true, but my comrades have already made their attack. I will go tomorrow."

We said goodnight with no further attempt on my part to influence him. He must have slept soundly, for he looked rested and fresh very early next morning at the command post. I asked if he had eaten breakfast. He nodded and said, "And they have already given me a lunch. Have you had breakfast?" The casualness of his manner gave impact to these simple words. I shall never forget them.

He expressed appreciation for the hospitality of Cebu and handed me his last report for delivery to Mabalacat and Nichols Field. It was still dark when he took off . . . , accompanied by four fighter planes.

When the fighters returned they brought only an inconclusive report. They had become separated from Fukabori's plane just before reaching Leyte Gulf and had not observed his final plunge. At about the time that his plane should have arrived over the gulf, however, they did see the sky filled with puffs of enemy ack-ack fire.

I like to think that he was successful.

The deck log book dated October 28, 1944, of the light cruiser Denver (CL-58) gives the following record of a "single Japanese plane" that almost certainly was Fukabori's [2]:

At 0620 commenced firing at a single Japanese plane which, when partially destroyed by gunfire, suddenly went into a suicide dive, narrowly missing this ship’s superstructure and landing in the water about 50 yards to starboard of turret #4. Plane released bomb shortly before striking water and in resulting explosion damage was sustained. 0620 Commenced firing at single Jap plane which, when partially destroyed by gunfire, went into a suicide dive on this ship, landing in the water approximately fifty (50) feet from the ship abreast of turret #4; the resulting explosion caused the following damage: C-407-L and c-411-L were flooded and ship took a three (3) degree list to starboard; bursted seams in fuel tanks C-1, C-3. C-5 and C-903 with the resulting loss of approximately 50,000 gallons of fuel oil. 0640 Flooded compartments were reported under control although they could not be pumped out; there were no personnel casualties. 0645 Changed course right to 330⁰T(PGC). 0658 Went to 15 knots (150 RPM). At 0725 starboard list had been corrected and at 0810 ship left formation and at 0840 moored alongside S.S. DURHAM VICTORY. 0725 Starboard list has been corrected, the ship now being on an even keel. 0725 Magazine C-505-M reported to have small water leak; magazine was sealed, there being no powder in at the time.

Fukabori's aircraft was the only one of the entire Kamikaze Special Attack Corps that took off and did not return on October 28, 1944 [3]. Based on the distance between Cebu and Leyte Gulf and the speed of a Val dive bomber, Fukabori probably arrived at Leyte Gulf in about an hour. This time is also consistent with the times mentioned in his letter to the commanding officer of the 701st Air Group. Since Fukabori's departure was 0430 and Denver's firing on the diving plane started at 0620, the additional time after arrival at Leyte Gulf may have been spent searching an American ship to target, or there may have been some delay in getting to Leyte Gulf.


Letter translated by Bill Gordon
July 2018

The letter on this page comes from Kitagawa (1983, 66-8). The biographical information in the first paragraph comes Kitagawa (1983, 66) and Osuo (2005, 160).

Notes

1. Inoguchi and Nakajima 1958, 76-7.

2. Deck Log Book & War Diary Condensed, USS Denver CL 58, October 1, 1944, to October 31, 1944 <https://www.hazegray.org/navhist/denver/logoct44.htm> (July 7, 2018).

3. Osuo 2005, 158-63.

Sources Cited

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 be lost). Tōkyō: Nihon Bungeisha.

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