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Last Letters of Navy
Special Attack Corps
(1971)

 
Last Letter of Flight Chief Petty Officer Tadakuni Kawano to His Parents

At 0507 on May 11, 1945, Flight Chief Petty Officer Tadakuni Kawano took off from Kanoya Air Base as pilot in a Zero fighter carrying a 500-kg bomb and died in a special (suicide) attack off Okinawa at the age of 22. He was a member of the Kamikaze Special Attack Corps 6th Shinken Squadron. He was from Miyazaki Prefecture and was a member of the 10th Kō 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:

Dear Father and Mother,

This is my last news for you. When I think back, there truly was no excuse for the worries that I caused you for 23 years [1]. Not being able to show any filial piety at all pierces my heart like water in a great river. However, I was a man. I think that until now your desire in bringing me up was for me to become a man who would not be ashamed as a Japanese man. My comrades at Okinawa made sure-death attacks. Also, they confronted the critical situation in the Greater East Asia War in a battle where they had to succeed. This battle, as the deaths of each of the samurai warriors of long ago during the ups and downs of Japan when there was not confidence in certain victory, became one step in the belief in victory. I think that there is nothing else to do other than this as the long-cherished desire of a man.

Seven lives to serve the country [2]. Even though I die in the eastern seas, my spirit surely will not die. Now I have no complaint. I want to die at "Tadashiro" [3]. It is my birthday on May 10. Tomorrow on May 11 I will go.

Being born and then dying is the true nature of this world, but isn't it interesting that my death comes one day after my birth? Next year when my birthday comes, please remember that it was that following day when I was born anew. Ha ha, until the end I will go cheerfully.

I surely will strike Japan's enemies. I am a member of the Special Attack Corps Shinken Squadron. Please think of my death during the morning of May 11. Now it is 9:00 in the evening on the 10th. Tomorrow I will wake up at 2:30 in the morning.

Father and Mother, I am praying for your health and happiness, and I will be protecting you from a faraway place. Farewell.

Kawano also wrote the following note to his brothers and sisters:

Brothers and Sisters, please take care and live honorably as Japanese people. There were many memories, but what to say is just a single word of "arigatō" (thank you). I also will go as a member of the Special Attack Corps in order to destroy the enemy who is trying to take possession of the country of Japan. It is a man's greatest service. Even though my body will be smashed, my heart and my spirit will live forever. I truly thank you for what you did for me for a long time. Now there is little time remaining. As my last word, please show filial piety to Father and Mother for me.


Letter translated by Bill Gordon
April 2018

The letter comes from Matsugi (1971, 195-6). The biographical information in the first paragraph comes from Matsugi (1971, 195) and Osuo (2005, 203).

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 explains why the letter indicates his age as 23 whereas the current way of counting age based on his birth date in Matsugi (1971, 195) indicates that his age was 22 at time of death.

2. According to legend, "seven lives to serve the country" were the last words of 14th-century samurai Kusunoki Masashige.

3. The meaning of the reference to "Tadashiro" is not clear.

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.