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 .
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 . 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" .
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
The letter comes from Matsugi
(1971, 194-6). The biographical information in the first paragraph comes from
(1971, 194) and Osuo (2005, 203).
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
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
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.