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Last Letters of Navy
Special Attack Corps
(1971)

 
Last Letter of Flight Petty Officer 2nd Class Atsuo Matsunaga to His Mother and Aunt

At 2330 on June 25, 1945, Flight Petty Officer 2nd Class Atsuo Matsunaga took off from Koniya Air Base in Amami Ōshima 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. He died in a special (suicide) attack off Okinawa at the age of 17. He was from Kagoshima Prefecture and was a member of the 13th Kō Class of the Navy's Yokaren (Preparatory Flight Training Program).

He wrote the following final letter to his mother and aunt:

Now I with calmness will be a cornerstone for the Empire. Smiling, I will go and fall as a splendid cherry blossom in the spring. For 19 years since I was born [1] in Shimane in the divine country Yamato [2], I only gave trouble to you, Mother and Aunt. Going without being able to do for you any filial piety at all is my greatest regret, but now I live for an eternal cause and go to die as a shield for the Emperor in the Okinawan sea as a Special Attack Corps member during the bloody battle. Saying "this is the long-cherished desire of a military man," I believe that this will be the beginning of filial piety. It will console your hearts.

As a result of rigorous training, your self-centered son at last will be able to so something useful. Born as a Japanese man, I as a crewman who will do the most worthwhile work have the honor of going to die at the place of the decisive battle at Okinawa while the country is being attacked violently. I have no regrets. Out of several hundred ships of the ugly enemy approaching in surges on the rough waves of the Pacific Ocean, my plane that will carry a giant bomb certainly will sink instantly an enemy ship and in the Okinawan sea will open up as cherry blossoms on many branches. Farewell, Mother and Aunt. Please have Takako grow up in good health and promise with your heart that she will be my successor. Definitely please do not cry. Please smile. I surely will take revenge for Father.

Death Poem

Young cherry blossom living for an eternal cause
Just to go bravely in skies of Okinawa

Please take good care of the paulownia tree that I received from Older Sister Fusa. I wish success for everyone in the family.


Letter and poem translated by Bill Gordon
July 2018

The letter and poem come from Matsugi (1971, 94-5). The biographical information in the first paragraph comes from Matsugi (1971, 94) and Osuo (2005, 240).

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 19 whereas the current way of counting age indicates that his age was 17 at time of death based on his birth date given in Matsugi (1971, 94).

2. Yamato is an ancient name for Japan.

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.