Last Letters of Navy
Special Attack Corps (1971)
Last Letter of Lieutenant Kentarō Mitsuhashi to His Younger Brother and Sister
At 1120 on March 21, 1945, Lieutenant Kentarō Mitsuhashi took off
from Kanoya Air Base in a Navy Type 1 Attack Bomber (Allied code name of Betty) carrying
an ōka rocket-powered glider bomb. He was the leader of the Jinrai Butai
(Thunder Gods Corps) Ōka Unit pilots. It was planned for Mitsuhashi to pilot
the ōka glider bomb into an American ship after it was dropped from the bomber, but from 1420 to
1445 a group of about 50 American Grumman fighters intercepted the 18 Betty
bombers that had taken off from Kanoya and shot all of them down before any ōka
glider bomb could be released. Mitsuhashi died in this special (suicide) attack at the age of
21. He was from Chiba
Prefecture and graduated in the 72nd Class of the Naval Academy at Etajima.
He wrote the following final letter to his younger brother and sister:
Dear Shigeo and Chieko,
I was glad to read the letter from you. At last a new beginning is near
at hand. Please work hard with spirit and energy.
Here I am in very good health, and every day I am focused on rigorous
training, so please be at ease about me. If we Japanese people do not engage
in heroic fighting against the desperate counterattacks of the enemy
Americans and British, there cannot be peace for ten thousand
generations in the Emperor's domain.
The kamikaze (divine wind) from long ago was a gift where persons
did their best and the heavens did the rest. Now in the divine country of
Japan will there be as expected a kamikaze that protects the
Emperor's domain? I believe that there certainly will be one, but that is in
addition to the best efforts of people.
Reflecting on the current circumstances, have we reached the stage where
we are not able to do anything more? If the Japanese people one by one do
not work until they are completely exhausted, this war cannot be won. I
think that there is still strength remaining in the Japanese people. It is
the time when we must persevere until that remaining strength runs out. Now
the nearby enemy is carrying out reconnaissance of our mainland. Now is the
time to stand up.
Both of you, burning with the spirit that you have now, please push
forward bravely to do your duty.
Please give my regards to Father, Mother, and Older Sister. I pray that
you take care of yourselves and strive more and more.
From Older Brother
Letter translated by Bill Gordon
The letter comes from Matsugi
(1971, 225-6). The biographical information in the first paragraph comes from
Bungei Shunjū (2005, 568-9), Matsugi
(1971, 225), and Osuo (2005, 181). The historical photos below come from Naito
(1989, 126) (1st); Naito (1989, 121) (2nd); and Bungei Shunjū (2005, 111) (3rd).
Ōka unit leader Lieutenant Kentarō Mitsuhashi salutes
as he and his men prepare to take off from Kanoya
Air Base on first ōka mission on March 21, 1945
Mitsuhashi Unit members pose for group photo before first
ōka mission on March 21, 1945. Lieutenant Kentarō
Mitsuhashi is seated fourth from right on front row.
Bungei Shunjū, ed. 2005. Ningen bakudan to yobarete: Shōgen
- ōka tokkō (They were called human bombs: Testimony - ōka special attacks). Tōkyō: Bungei Shunjū.
Matsugi, Fujio, ed. 1971. Kaigun tokubetsu kōgekitai no isho (Last letters of Navy Special Attack Corps).
Tōkyō: KK Bestsellers.
Naito, Hatsuho. 1989. Thunder Gods: The Kamikaze Pilots Tell
Their Stories. Translated by Mayumi Ishikawa. Tōkyō: Kōdansha
Osuo, Kazuhiko. 2005. Tokubetsu kōgekitai no kiroku (kaigun
hen) (Record of special attack corps (Navy)). Tōkyō: Kōjinsha.
Lieutenant Kentarō Mitsuhashi (second from right) before first ōka
mission on March 21, 1945. He is carrying around his neck a white
pouch that contains the ashes of Tsutomu Kariya, a fellow Naval Academy
graduate who died during an ōka descent exercise on November 13, 1944.