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

 
Last Letter of Ensign Takenori Nakao

At 0600 on May 4, 1945, Ensign Takenori Nakao took off from Ibusuki Air Base as crewman in a two-man Type 94 Reconnaissance Seaplane (Allied code name of Alf) carrying a 500-kg bomb. He was a member of the Kamikaze Special Attack Corps Kotohira Suishin Squadron from Takuma Naval Air Group in Kagawa Prefecture. He died in a special (suicide) attack off Okinawa at the age of 22 [1]. He was from Fukuoka Prefecture, attended Tōkyō Imperial University to study law, and was a member of the 14th Class of the Navy's Flight Reserve Students.

He wrote the following final letter at Takuma Air Base on April 28, 1945:

At the send-off party, I was encouraged by the people there, and also I encouraged myself. I truly am a happy person. As someone of little significance, even though I do not have anything to render service to others, I am taken care of by others with true sincerity. I can go in high spirits with more happiness than I deserve.


Letter translated by Bill Gordon
May 2018

The letter comes from Kitagawa (1983, 192). The biographical information in the first paragraph comes from Kitagawa (1983, 192) and Osuo (2005, 238).

Nakao's final letter provides a good example of some typical difficulties encountered when trying to review writings left behind by Special Attack Corps members. Kitagawa (1983, 192) does not indicate that the above paragraph is just an excerpt from the final letter. Haruo's final letter published in the book Haruka naru sanga ni (In the faraway mountains and rivers) has two more paragraphs from his final letter and indicates that this is an excerpt from his final letter (Tōdai Senbotsu 1947, 167-8). Below is an English translation of this letter excerpt from Todai Gakusei Jichi-kai (2005, 118).

At the send-off party, I was both encouraged by others and also encouraged myself. I am a very lucky man indeed. An insignificant person as I am, I have nothing that I could contribute to others, and yet others have treated me with genuine kindness. I can now leave to fight the war with a courage and happiness which are more than I deserve.

I have nothing more to offer at this point except my prayers for your good health.

I have left behind the diary in which I wrote down my everyday thoughts. I may not have accomplished much, but I pushed on with my heart's desire to live clean and strong, and, as I look back, I am pleased to see that I have not done anything ugly or dirty.

Ohnuki-Tierney (2006, 208-9) provides the following English translation of Nakao's final letter that is much longer than any of the prior sources. The letter has three places where words have been omitted. It is not clear that these omissions are her own or are also present in her Japanese source.

At the farewell party, people gave me encouragement. I did my best to encourage myself. I am truly a happy person. I can meet my death with the belief that I have been treated with sincerity by people when I have not done anything for them. I have nothing to say at this time. I only hope for health for you all.

My co-pilot is Uno Shigeru, a good-looking boy, aged nineteen, a naval petty officer second class. His home is in Hyōgo Prefecture. . . . He thinks of me as his elder brother, and I think of him as my younger brother. Working as one heart, we will plunge into an enemy vessel. My photo, which I had taken when I visited the home of my colleague Ensign Maeda, should be ready shortly. They will send it to you. Please send one to Yanagiura [his best friend]. . . . The other day I paid my visit to Kotohira Shrine and had a picture taken. I told them to send the finished photo to you. Just in case, I enclose the receipt. . . . I imagine you would like to come visit me. But I don't even regret that we did not meet. I am sure we share our feeling for our country. Please do not get discouraged, and fight to defeat America and Britain. Please say the same to grandmother. I will leave behind my diary. Although I did not do much in my life, I am content that I fulfilled my wish to live a pure life, leaving nothing ugly behind me.

If you have a chance, please show my diary to Yanagiura. I have other friends from my student days and got to know some colleagues in the navy. I am sure Japan's future will be fine, with these people working for the country. Yoshitaka—do your best. If the books you sent me arrive by tomorrow, I will carry them with me. I wish to say my thanks to my uncle and many other people. Please convey my thanks to them. Wishing you the best for your future.

Takenori Nakao is one of the three Special Attack Corps members and seven student soldiers covered in Ohnuki-Tierney's book Kamikaze Diaries: Reflections of Japanese Student Soldiers (2006, 185-211). Nakao kept a diary during his time in the Navy (referred to in his last letter), but it was destroyed during an air raid on Takuma Air Base. His brother, Yoshitaka Nakao, edited a book over 700 pages of Takenori Nakao's writings entitled The Record of a Spiritual Quest: Handwritten Diary Left by Takenori Nakao, a Student who Perished in the War (1997). This book included the diary he kept from January 1934 to December 1943 and letters written from December 1942 to April 1945.

Notes

1. His age of 22 at death is based on the birth date of March 31, 1923, in Ohnuki-Tierney (2006, 185).

Sources Cited

Kitagawa, Mamoru, ed. 1983. Sōretsu kamikaze tokkōtai: Kaerazaru seishun no isho shū (Heroic Kamikaze Special Attack Corps: Collected last letters of youth that would not return). Tōkyō: Nihon Bungeisha.

Ohnuki-Tierney, Emiko. 2006. Kamikaze Diaries: Reflections of Japanese Student Soldiers. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

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

Tōdai Senbotsu Gakusei Shuki Henshū Iinkai (Committee to Compile Writings of University of Tōkyō Students Killed in War), comp. 1947. Haruka naru sanga ni (In the faraway mountains and rivers). Tōkyō: Tōdai Kyōdō Kumiai Shuppanbu.

Todai Gakusei Jichi-kai Senbotsu Gakusei Shuki Hensan Iinkai (Committee for Compiling the Writings of the University of Tokyo Students Killed in the War, the University of Tokyo Student Council), comp. 2005. In the Faraway Mountains and Rivers (Harukanaru Sanga ni): More Voices From A Lost Generation of Japanese Students. Translated by Joseph L. Quinn and Midori Yamanouchi. Scranton, PA: University of Scranton Press.