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Last Letters of Navy
Special Attack Corps
(1971)

 
Last Letter of Flight Petty Officer 1st Class Ataru Shimamura

At 1120 on March 21, 1945, Flight Petty Officer 1st Class Ataru Shimamura 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. It was planned for Shimamura 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. Shimamura died in this special (suicide) attack at the age of 19. He was a member of the Jinrai Butai (Thunder Gods Corps) Ōka Unit. He was from Okayama Prefecture and was a member of the 15th Class of Navy Reserve Trainees (Yobi Renshūsei) [1]. After completion of training, he became a member of the 721st Naval Air Group.

He wrote the following final letter with a death poem at the end:

Since I was born in the reign of Taishō [2], now here I respectfully thank you for your kindness in giving me loving care for 20 years [3].

I, who will inherit eternally the history of the glorious Empire with an imperial line of 3,000 years, have the honor to fall before the Emperor.

There is nothing that surpasses this long-cherished desire of a military man. Smiling and singing a song, from here I will go and fall.

This spring please visit Yasukuni Shrine [4] and see me. There I will be smiling as a cherry blossom together with many of my comrades.

I died smiling. Please smile. Without weeping, please consider my death to be meaningful.

Cherry blossom falls in Emperor's land
Day it blooms next at shrine at Kudan [5]


Letter and poem translated by Bill Gordon
March 2018

The letter and poem come from Matsugi (1971, 124-5). The biographical information in the first paragraph comes from Bungei Shunjū (2005, 568-9), Matsugi (1971, 124), and Osuo (2005, 194).

Notes

1. Navy Reserve Trainees first attended a Pilot Training School in Ehime, Nagasaki, or Fukuyama. After graduation, they entered the Naval Flight Training Corps.

2. Taishō was the Japanese Emperor from July 30, 1912, to December 25, 1926. Shimamura was born on March 7, 1926.

3. 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 most likely explains why the letter indicates his age as 20 whereas the current way of counting age based on his birth date in Matsugi (1971, 124) indicates that his age was 19 at time of death.

4. Yasukuni Shrine in Tōkyō is the place of enshrinement for spirits of Japan's war dead.

5. Kudan is a hill in Tōkyō where Yasukuni Shrine is located.

Sources Cited

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.

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