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To the end of the flowing clouds:
Writings of Navy reserve
students who died in war
(1952)

 
Last Letter of Lieutenant Junior Grade Masaki Tanaka to His Father

At 2120 on May 27, 1945, Lieutenant Junior Grade Masaki Tanaka took off from Kushira Air Base as pilot in a Shiragiku trainer carrying two 250-kg bombs. He was a member of the Kamikaze Special Attack Corps 2nd Shiragiku Squadron from Tokushima Naval Air Group. He died in a special (suicide) attack off Okinawa at the age of 22. He was from Tōkyō Prefecture, attended Chūō University in Tōkyō, and was a member of the 13th Class of the Navy's Flight Reserve Students (Hikō Yobi Gakusei).

He wrote the following final letter with a death poem in tanka form (31-syllable poem with lines of 5-7-5-7-7 syllables) at the end:

Dear Father,

I truly thank you for what you have done for me for a long time. I am deeply grateful for such kindness that you showed to your only foolish son after Mother passed away. Faraway I am praying that you will take even better care of yourself and that you will have a long life to a hundred years. I am diligent so as to not fall behind your great efforts.

Next, there is the matter of Older Sister Chiyoko who instead of Mother has taken care of us for a long time. I must appreciate her. Please make Older Sister happy since she sacrificed her happiness for me. It is a matter that I have been worried about since long before. I earnestly ask for your help about her. I know that people go to where they naturally should go.

It is best not to leave the Tanaka Family forever with Older Sister. For the happiness of Older Sister, please make every effort for the burden to be together with Older Sisters Masako and Kiyoko.

Father, I will give up my life for His Majesty. Please rest assured.

Finally, I will end my letter praying for a long life for you.

For His Majesty
To become shield
This life
Time to give it up
Has come with happiness

Masaki


Letter and poem translated by Bill Gordon
May 2018

The letter and poem come from Hakuō Izokukai (1952, 243-5). The biographical information in the first paragraph comes from Hakuō Izokukai (1971, 243) and Osuo (2005, 242).

Sources Cited

Hakuō Izokukai (Hakuō Bereaved Families Association), ed. 1952. Kumo nagaruru hate ni: Senbotsu kaigun hikō yobi gakusei no shuki (To the end of the flowing clouds: Writings of Navy reserve student who died in war). Tōkyō: Nihon Shuppan Kyōdō.

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