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Last Letter of Flight Petty Officer 2nd Class Hideo Abe to His Parents

On April 27, 1945, Flight Petty Officer 2nd Class Hideo Abe died in a special (suicide) attack at the age of 18 when submarine I-36 launched his kaiten manned torpedo at a group of enemy ships off Okinawa. On April 22, 1945, submarine I-36 made a sortie from Hikari Kaiten Base in Yamaguchi Prefecture with six kaiten pilots who were members of the Kaiten Special Attack Corps Tenmu Unit. Four of the six kaiten pilots died when launched on April 27, but the kaiten weapons of two pilots did not function and were unable to be launched. Submarine I-36 with the two remaining kaiten pilots returned to Hikari on April 30. Abe was from Otaru City in Hokkaidō Prefecture and was a member of the 13th Kō Class of the Navy's Yokaren (Preparatory Flight Training Program). He received a promotion to Ensign after his death by special attack.

He wrote the following final letter:

Dear Parents,

I trust that you have been getting along without any changes. I also am full of high spirits. I trust that Shōzō also is doing things full of high spirits.

It is inexcusable that recently I have not written to the family and have caused you concern. When a letter does not come, please think that I am in high spirits. Since I seldom have written to relatives and friends like I have neglected to write to the family, I request that you give them my regards if you see them.

Now it is ski season in Hokkaidō. I can't contain my desire to ski. It can't be helped. Even if I do it now, I will not lose to Shōzō though I have not done it for two years. Now I am doing something that surpasses the exhilarating feeling when skiing.

I want to show you one time my figure full of high spirits as I work industriously and play enthusiastically, but I am not able to take photos at this place.

Among the three brothers, it seems that I will go earliest to that place. Also, perhaps it is not unexpected. I always am in high spirits. There is not even any worry. I can remember when I departed in September. At that time I was expecting to go to sea, but now I am in the Special OO [1]. When I left Suzuki and others from Otaru, I have been alone. However, I get along well with friends in my unit, and all of us young persons are excited as we are striving as hard as we can.

The snow must be very deep. In December and January and even now we do exercises wearing nothing. In winter there are exercises and swimming wearing nothing. Please imagine the spirited and lively figures of us young people.

Now I learned to smoke tobacco. Please imagine my figure as I puff on a cigarette. You probably think that I am reckless, but one time I drank sake and had a hangover with multiple vision. Please envision and laugh at my figure as I was in confusion this time.

I would like to have a few drinks together with Father so we can talk a good deal and have a wild time. In addition, if Older Brother Hiroshi also were there, there will be no excuse.

Shōzō also probably is just like a grown-up. I remember things. There have been few high-spirited letters from Shōzō. Sorry that I also am the same.

I bought a short sword. I am having trouble since the pouch that I put it into is not just right. I asked for a length of 1 shaku 2 sun (36.36 cm). A long sword is not necessary.

Stories about Otaru and hometown food are innocent desires of my childish heart. Don't get me wrong. I would like to eat it. Our life is beyond our control.

The New Year this year must have been really lonely with only you three, Father, Mother, and Shōzō. I remember that last year was fun since Older Brother was there also.

I am dreaming as I wait for the grand day. When I do it, I absolutely will not be following someone's lead. Since I am your child, please be assured.

Be in good spirits. Farewell.

Since I am concerned about Mother's poor health, surely please send a photo of her in good health. Also one of Father. I will keep them securely held to my heart, since I am dreaming of the day when I will do it.

Otaru, my hometown where I was born, farewell now.

I will make a taiatari (body-crashing) attack.

Letter translated by Bill Gordon
December 2018

The letter comes from Orihara (1973, 317-9). The biographical information in the first paragraph comes from Konada and Kataoka (2006, 221-8, 376), Mediasion (2006, 57, 83), and Orihara (1973, 315).


1. OO indicates information that was a military secret and could not be included in the letter. "Special OO" almost certainly meant "Special Attack Corps."

Sources Cited

Konada, Toshiharu, and Noriaki Kataoka. 2006. Tokkō kaiten sen: Kaiten tokkōtai taichō no kaisō (Special attack kaiten battles: Kaiten special attack corps leader's reminiscences). Tōkyō: Kōjinsha.

The Mediasion Co. 2006. Ningen gyorai kaiten (Kaiten human torpedo). Hiroshima: The Mediasion Co.

Orihara, Noboru, comp. 1973. Ware tokkō ni shisu: Yokaren no ikō (I will die in a special attack: Yokaren (Preparatory Flight Training Program) writings). Tōkyō: Keizai Ōraisha.