Last Letter of Flight Petty Officer 1st Class Tsutomu Kawajiri to His Family
On July 27, 1945 , Flight Petty Officer 1st Class Tsutomu Kawajiri died
in a special (suicide) attack at the age of
17 when submarine I-53 launched his kaiten manned torpedo at an enemy transport
convoy. On July 14, 1945, submarine I-53 made a sortie from
Ōtsushima Kaiten Base in Yamaguchi
Prefecture with six kaiten pilots who were members of the Kaiten
Special Attack Corps Tamon Unit. Submarine I-53 was headed for a patrol between
Okinawa and Leyte Gulf in the Philippines. Kawajiri was from Hokkaidō Prefecture, attended Asahikawa
Commercial School, 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 with a death poem in tanka form
(31-syllable poem with lines of 5-7-5-7-7 syllables):
Dear Father and Everyone,
At this time I fortunately have obtained an honorable place to die as a
young Japanese man. I will work hard to sink instantly an ugly ship.
In the 18 years  since I received life in
the sacred era of Shōwa, my aspiration has been the skies. Even though the
clouds in the skies could have been my grave marker, I became a member of
the Kamishio  Special Attack Corps as crewman
for a new weapon. I wholeheartedly will push forward to make a
taiatari (body-crashing) attack.
Even though up to today I did not have the early opportunity that I
intensely desired to display my abilities and live long, here is a good
opportunity for me to be able to make a sortie.
As a young Japanese man, I know that there is nothing that surpasses the
happiness and joy of this.
As your child and as the oldest son of the Kawajiri Family, I will commit
myself to carry out my duty to the end, which I have no qualms about. Please
rest assured. Please be glad that I will be able to kill a thousand men at
the young age of 18.
There are no words to say to you and everyone for my lack of
consideration in dying before you. There is only a single word to please
Nevertheless, now when families are ignored for the great cause and when
the greatest crisis in the divine land Japan has arisen, I believe
that even dying before you out of loyalty also is filial piety. I understand
well the many instances of kindness that I have received from my birth, and
I feel sorry that I will go and fall without having repaid any of this
kindness. Now I am waiting anxiously for this occasion when I can show
filial piety in the world somewhere.
I will make a sortie without any worries about the family. After I die,
it is regrettable that I cannot encourage my younger brothers and sisters 
to follow in my footsteps. If you are able, please teach my younger brothers
and also my younger sisters when you raise them that they should follow in
my footsteps. This is my final request.
Even though Japan is assailed by all types of dangers, I certainly will
become a shield for the Empire of Japan as an ogre to protect the country.
Although I will disappear in the southern seas as a stone in the Greater
East Asia breakwater, my spirit will remain forever and will protect my
hometown's mountains and rivers and my countrymen.
I will disappear
My figure in this world
Though it will not be here
My spirit will remain
Not stopping my attacks
I am determined to kill by myself all of the American fiends. At the end
of the faraway southern seas, I will pray for everyone's health.
I thank you, our neighbors, Yamaya, Tsubotani, Hatakeyama, Mizuno,
Nakagawa, Yamamoto, and Katō for the great kindness shown to me for many
years. Please give my warm regards and tell them that I gladly went and
Kamishio Special Attack Corps
Letter translated by Bill Gordon
The letter comes from Matsugi (1971, 138-40). The biographical information in the first paragraph comes from
Konada and Kataoka (2006, 289-91, 299-300, 374), Mainichi Shinbunsha
(1968, 84), Matsugi (1971, 138), and Mediasion (2006, 66-7, 86, 98).
Mainichi Shinbunsha (1968, 84-5) has a version of Kawajiri's last letter, but
it only includes the first eight paragraphs translated above. The last part of
the letter starting with the paragraph that begins "Even though Japan . . ." is
1. Different pages in two sources provide
conflicting dates for Kawajiri's death. Konada and Kataoka (2006, 299-300) and
Mediasion (2006, 66) give the date as July 27, 1945. Konada and Kataoka (2006,
374) and Mediasion (2006, 86) give the date as July 29, 1945.
2. 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 explains why the letter
indicates his age as 18 whereas the current way of counting age based on his
birth date in Matsugi (1971, 145) indicates that his age was 17 at time of
3. Kamishio means "divine tide" and refers to the
Navy's Kaiten Special Attack Corps. This term was used after the word
"kamikaze," which means "divine wind," was applied to the Navy's Air Special
4. The number of brothers and sisters is not
specified in the letter. He may have had one or more brothers and one or more
Final part of Tsutomu Kawajiri's last letter to his family
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:
Mainichi Shinbunsha, ed. 1968. Seishun no isho: "Yokaren"
senbotsusha no shuki (Last letters of youth: Writings of "Yokaren" war
dead). Tōkyō: Mainichi Shinbunsha.
Matsugi, Fujio, ed. 1971. Kaigun tokubetsu kōgekitai no isho (Last letters of Navy Special Attack Corps).
Tōkyō: KK Bestsellers.
The Mediasion Co. 2006. Ningen gyorai kaiten (Kaiten
human torpedo). Hiroshima: The Mediasion Co.