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Last Letter of Flight Petty Officer 2nd Class Kōichi Kumada to His Parents

On February 26, 1945, Flight Petty Officer 2nd Class Kōichi Kumada died at the age of 18 [1] when submarine I-370, which was carrying five kaiten manned torpedoes, was sunk in an engagement with the enemy just west of Iwo Jima. On February 21, 1945, submarine I-370 made a sortie from Hikari Kaiten Base in Yamaguchi Prefecture with 79 crewmen and five kaiten pilots who were members of the Kaiten Special Attack Corps Chihaya Unit. All men on board died when the submarine was attacked. Kumada was from Fukushima 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, which was recognized by the Navy as part of a special (suicide) attack.

He wrote the following final letter:

Dear Father and Mother [2],

I apologize over and over for not showing any filial piety in the twenty-year period since I was born [3] in the Empire.

However, in this time I think that the honor of carrying out this ambitious undertaking for the Empire's victory as a member of the Kaiten Special Attack Corps Chihaya Unit will be the greatest act of filial piety.

I am full of vigor and look forward to destruction of the enemy spirit. I think that accomplishment of the mission is a young man's supreme path. I am determined only to push forward on this course.

Furthermore, I have a request that you please teach Seiji that he should strive for the Emperor as a fine military man.

Finally, I pray for everyone's health, and please give my regards to everyone.


Excuse my messy writing, but please forgive me.

Letter translated by Bill Gordon
September 2018

The letter comes from Kojima (2004, 49). The biographical information in the first paragraph comes from Kojima (2004, 49), Konada and Kataoka (2006, 158-69, 377), Mediasion (2006, 50, 81), and Ōtsushima Kaiten Monument.


1. Mediasion (2006, 81) indicates his age at death as 17, but Kojima (2004, 49) gives the age at death as 18.

2. The end of the letter indicate the addressees as both his father and mother, but the letter's beginning has just his mother. It is not known why there is this inconsistency.

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 explains why the letter indicates his age as 20 whereas Kojima (2004, 49) gives his age as 18.

Sources Cited

Kojima, Keizō, ed. 2004. Kaigun hikō yoka renshūsei isho • iei • ikōshū (1) (Last letters, poems, and writings of Navy Preparatory Flight Trainees (1)). Tōkyō: Unabarakai.

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.