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Another "Eternal Zero":
Tsukuba Naval Air Group

Last Diary Entry and Last Letter of Ensign Michinori Machida to His Mother

At 0658 on May 11, 1945, Ensign Michinori Machida took off from Kanoya Air Base as pilot in a Zero fighter carrying a 500-kg bomb and died in a special (suicide) attack off Okinawa at the age of 24. He was a member of the Kamikaze Special Attack Corps 5th Tsukuba Squadron. After his death in a special attack, he received a promotion to Lieutenant. He was from Kagoshima Prefecture, studied in the Agriculture Department at Kyūshū Imperial University, and was a member of the 14th Class of the Navy's Flight Reserve Students (Hikō Yobi Gakusei).

He wrote the following final diary entry in April 1945 at Tsukuba Air Base:

As expected on April 6, our 1st Tsukuba Special Attack Squadron joined the attack on enemy ships at Okinawa. Our squadron leader and others who deeply influenced us took off smiling as they headed toward clear skies with a slight chill and morning frost. With our caps we waved "goodbye" and could not see clearly because our eyes were misting. From their planes they smiled, gave a serious face, or nodded their heads as they left. We were overcome with emotion that tomorrow's attack was near at hand.

I know how it will end if I do so
Irresistible Yamato [1] spirit

These words by Yoshida Shōin [2] will soon be our feelings. While we are eager to be Special Attack Corps members and are on the brink of death, we are enjoying the spring cherry blossoms in full bloom. I think that these calm days are grand. The number of years were few, and I believe that this humble life truly was a magnificent one. What a great life. There is nothing of the present. The cloud of light pink cherry blossoms in the shining spring sun makes me remember my bittersweet youth. On such a day Mother often would be doing the laundry. The starched laundry was gleaming in the sunlight. The clothes that soon were dried showed their faded dryness and were cleared from the smell of starch. Ah, those were the days of my fondly-remembered youth.

Today the book titled Kōgoishi (神籠石) [3] came from my hometown. My own novel Yume (Dreams), which was published the year before last in the 13th Association Journal, is included in the book. When now I try to reread it, undoubtedly there are some rough parts, but I thought that it was reasonably depicted. The merry feeling of those days gives me today a little bit of a cloying feeling. As for that, in any case there can be seen an obstinacy of a pure and innocent feeling that runs deep. I as usual live being aware of this "I." It is not the same thing as the so-called ego. This is not to say that it is the higher self, and it is of course not the lower self. At any rate I truly see it nostalgically. The frivolous feeling that I have had until now suddenly concealed quietly a shadow and has turned into a somewhat sublime feeling. It became a feeling like I had returned to being a member of the intelligentsia in my student days of long ago while at the same time a desire for knowledge welled up inside me. Even in a train, I read Kōgoishi with extreme refinement. At this point, I was truly extremely grateful to be able to see this book.

This morning Ensign Ishibe, who recently I suddenly developed a friendship with and who comes from Ōita in Kyūshū, departed toward Kanoya. On his face he had a smile, and he had no regrets at all. I could not think deeply again. I heartily waved my cap and sent him off. Plane No. 115, following the first plane, second plane, and third plane, took off bravely with a thunderous roar. Yesterday's heavy rain cleared the sky, and the soft spring sunlight that filled the sky was refreshing. The officers and men who saw them off were waving their caps all together. They lifted off from the ground, put in their landing gear, got into formation, and headed west toward Suzuka. Finally they had gone. They will be waiting for me.

He wrote the following final letter:

Dear Mother,

When I think about Father who regrettably ended as only a Buddhist monk since he had no career although he was smart, more than ever I am able to understand his innermost thoughts, and I can feel deeply thankful for his kindness of sending me to school even though difficult to do so with no money. I deeply regret going to die without being able to give peace of mind to you who have toiled and toiled, but please forgive me when I have fallen like a man for the Empire. I, who often cried when I heard your bedtime stories when I was very young, now in everything I have become person with an unmoved and withered heart. Sometimes I regret that I do not shed tears. If I really could have deep emotions and shed tears, I think that perhaps it would be good to be refreshed.

However, I grew up being educated to bottle up all of my emotions as a Kyūshū person, and in one way that gives me a feeling of bitterness.

With the shutters closed and one opened for a skylight, nearby Mother was knitting busily. We were bored, so we tried to coax her to give us some food. Before very long Mother surely made something for us. Ah, the memories of my childhood truly are becoming faraway things.

As for Younger Brother Yasunori, I wonder how he has been doing. After all I do not know if he is in northern China. I wanted to see one time his figure in a military uniform.

I feel like I want to walk together with you Mother. Desiring to give you peace of mind, I already have passed away. Without even repaying you for your troubles for us, without showing you joy in your old age, it is regrettable that I go to die. The attainment of my and Yasunori's hopes will be for Masanori. I earnestly desire that he grow up obediently and in high spirits. I am hoping that he accomplishes Father's intention. Mother, after I fall, please look to Masanori. Please live peacefully and happily as a family. In this battle I certainly will annihilate the enemy.

Young Ayako in the prime of her life has experienced a great deal of hardships. Without even makeup, without even a kimono, I think that she only has worked for the family. I indeed bow to her. Please find her a good bridegroom. I ask that Saeko-chan [4] obediently be a good child.

From Yasukuni Shrine I will be praying for that. Yasunori also has an indescribable style. He surely must have the same thoughts as I do.

Do not be sad at all. Since I will be happy if you will be glad, please praise me a lot.

I pray that you will take good care of your health. Farewell.

Translated by Bill Gordon
Diary - October 2019, Letter - July 2018

The diary comes from Kaigun Hikō Yobi Gakusei Dai 14 Ki Kai (1995, 109-10), and the letter comes from Katabami (2014, 94, 97). The biographical information in the first paragraph comes from Kaigun Hikō Yobi Gakusei Dai 14 Ki Kai (1995, 105), Katabami (2014, 94), and Osuo (2005, 198-9).


1. Yamato is a poetic name for Japan.

2. Yoshida Shōin (1830-1859) strongly advocated the Emperor's restoration to power, which challenged the ruling shogunate.

3. Kōgoishi are remnants of stone foundations or walls found in Kyūshū or western Honshū that are thought to have been built in the latter half of the 7th century for the purpose of defense against attack from other countries.

4. The suffix -chan is often added to children's names when calling them by their given names.

Sources Cited

Kaigun Hikō Yobi Gakusei Dai 14 Ki Kai (Navy Flight Reserve Students 14th Class Association), ed. 1995. Zoku Ā dōki no sakura: Wakaki senbotsu gakusei no shuki (Continuation Ah, cherry blossoms of same class: Writings of young students who died in war). Tōkyō: Kōjinsha.

Katabami, Masaaki. 2014. Mō hitotsu no "Eien no Zero": Tsukuba Kaigun Kōkūtai (Another "Eternal Zero": Tsukuba Naval Air Group). Tōkyō: Village Books.

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