Last Letter of Lieutenant Keiu Matsuo to His Parents
On June 1, 1942, Lieutenant Keiu Matsuo died at the age of 24
during the attack of his two-man midget submarine at Sydney Harbor, Australia, after
being released from submarine I-22. He was the 2nd Special
Attack Flotilla Commander, which included six crewmen in three midget submarines that
attacked Sydney Harbor on May 31, 1942. He was
from Yamaga City in Kumamoto Prefecture and graduated in the 66th Class of the Naval Academy
at Etajima. He received a promotion of two ranks to Commander after his
death, which was recognized as being in a special (suicide) attack.
Matsuo wrote the following final letter to his parents:
There is nothing that surpasses the long-cherished desire of a young man
assigned to honored duty earlier as Executive Officer to the Commander of
the 1st Special Attack Flotilla  and now as O
Believing firmly in divine aid under the power of His Majesty the
Emperor, I certainly expect success. When I think back on the 26 years  since
I was born, there was not a moment of spare time when your hearts were at
ease. Even though I will die, at this time I am grateful for what you did.
Please praise my last act of filial piety when I complete my mission.
You have shown care to me up to today. Please give my regards first to
everyone in our hometown and to the teachers, seniors, and associates who
made me what I am today.
Finally, as for Toshiko's  finding out
about this, since she will not be able to bear it, I request that you please
notify her directly.
Please apologize to the Kinoshita parents for my great lack of filial
piety. I have no regrets in my heart. With gratitude for my falling, I bid
farewell praying for your long life and everyone's happiness.
Father, P.S. - Today is the joyous Naval Commemoration Day. At the
surface of the sea here the weather is clear, but the waves are high. As I
consider 37 years ago, I keenly feel deep emotions.
I will go on the path that a warrior goes on. I pray that the Emperor's
heart be at peace.
There are two monuments in Kumamoto Prefecture in honor of Keiu Matsuo:
Matsuo Monument (Yamaga City)
and Matsuo Monument (Kikuchi
Jinja). There is also an animation film about his life:
Matsuo Keiu to sono haha
(Keiu Matsuo and his mother).
Letter translated by Bill Gordon
The letter comes from Yasukuni Jinja (1996, 73-4). The biographical
information in the first paragraph comes from
Matsuo Monument (Yamaga City), Tokkōtai Senbotsusha (1990, 221), and Yasukuni Jinja (2014,
1. During the attack on Pearl Harbor on December
7, 1941, Matsuo was aboard submarine I-22, which carried one of the five midget
submarines in the 1st Special Attack Unit that were launched during the attack.
2. O indicates information that was a military
secret and could not be included in the letter.
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 26 whereas his age based on his birth date of July 21, 1917
(Matsuo Monument (Yamaga City)),
indicates that his age at death was 24.
4. Matsuo was engaged to be married to Toshiko
Kinoshita (Tamura 2009, 48).
Tamura, Keiko. 2009. "Triumphant return in silence."
Wartime 45: 46-9.
Tokkōtai Senbotsusha Irei
Heiwa Kinen Kyōkai (Tokkōtai Commemoration Peace Memorial Association). 1990.
Tokubetsu Kōgekitai (Special Attack Corps). Tōkyō: Tokkōtai Senbotsusha
Irei Heiwa Kinen Kyōkai.
Yasukuni Jinja, ed. 1996. Eirei
no koto no ha (2) (Words of the spirits of war heroes, Volume 2). Tōkyō: Yasukuni Jinja Shamusho.