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Last Letters and Writings
by Senri Nagasue

This page's author, Senri Nagasue, is a former pilot in the Kamikaze Special Attack Corps Yashima Unit. He authored several books on kamikaze pilots and created a large website called Aozora no hateni (To the blue sky's end) with many stories about the Kamikaze Corps. Nagasue was a member of the 12th Kō Class of the Navy's Yokaren (Preparatory Flight Training Program).

Tadashi Nakajima, a former Navy Lieutenant Commander who led special attack operations from beginning to end, wrote a book entitled Kamikaze Special Attack Corps. He served as Flight Officer of the 201st Air Group, which first employed "body-crashing attacks" in the Philippines, and after that he was at headquarters of the 10th Air Fleet and 5th Air Fleet.

The conditions in those days are described well in his book. He had extremely sharp powers of observation concerning especially the emotions of special attack squadron members. However, probably he could still not be able to understand the things inside of them hidden in the depths of their hearts. Even if he did understand, perhaps his views have to be discounted based on his position.

Considering the difference in points of view of the one giving the orders and the ones receiving them and going to their own deaths, probably there was a difference in the way that they reacted to things to come. Therefore, with respect to emotions of the special attack squadron members, isn't it the case that there are aspects that can only be understood by those who carried out taiatari (body-crashing) attacks or those who experienced the same circumstances that they did?

Even when writing a last letter, there is pride as a man, and there is also display. Therefore, it is not necessarily limited to writing one's true feelings without adornment. Isn't it the case that only someone who had been in the same position at that time is able to perceive things hidden behind the contents of a letter?

Some time ago the television movie Ā dōki no sakura (Ah, cherry blossoms of same class), based on the writings of men from the 14th Class of Flight Reserve Students, was broadcast. Perhaps many people felt it was more like a love story than a war movie since relationships with women seemed to dominate the subject matter. However, as might be expected from making a faithful screen version of diaries left by persons going to their deaths, the awkwardness of the actors' language and behavior was unavoidable, but I could vividly feel their emotions since I had been in the same position as they were psychologically.

When it comes to what someone thinks about when he faces death, it is the people closest to him. These are family members such as parents, brothers, and sisters. Someone can understand his own death as a last resort if this will let his parents and other family members live safely. The persons closest to the reserve officers at their age in Ā dōki no sakura were the women they loved. Hence, they probably had diaries like that.

Recently, diaries and last letters of persons involved with the Special Attack Corps have been arranged and put into safekeeping, and also there are opportunities to read them since they have been compiled and published. The majority of these were written by Reserve Students, and I think that what they felt was written down with relative candor. On the other hand, diaries and last writings of Yokaren graduates are very few. Moreover, the last letters that remain are very simple. This was not only an issue with their ability to express themselves in writing but also that they could not write their true feelings because of the circumstances in which enlisted men's letters and diaries would all be censored. In this situation, the state of mind of not wanting to write even a last letter can be understood.

Toei Studios planned a movie based on the Yokaren following the two movies Kumo nagareru hateni (To the end of the drifting clouds) and Ā dōki no sakura (Ah, cherry blossoms of same class), but they had no choice but to write the script and tell the details of the story of Ā Yokaren (Ah, Yokaren (Preparatory Flight Training Program)) based on collecting stories of survivors since there were hardly any diaries and last letters of Yokaren graduates.

I also have no memory of writing a last letter even though I twice become a member of a special attack squadron. Just because of that definitely does not mean that I could not have worthy preparations for death. I had an attachment to life and a fear of death more than normal.

In recent years there have been opportunities to talk with old friends at meetings of classmates. A person together at the same base who looked after a classmate about to make a sortie in his last moments would give the following encouragement, "I want to help you arrange your personal matters, so write a letter or something else to your parents." Even with this urging, the departing pilot would say, "If I send a letter, on the contrary I will cause worry for my parents, and I feel my resolve on which I have focused will be thrown into disorder." As I think back about my own state of mind in those days, even now I am overcome with emotion when I hear someone tell a story, with a face about to break out in tears, about how a loved one made a sortie hiding thousands of thoughts in his heart without leaving behind anything in writing.

On October 25, 1944, it began when five men of the Kamikaze Special Attack Corps Shikishima Squadron commanded by Lieutenant Yukio Seki carried out body-crashing attacks against American carriers off the coast of Suluan Island in the Philippines. Through the end of the war on August 15, 2,525 precious lives connected with the Navy's kamikaze attacks were lost at a young age.

I would guess that most of these Special Attack Corps members probably accepted their own deaths and severed their attachments with this world because of their hoping for the safety of those persons closest to them such as their parents, brothers, and sisters. Lieutenant Commander Nakajima records the following about Lieutenant Seki's situation at that time, "When Lieutenant Seki returned to his own room, his thoughts must have passed many times to his single mother and to his newly married wife." Also, it is said that he left a lock of hair with Commander Tamai, executive officer of the 201st Air Group, and then made a sortie.

Translated by Bill Gordon
July 2007

The original Japanese version of this page can be found on Senri Nagasue's web site at:
http://www.warbirds.jp/senri/09seisin/4-56.html (August 4, 2018)