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Last Letters of Navy
Special Attack Corps

Last Letters of Lieutenant Junior Grade Kenji Nakajima to His Mother and Younger Brothers

On February 20, 1945, Lieutenant Junior Grade Kenji Nakajima died as commander of the 9th Shin'yō Special Attack Squadron at Corregidor Island in the Philippines at the age of 21. He graduated in the 72nd Class of the Naval Academy at Etajima.

The 9th Shin'yō Special Attack Squadron was formed on September 2, 1944, with 55 one-man Model 1 shin'yō explosive motorboats. The squadron had 184 total members, which included 7 officers, 49 shin'yō boat crewmen, 32 maintenance workers, 21 headquarters personnel, and 75 base workers. After training, the squadron arrived in the Philippines in late October. In December, the 9th and 10th Shin'yō Special Attack Squadrons were merged and assigned to Corregidor Island.

On February 17, 1945, American forces that attacked Corregidor Island killed most squadron members. On February 25, all of the 9th Shin'yō Special Attack Squadron's shin'yō boat crewmen died in battle. Only one of the original 184 squadron members survived.

Tokkōtai Senbotsusha (1990, 242-5) lists the names of 245 9th Shin'yō Special Attack Squadron members recognized with death in a special (suicide) attack. This figure is much more than the original number of total squadron members and is not explained in Japanese sources. Possibly some squadron members were added after the squadron reached Corregidor Island.

He wrote the following final letter:

Dear Mother,

At this time when the Greater East Asia War has become more fierce, as my only long-cherished desire, I will fall as a flower as a Special Attack Corps squadron commander. It is expected that the long-cherished desire of a military man is to be a "waterlogged corpse."

Since I was appointed as Special Attack Corps squadron commander, there has been nothing other than tears of gratitude for the Emperor's grace that was more than I deserved. I look forward in my heart to repaying the Emperor's tremendous grace with my life. We have been training repeatedly. We certainly will make this a turning point for this decisive battle. One hundred million with one heart [1] will overcome numerous difficulties. I believe that the dawn of Greater East Asia along with the glory of victory will come in the near future. Although this body is destroyed, this spirit is indestructible and will exist always along with the Empire of Japan.

My men obey well my orders. They fight bravely and will complete the mission. Now I have no regrets about my men, and I have only appreciation. I know that my men also have no regrets. When you visit bereaved family members of my men, I ask that you please convey to them my warmest regards and thanks.

Finally as I end my writing, please forgive my usual lack of filial piety and respectfulness. I humbly apologize.

Mother, I earnestly pray that you take good care of your health, firmly maintain your spirit, and be a pillar in the family for many years for my younger brothers.

The postscript to his letter to his mother contains the following four statements with a death poem in tanka form (31-syllable poem with lines of 5-7-5-7-7 syllables) at the end:

–  Give my best regards to the neighbors and relatives.
–  There is no loan.
–  It is not necessary to be concerned about a relationship with a woman.
–  Please send photos to Haruhiko Ichimoto at 50 Wakamatsu-chō in Yokosuka City, since he cared for me in many ways.

Thinking of country
My true heart
An azusa (catalpa) bow
Release bowstring
Straight path of arrow

Nakajima wrote the following tanka poem on hearing news of his father's death:

Good Father
On long journey
Even though you departed
I improve
My aim of attack

He also wrote the following last letter:

Younger Brothers,

There are the words of Fleet Admiral Tōgō, "A soldier’s whole life is one continuous and unceasing battle," but now they are not for just military men. Only going to battle is not for Japanese people. Younger Brothers, I speak to you two. Send to the front lines more superior weapons and greater quantities of munitions. You two together, please advance more and more Japan's science and technology. This is my only desire for you.

You two together, be in good health, and do my share of filial piety for Mother. There have been many interesting things. There will also be sadness and loneliness, but this will be in the future. You two together, please work for the country. Farewell.


Letters and poems translated by Bill Gordon
December 2018

The letters, poems, and biographical information in the first paragraph come from Matsugi (1971, 136-8). The information about the 9th Shin'yō Special Attack Squadron in the second and third paragraphs comes from Okumoto (2013, 86-7) and Shin'yō Association (1990, 24-5).


1. One hundred million is the approximate population at the time of the Japanese mainland and occupied territories.

Sources Cited

Matsugi, Fujio, ed. 1971. Kaigun tokubetsu kōgekitai no isho (Last letters of Navy Special Attack Corps). Tōkyō: KK Bestsellers.

Okumoto, Gō. 2013. Rikukaigun suijō tokkō butai zenshi: Marure and shin'yō, kaihatsu to tatakai no kiroku (Complete history of Army and Navy surface special attack units: Maru-re and shin'yō, record of development and fighting). Tōkyō: Ushioshobōkōjinshinsha.

Shin'yō Association (Shin'yōkai), ed. 1990. Ningen heiki: Shin'yō tokubetsu kōgekitai (Human weapon: Shin'yō Special Attack Corps). Shirō Arai, general editor. Volume 2 of 2. Tōkyō: Kokushokankōkai.

Tokkōtai Senbotsusha Irei Heiwa Kinen Kyōkai (Tokkōtai Commemoration Peace Memorial Association). 1990. Tokubetsu Kōgekitai (Special Attack Corps). Tōkyō: Tokkōtai Senbotsusha Irei Heiwa Kinen Kyōkai.