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Last Letter of Flight Petty Officer 2nd Class Shōshichi Shibasaki to His Mother

On February 26, 1945, Flight Petty Officer 2nd Class Shōshichi Shibasaki died at the age of 18 when submarine I-368, which was carrying five kaiten manned torpedoes, was sunk by US Navy torpedo bombers west of Iwo Jima. On February 20, 1945, submarine I-368 made a sortie from Ōtsushima Kaiten Base in Yamaguchi Prefecture with 80 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. Shibasaki was from Hokkaidō Prefecture, attended Asahikawa Commercial School, 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 on the day before the sortie of submarine I-368 from Ōtsushima:

Dear Mother,

Your youngest child received teaching from you for a long time, and now in high spirits I am about to head toward destruction of Americans and British. As for my attack, with your divine protection, I am confident that I certainly will succeed.

The training until now had many dangerous aspects, and there were times when I could have ended up at the place of death. Curiously I was spared from these dangerous places. I sincerely believe that this was the gift of your firm faith that I would be protected. Based on that assurance, I continued training. With your sincere writing that put a good luck charm inside me, you were always with me.

Mother, until now I have received love from you as the youngest child. In contrast to causing you worries, you took care of me. I regret very much that I was not able to show any filial piety.

However, I know also that "I will live with great filial piety by dying with unswerving loyalty" like you always taught me. Didn't a young samurai in full armor who tried to live for a great cause think about his dear mother in his hometown? Nevertheless, sacrificing all personal feelings, I will go.

When I entered the Navy as a Kō Class Yokaren (Preparatory Flight Training Program) trainee, your attitude was to encourage me. Also when I graduated from Tsuchiura Naval Air Group, on the occasion when I let you know my final Chinese poem, I understood the depths of your heart when you said, "When I see Yokaren trainees, they all appear to be my children. How can Shōshichi alone be feeling homesickness?"

I will do it so as to not be beat by you and so you cannot laugh at me.

Up to now being overwhelmed with a flood of emotions in succession, I do not know even the words that I should say to you. Please care sufficiently for your health. I sincerely pray that you will live a long life.

February 19, 1945

Your youngest son Shōschichi

Letter translated by Bill Gordon
June and October 2018

The letter comes from Kojima (2004, 13-4). The biographical information in the first paragraph comes from Konada and Kataoka (2006, 161-7, 377), Mainichi Shinbunsha (1968, 84), Mediasion (2006, 50, 81), and Ōtsushima Kaiten Monument.

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.

Mainichi Shinbunsha, ed. 1968. Seishun no isho: "Yokaren" senbotsusha no shuki (Last letters of youth: Writings of "Yokaren" war dead). Tōkyō: Mainichi Shinbunsha.

The Mediasion Co. 2006. Ningen gyorai kaiten (Kaiten human torpedo). Hiroshima: The Mediasion Co.