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Special Attack Corps

Last Letter of Ensign Takamaru Shigenobu to His Younger Sister

At 0600 on May 28, 1945, Ensign Takamaru Shigenobu took off from Ibusuki Air Base as crewman in a Type 94 Reconnaissance Seaplane (Allied code name of Alf) carrying a 500-kg bomb and died in a special (suicide) attack off Okinawa at the age of 22. He was a member of the Kamikaze Special Attack Corps Kotohira Suishin Squadron from Takuma Naval Air Group in Kagawa Prefecture. He was from Kagawa Prefecture, attended Ryūkoku University in Kyōto to study philosophy in the Faculty of Letters, and was a member of the 14th Class of the Navy's Flight Reserve Students (Hikō Yobi Gakusei).

Shigenobu wrote the following final letter to his younger sister on May 27 at Takuma Air Base [1]:

Dear Taeko,

It is your older brother who has no excuse for only unkindness shown to you. Please forgive me. Finally tomorrow I will go as a splendid human bomb. When you were mad at the unkindness that I showed, they are all fond memories when I think about it now. You also, please laugh at them as pleasant memories. When you hear that I carried out a grand taiatari (body-crashing) attack, do not mourn in any way.

I will go smiling. Generally humans are, ahem … They are moved by certain large things. There are certain things that have great power and do not even reach our small ideas. That is nothing other than Buddha who you worship all the time.

One can say that the matter called death is difficult, but when you think "it is nothing and it is brought about by Buddha," it is no problem. The things that you think that you desire will not become your things, and there are things that you do not want to part from. For example, you say that you do not want to part from me. Tomorrow with calmness I will go and fall in an instant as I leave you and others behind completely.

Current Japan and of course anywhere in the world are full of persons in circumstances just like yours. Also, I trained for some time after joining the Special Attack Corps, and around me there were persons who considered that they would have long lives not related to the Special Attack Corps, and they went and died like Japanese roses. You probably generally understand. This world would say, "Just as one pleases, not going is the proper way."

Simply speaking, it is little clumsy but one can say that impermanence is a normal person's life. Anyway, I have no worries in this world. With optimism and cheerfulness, please attend diligently to work and study, and become an excellent person. That is in other words your most true service for the country. I go while praying for only that.

I have written about many things that seem difficult, but after I thought about various things until now, at last recently I have reached a mental state like I wrote about above. I think that you will have great difficulty in understanding the true meaning, but if you are thinking about these things at every opportunity, then sometime they will be things that you will understand.

Do not forget to give thanks constantly. The time when you will be deeply grateful certainly will come. Since Father first and Mother are quite advanced in age, please give them assistance properly. Younger Sister, take care of Akira. You will do it cheerfully in high spirits! I used to say that you think occasionally about Buddha, and a person who does things quietly like the Buddha has absolutely no relationship with this. Below in haste I write some fragments.

— You certainly should exercise. It is mentally refreshing.
— I requested a mascot doll, but even if you do not get one, I have no regrets.
     If it rains, it will be bad weather. Ha, ha, ha.
— You should read a lot.

As much as I write, there is no end. Well then, farewell. Be in high spirits.

Letter translated by Bill Gordon
January 2019

The letter comes from Matsugi (1971, 41-3). The biographical information in the first paragraph comes from Kaigun Hikō Yobi Gakusei Dai 14 Ki Kai (1966, 146), Matsugi (1971, 41), and Osuo (2005, 239).


1. Kaigun Hikō Yobi Gakusei Dai 14 Ki Kai (1966, 146).

Sources Cited

Kaigun Hikō Yobi Gakusei Dai 14 Ki Kai (Navy Flight Reserve Students 14th Class Association), ed. 1966. Ā dōki no sakura: Kaerazaru seishun no shuki (Ah, cherry blossoms of same class: Writings of youth that would not return). Tōkyō: Mainichi Shinbunsha.

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

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