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Last Letter of Lieutenant Junior Grade Shizuyo Todokoro to His Older Sister

On January 12, 1945, Lieutenant Junior Grade Shizuyo Todokoro died in a special (suicide) attack at the age of 20 when submarine I-36 launched his kaiten manned torpedo at Ulithi Atoll. On December 30, 1944, submarine I-36 made a sortie from Ōtsushima Kaiten Base in Yamaguchi Prefecture with four kaiten pilots who were members of the Kaiten Special Attack Corps Kongō Unit. All of submarine I-36's four kaiten pilots died when launched on January 12. Todokoro was from Gunma Prefecture and was a member of the 53rd Class of the Naval Engineering School. He received a promotion to Lieutenant Commander after his death by special attack.

He wrote the following final letter:

Dear Older Sister,

Doing anything in what seems like a steam bath is bothersome, but as I recall your kind figure I will take up the pen once again in the end. Today for the fifth day even though it is January each day there has been an abrupt change to the degree that it is just as if it has gone from the middle of winter to the middle of summer. Every day I have had the feeling to peel off my skin. Now it is at the point where even peeling off my skin still will not be enough. Since for nine months until now I was working on land, I completely lost the feeling for the sea. For the first few days after we made our sortie, I was like a half-sick person. However, I am full of fighting spirit, so please rest assured.

At 1700 on the 30th, we passed through Bungo Strait. When I made my final farewell to my homeland's mountains with their color fading in the approaching twilight, I was overcome with emotion. I had never been able to see the country of Japan as more divine than this.

Your image briefly crossed my mind, and I thought somewhere in my heart that I wanted to see you one more time. However, I decided for certain to not think this since it also was my personal feeling and was a small personal matter when compared to the great cause.

Someone born as a person does not think of his hometown. I am a person whose personal matters and desires have not been taken away. However, I have overcome my various worldly desires and passions. I am a person who solemnly will rise up and express my greatest self by living for an eternal cause.

Forget your family. Forget your parents. Forget your children. I can free myself from all personal concerns and be a loyal subject. That in the end is truly thinking of one's parents and children. Such things are being written in this letter as seen from inside a submarine, but I really know it is so.

For me who does not have even a mother, does not have even a home that I should return to, and of course does not have children, I am a person who in the near future can die gladly for the Emperor without having to commit myself anew. In my short life you have been like a mother and also like a true older sister, and you have given me great openness and fairness. I, who always felt hollow somewhere in my heart and who was starved for family affection, was glad for the times that I knew you were there. Now I tell this to you clearly.

Older Sister, you cannot imagine what a happy person I was. Perhaps there is no difference with my younger brother in that he went and died with the same feeling as mine.

There absolutely is nothing other than a blue bird called happiness. It was on the branch of the tree at my own house. True happiness does not come from something else. Now I found that bird that can be seen in my own heart. On that note, when you have a baby, there is nothing that can be said.

I know that now you understand my feelings when I say such things like a grandfather would say.

Inside the submarine I have read telegrams about battle operations, and it seems that the fighting will not yet be easy. If young men do not die one after another, a successful conclusion probably is faraway.

Even though I stick to that, I must protect innocent children. I always thought this when I saw Rei-chan and Mii-chan. I must protect such cute pure-hearted and innocent children from the Western devils. I think that I will die for these sweet children rather than for the country.

It may seem irreverent, but it is the stage near nothingness. The day decided for the attack is drawing nearer day by day, but it is not particularly busy, and the days are normal. Since there is no sunshine, little by little I am losing my appetite and getting thinner. My skin is turning white. Every day, in addition to training and maintenance, I play cards and while away the time with the record player.

Now it is 02:45 on the 6th, but for a rabbit there is no concept of time as to whether it is 2:45 in the morning or 2:45 in the afternoon.

For you it is already vacation, right? Now there was an order for all hands to proceed to our stations. So I will say farewell. From in the southern seas I pray that you are happy forever.

Letter translated by Bill Gordon
November 2018

The letter comes from Matsugi (1971, 70-3). The biographical information in the first paragraph comes from Konada and Kataoka (2006,  101-8, 378), Matsugi (1971, 70), and Mediasion (2006, 48-9, 90).

Sources Cited

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.

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

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