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Letter of Ensign Tarō Tsukamoto to His Parents

Ensign Tarō Tsukamoto died at the age of 21 when submarine I-48, which was carrying four kaiten human torpedoes, was sunk by a US Navy attack near Ulithi Atoll. Based on U.S. Navy reports as to when a Japanese submarine was sunk, this most likely occurred on January 23. 1945. No radio contact was made with the submarine after it left the Japanese mainland, so the Japanese Navy recorded the sinking as January 21, 1945, based on the scheduled date of the attack on Ulithi. On January 9, 1945, submarine I-48 made a sortie from Ōtsushima Kaiten Base in Yamaguchi Prefecture with 118 crewmen and four kaiten pilots who were members of the Kaiten Special Attack Corps Kongō Unit. All men on board died when the submarine was attacked. Tsukamoto was from Ibaraki Prefecture, attended Keiō University in Tōkyō, and was a member of the 4th Class of Navy Branch Reserve Students (Heika Yobi Gakusei). He received a two-rank promotion to Lieutenant after his death, which was recognized by the Navy as part of a special (suicide) attack.

Tsukamoto wrote the following letter to his parents:

I am sending some items with a friend who is returning home for a visit. There is nothing for me to say. I just am waiting quietly for the time that must come.

If in Japan I am not buried as a war hero, it will be a war that cannot be won.

I do not have any worries in particular other than repeated air attacks on Tōkyō.

Please take care of yourselves. I did not write a letter, but do not be worried. It is not I of old times. Please exclude me quickly from among conditions for your happiness. If I do not speak and meet with you, it is expected that it is not a heart that you do not understand. Some day I will send a final letter that will give you joy.

Honestly, I have fond memories from my youth. Because of you, I was happy when in the train car on the way home, but it was unpleasant when I heard Mother's tearful voice. Please be happier and work hard until the day of victory.

Yūsaku, Hideko, and Ioko certainly will become good children who will show parental filial piety.

Mama and Papa, please believe in what I will do.

Letter translated by Bill Gordon
March 2020

The letter comes from Mediasion (2006, 92). The biographical and mission information of submarine I-48 come from Konada and Kataoka (2006, 147-54, 378) and Mediasion (2006, 49, 81).

Source 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.

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