Last Letters of Navy
Special Attack Corps (1971)
Last Letter of Ensign Zenji Ueno to His Father
At 1535 on April 11, 1945, Ensign Zenji Ueno took off from Miyazaki Air Base
as pilot in a Ginga bomber (Allied code name of Frances) with a crew of three.
He was a member of the Kamikaze Special Attack Corps 5th Ginga Squadron. He died
in a special (suicide) attack south of Kikaijima at the age of 21. He was from
Tochigi Prefecture and was a student at Tochigi Teachers College. He was a
member of the 13th Class of the Navy's Flight Reserve Students, and after
training he became a member of the 501st Attack Hikōtai of the 762nd Air Group.
He wrote the following final letter:
I was shocked at the news of Mother's death on the afternoon of the 23rd
with everyone's kind nursing of her not able to achieve results.
A few days ago I was surprised to hear the news of Mother's critical
condition, and every day I was praying earnestly that she would fully
recover from her illness. I regret that the medical treatment was not
effective and that she joined the number of deceased. It really was like a
dream that put me in a daze.
Even though I was thinking to visit Mother's sickbed one time, I now
received an important responsibility, bearing the Empire's fate on both my
shoulders. It was regrettable that I did not have a moment to spare.
Although I am determined more than usual, it is unfortunate that she died
before I could complete a grand feat with distinction as a shield in the
skies. Also, my affectionate Mother raised me so I had no discomfort
until today when I am 23 years old . Up to
today I did not repay even a ten-thousandth of her kindness to me, and I
just cannot bear the feeling of remorse. I sincerely apologize that the only
thing that remains for me is to become a corpse coloring the sea as I
destroy an enemy ship as a volunteer for certain death. I am only praying
that Mother's soul may rest in peace.
The war situation has become more and more severe and reached a peak, and
day after day my comrades everywhere are carrying out taiatari
(body-crashing) attacks against enemy planes and ships. I will not be beat
by them who live for this eternal cause, and full of vigor I will strive to
carry out my mission by meeting the enemy and preying on them. Please rest
assured. I surely will do my best.
Mother's funeral has been completed, so give my regards to all of my
relatives. Although I wanted to send letters to Older Brother and Sister , I did not have the opportunity to write to them. Please give my best
regards to them. I pray that you take good care of yourself during the cold
and hard times. From afar I pray that Mother's soul may rest in peace.
Letter translated by Bill Gordon
The letter comes from Matsugi
(1971, 162-3). The biographical information in the first paragraph comes from
(1971, 162) and Osuo (2005, 235).
1. The traditional Japanese method of counting
age, as in much of East Asia, regards a child as age one at birth and adds an
additional year on each New Year's day thereafter. This most likely explains why
the letter indicates his age as 23 whereas the current way of counting age based
on his birth date in Matsugi (1971, 167) indicates that his age was 21 at time
2. The Japanese wording does not specify the
number of older brothers and sisters, so there could have been one or more of
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.