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Last Letters of Navy
Special Attack Corps

Last Letter of Lieutenant Junior Grade Ichirō Watanabe to His Parents

At 1010 on November 26, 1944, Lieutenant Junior Grade Ichirō Watanabe took off from Cebu Air Base in the Philippines in a Zero fighter and died near the southern entrance of the San Juanico Strait at the age of 21. He was leader of the Kamikaze Special Attack Corps Sagon Squadron from the 304th Fighter Hikōtai of the 221st Naval Air Group. He was an escort for Zero fighters that carried 250-kg bombs with a mission to crash into an enemy ship. He grew up in Tottori Prefecture and graduated in the 71st Class of the Naval Academy at Etajima.

He wrote the following final letter:

Dear Father and Mother,

I have not written for a long time. I imagine that the mainland is already cold.

As usual I am in very high spirits, and I am in the midst of striving to destroy the enemy. Now I will go to destroy an enemy aircraft carrier as a Special Attack Corps Squadron Leader recently selected from my unit. There is nothing that surpasses this as a young man's long-cherished desire. As for your hardships for me up to this time, I believe that in tomorrow's battle I certainly will sink instantly an enemy aircraft carrier as I bloom as a flower.

With divine assistance I surely will succeed.

I have not been able to render filial piety at your side, but I do this for the Emperor. I am praying from the skies that you will live a long life in good health.

Since I have been busy, there has not been free time for me to write letters to everyone, but please give them my regards. Uncle Rin especially showed me care, so my warmest regards to him. I think that you will soon know also the names of my men, and give my regards to the bereaved families of my men. Farewell.


October 26

Following is a letter to Ichirō Watanabe's younger brother Ryōji. The letter mentions his brother's swimming in the ocean every day, which would be done in the summer prior to his assignment to the Special Attack Corps in late October 1944. Since there is no mention of his assignment to the Special Attack Corps in the letter, almost certainly it was written before that time.

Thank you for your letter.

I hear that you are studying hard. I also am in high spirits. Since every day I am serving in my military duties, please rest assured.

Since every day you are swimming in the ocean, I imagine that you are becoming pitch black. Train your body well, and quickly follow after me. You have followed until now what our parents have said, and please show filial piety to them for my part.

Since I am hanging in there, you also hang in there.


Letters translated by Bill Gordon
August 2018

The letters come from Matsugi (1971, 130-1). The biographical information in the first paragraph comes from Matsugi (1971, 130) and Osuo (2005, 164).

Sources Cited

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.