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Heroic Kamikaze Special
Attack Corps
(1983 cover)
(originally published as
Ah, Kamikaze Special
Attack Corps
in 1970)

Last Letter of Ensign Teruo Yamaguchi to His Father

At 2330 on June 21, 1945, Ensign Teruo Yamaguchi took off from Ibusuki Air Base as observer in a Type 0 Observation Seaplane (Allied code name of Pete) carrying a 250-kg bomb. He was a member of the Kamikaze Special Attack Corps 12th Air Flotilla Two-Seat Reconnaissance Seaplane Squadron from Amakusa Naval Air Group in Kumamoto Prefecture. He died in a special (suicide) attack off Okinawa at the age of 23. He was from the Gotō Islands in Nagasaki Prefecture, attended Kokugakuin University in Tōkyō, and was a member of the 1st Class of the Navy's Flight Reserve Students (Hikō Yobi Seito).

He wrote the following final letter:

Dear Father,

Please forgive the fate of me who must fall without being able to show you any filial piety.

Suddenly I was appointed as a Special Attack Corps member, and at last today I will depart toward the Okinawa Sea. When I was able to be appointed, I was a Japanese person. Expecting simply success, I only will go forward on my last mission. Nonetheless, is it a weak heart of only me who regrets parting from the beautiful country and human kindness of Japan? When death had been decided, the faces of you, Grandmother, and friends as before appeared in my mind. When I think that nobody stopped hoping that I would be a person who valued honor, I truly felt encouraged. I certainly will do it. I must shout this to the apparitions of these persons.

However, while in the military I discovered the meaning of existence where a person obtains a place to die, still I was not able to think that military life, where I had to suppress my self until the end, was a nice world to live. I can say that it was a great unhappiness for a reserve officer who had experienced this world once. Regarding opinions on life and death that I got several times from Lieutenant Ōkubo, I feel that while in fact they seem penetrating, he said nothing more than military superficialities. In the 23 years since I was born, there was also a way of thinking that was only mine, but I will not express it since now that is useless. Even now I feel sorrow in my heart for some politicians who deceive the majority of the nation's people who are honest. However, since I believe in the national identity and think that it is a lovely and beautiful thing, I will follow orders of advisors to politicians and the high command.

Japan's national identity truly is a beautiful thing. More than classic things and more than whether things existed or not in ancient times, I believe in that. I love the historical forms of things from our ancestors' pure hearts. I think that they are beautiful. The national identity is an accumulation of things that were most beautiful for our ancestors. In actuality, I believe that the best and supreme thing of our people is the Imperial Family. I must protect personally with honor these beautiful and sublime things.

Okinawa is the same as Gotō. I will not hold back to destroy the ones who have invaded my hometown. For me now, Okinawa is my birthplace. In those skies and seas, certainly Mother and Grandmother will greet me. So I am not sad about death. I do not think that I will be fearful. I will not stop praying for happiness for you and my many fellow countrymen. My greatest lack of filial piety was to not call you chichiue (very polite way to say Father) even once. However, just before my crash attack, I will be saying it as the form of address to you for the first and last time. It is a person's childish feeling to communicate that to his father, but please do not forget that I only called you chichiue in a living voice on the day of the crash attack.

Amakusa truly was a good place. I did not ask to visit because of the good qualities that Amakusa has. The mountains north of the base have places that are very similar to Sugiyama and Magarizaka on Gotō. While lying down, often I remembered when I went with you and Akira to the explosives warehouse at Matsuyama and when, vaguely realizing the death of Mother, I went by car to the crematorium at Magarisaka and recognized instinctively that she was not able to be there.

When I die, Kazuko will be the only Yamaguchi person. There also is Older Sister, so there is no worry. However, since I am entrusting all things to you Father, please take care of these things.

A historical setback is not the downfall of the nation. I pray that you will have a long life. It is expected that surely a new Japan will come. The people cannot hasten death. Farewell.

Before sortie


On a separate sheet he wrote the following death poem in tanka form (31-syllable poem with a syllable pattern of 5-7-5-7-7):

A warrior not valuing either honor or life
Will protect the island country of Japan

Letter translated by Bill Gordon
February 2019

The letter comes from Kitagawa (1970, 220-3). The biographical information in the first paragraph comes from Kitagawa (1970, 220) and Osuo (2005, 240).

Another English translation of this letter written by Ensign Teruo Yamaguchi can be found in Inoguchi and Nakajima (1958, 198-200).

Sources Cited

Inoguchi, Rikihei, and Tadashi Nakajima, with Roger Pineau. 1958. The Divine Wind: Japan's Kamikaze Force in World War II. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press.

Kitagawa, Mamoru, ed. 1970. Ā kamikaze tokkōtai: Kaerazaru seishun no isho shū (Ah, Kamikaze Special Attack Corps: Collected last letters of youth that would not return). Tōkyō: Nihon Bungeisha.

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