February 20, 2006

Japanese letters from the Kamikaze Special Attack Forces

All of this is sourced from this site, which gives an excellent analysis of the motivations, feelings, and thoughts that were behind the historical events so many of us have come to know about.

These letters provide some perspective. That Americans aren't the only people that love their country, it just seems that some people cannot understand that.

Dearest Mother: I trust that you are in good health. I am a member of the Shichisei Unit of the Special Attack Corps. Half of our unit flew to Okinawa today to dive against enemy ships. The rest of us will sortie in two or three days. It may be that our attack will be made on 8 April, the birthday of Buddha. ……………….. Please do not grieve for me, mother. It will be glorious to die in action. I am grateful to be able to die in a battle to determine the destiny of our country. ……………….. On our last sortie we will be given a package of bean curd and rice [Shinto ritual for luck]. It is reassuring to depart with such good luncheon fare. I think I'll also take along the charm and the dried bonito from Mr. Tateishi. The bonito will help me rise from the ocean, mother, and swim back to you. At our next meeting we shall have many things to talk about which are difficult to discuss in writing. But then we have lived together so congenially that many things may now be left unsaid. 'I am living in a dream which will transport me from the earth tomorrow.' ……………….. We live in the spirit of Jesus Christ, and we die in that spirit. This thought stays with me. It is gratifying to live in this world, but living has a spirit of futility about it now. It is time to die. I do not seek reasons for dying. My only search is for an enemy target against which to dive. ……………….. There is nothing more for me to say, however, by way of farewell. I will precede you now, mother, in the approach to Heaven. Please pray for my admittance. I should regret being barred from the Heaven to which you will surely be admitted. Pray for me, mother. Farewell, Ichizo

You slept in my arms very well. You had the very eyes of your mother and the hair of your aunt, I remember them clearly. I picked your name in hope of you becoming a peaceful woman (the character 'Yasu' has the meaning of peace in Japanese). It will be perplexed if you don't know in your future, so I am letting you know.

The doll that you slept with, I fly with as an amulet. I die with you, so I am not afraid. You should not be either, as I will always be with you. If you wonder what I look like in your future, tell your mother so and ask to come to Yasukuni Shrine in Kudan. There, I will be. You should not be ashamed of not having a father, for I will always live in your heart. Remember that your father died in honor and for the country. You live long. Be good to your mother and aunt.
Your father, Masashi (pseudonym)

Dear Father:
As death approaches, my only regret is that I have never been able to do anything good for you in my life.

I was selected quite unexpectedly to be a special attack pilot and will be leaving for Okinawa today. Once the order was given for my one-way mission it became my sincere wish to achieve success in fulfilling this duty. Even so, I cannot help feeling a strong attachment to this beautiful land of Japan. Is that a weakness of my part? On learning that my time had come I closed my eyes and saw visions of your face, mother's grandmother's and the faces of my close friends. It was bracing and heartening to realize that each of you wants me to be brave. I will do that! I will!

My life in the service has not been filled with sweet memories. It is a life of resignation and self-denial, certainly not comfortable. As a raison d'être for service life, I can see only that it gives me a chance to die for my country. If this seems bitter it probably is because I had experienced the sweetness of life before joining the service.

The other day I received Lieutenant Otsubo's philosophy on life and death which you so kindly sent. It seems to me that while he appears to have hit on some truth, he was concerned mostly with superficial thoughts on the service. It is of no avail to express it now, but in my 23 years of life, I have worked out my own philosophy.

It leaves a bad taste in my mouth when I think of the deceits being played on innocent citizens by some of our wily politicians. But I am willing to take orders from the high command, and even from the politicians, because I believe in the polity of Japan.

The Japanese way of life is indeed beautiful, and I am proud of it, as I am of Japanese history and mythology which reflect the purity of our ancestors and their believe in the past—whether or not those beliefs are true. That way of life is the product of all the best things which our ancestors have handed down to us. And the living embodiment of all wonderful things out of our past is the Imperial Family which, too, is the crystallization of the splendour and beauty of Japan and its people. It is an honour to be able to give my life in defence [sic] of these beautiful and lofty things.

Okinawa is much a part of Japan as Goto Island. An inner voice keeps saying that I must smite the foe who violates our homeland. My grave will be the sea around Okinawa, and I will see my mother and grandmother again. I have neither regret nor fear about death. I only pray for the happiness of you and all my fellow countrymen.

My greatest regret is this life is the failure to call you 'chichiue' (revered father). I regret not having given any demonstration of the respect which I have always had for you. During my final plunge, though you will not hear it, you may be sure that I will be saying 'chichiue' to you and thinking of all you have done for me.

I have not asked you to come to see me at the base because I know that you are comfortable at Amakusa. It is a good place to live. The mountains north of the base remind me of Sugiyama and Magarisaka on Goto Island, and I have often thought of the days when you took Akira and me on picnics to Matsuyama near the powder magazine. I also recall riding with you to the crematorium at Magarisaka as a youngster, without clearly understanding then that mother had died.

I leave everything to you. Please take good care of my sisters.

One setback in its history does not mean the destruction of a nation. I pray that you will live long. I am confident that a new Japan will emerge. Our people must not be rash in their desire for death.

Fondest regards.
Just before departure,

Dear Parents: Please congratulate me. I have been given a splendid opportunity to die. This is my last day. The destiny of our homeland hinges on the decisive battle in the seas to the south where I shall fall like a blossom from a radiant cherry tree. I shall be a shield for His Majesty [the emperor] and die cleanly along with my squadron leader and other friends. I wish that I could be born seven times, each time to smite the enemy. How I appreciate this chance to die like a man! I am grateful from the depths of my heart to the parents who have reared me with their constant prayers and tender love. And I am grateful as well to my squadron leader and superior officers who have looked after me as if I were their own son and given me such careful training. Thank you, my parents, for the twenty-three years during which you have cared for me and inspired me. I hope that my present deed will in some small way repay what you have done for me. Think well of me and know that your Isao died for our country. This is my last wish, and there is nothing else that I desire. I shall return in spirit and look forward to your visit at the Yasukuni Shrine. Please take good care of yourselves. How glorious is the Special Attack Corps' Giretsu Unit [Isao Matsuo's unit] whose Suisei bombers will attack the enemy. Our goal is to dive against the aircraft carriers of the enemy. Movie cameramen have been here to take our pictures. It is possible that you may see us in newsreels at the theatre. We are sixteen warriors manning the bombers. May our death be as sudden and clean as the shattering of crystal. Written at Manila on the eve of our sortie. Isao Soaring into the sky of the southern seas, it is our glorious mission to die as the shields of His Majesty. Cherry blossoms glisten as they open and fall. (Inoguchi, Nakajima and Pineau 1959: 183-184).


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