Here in the United States, kamikaze pilots are seen as evil or misguided at the least. They took the lives of many American soldiers during World War II. Our history books often fail to show how kamikaze pilots were as human as the Americans they killed. This is a collection of letters from kamikaze pilots written just before they flew their final missions. They show a concern for family and mundane, everyday things. These translations may be a little awkward at times.
Kamikaze Special Attack Group Fugoku
Killed near Luzon Island on 13 November 1944
Native of Shizuoka Prefecture
Honorable Older Brother,
Once again, orders have come down for the attack from which we will never return. I feel not the slightest regret. Already I have grown intimate with death, the ultimate character-building passage that we human beings have to face. All that is left is to carry out the duties for which I’ve been trained and to fulfill the Imperial mandate. I am deeply ashamed that in the twenty-seven years of my life I have been such an unworthy son and younger brother.
I will have to leave everything up to you. It is with an untroubled heart that I fulfill the obligations for which I was born. I am merely carrying out my duties as a man.
The made-in-Manila bar of toilet soap you’ll find in my things was given to me by the chief of staff. Please take good care of Mother, and take care of yourself in the coming winter.
Captain Furukawa Takao to his wife
Killed in the sea off Kagoshima on 21 April 1945 at age 25
Native of Saga Prefecture
Recently, in calmer moments, I find my thoughts returning continually to you and our soon-to-be-born child. Please take good care of your health.
When we first arrived at our base in Kyushu, there was a sudden change in plans, and we were all ordered into special attack units. I expected to depart at any moment. Every day, as I waited for my first, and last, attack, I reread the letter you wrote the day you made the jelly and gazed at the photos of you and Sister Etchan.
Surprisingly, my heart was perfectly at peace-as though another me were gazing upon the me that was so calm.
But orders, for better or for worse, changed again, and I was assigned to another squadron and given other duties. We made two sorties to Okinawa; the first was completed without incident, and I returned without doing anything especially heroic.
Mr. Hagiwara, who visited us the other day, asked about you. Try not to be upset, but he was shot down the day after he arrived.
Now, more than ever, the fleetingness of human life astonishes me, but I have become a much stronger person. You too must be strong. Wait for me. I will return without fail. Until you’ve safely given birth to our child, I have no intention of dying easily.
Captain Adachi Takuya to his parent
Kamikaze Special Attack Group No. i Seikita
Killed in the Okinawa area on 28 April 1945 at age 23
Native of Hyogo Prefecture
Honorable Mother and Father,
The difficulty of the journey you made to see me was clearly evident in your disheveled hair and in the hollows under your eyes-it made me want to bend my knees and worship before you. In the wrinkles on your brows was vivid testimony of the pains you took to raise me. Words could not express my feelings, and what little I did say was superficial in the extreme.
Yet, although acutely conscious of how little time we had, I saw in your eyes and in your gaze all you wanted to say but couldn’t.
When you took my hand and passed it over your chilblains, I experienced a sense of profound peacefulness unlike anything I have experienced since joining up -like being a baby again and longing for the warmth of a mother’s love. It is because I bask in the beauty of your deep devotion that I can martyr myself for you-for in death I will sleep in the world of your love. Washed down with my tears was the sushi you prepared with such loving care, for it was like putting your love to my lips. Though I ate but little, it was the most delicious meal of my life.
Honorable Mother, even if I was never able to fully accept the love you gave me, I received so much wisdom from you. And Father, your silent words are carved deeply into my heart. With this I will be able to fight together with you both. Even if I should die, it will be with a peaceful spirit.
I mean this with all my heart.
The war zone is where these beautiful emotions are put to the test. If death means a return to this world of love, there is no need for me to fear.There is nothing left to do but press on and fulfill my duty.
At 16oo hours our meeting was over. Watching you walk out the gate, I quietly waved goodbye.
Letter from Second Lieutenant Tomisawa.
I trust that everyone has been doing well recently.
I am dearly grateful that you went to all the trouble to come visit me the other day in such a busy time.
Since my injury is already healed, do not worry.
At last for me also the time of final service has arrived. I very deeply appreciate my special upbringing until now. I am one who lacked courage, but please do speak well of me.
In order to destroy our enemy, I will summon courage with all my might and will go to strike. We are the ones to deliver the country from the current crisis. Taking pride in this, I will surely do it. My comrades have already done it. Even right now my comrades, believing in those who will follow after them, are striking the enemy.
Shall I keep silent? Shall I try to be quiet about this?
Father, Mother, please do congratulate me.
Brother, sister, please take care of Father and Mother.
I surely will be protecting everybody from the immortal faraway skies in Nansei Shoto (Okinawa and other islands in archipelago that stretch south of Kyushu and toward Taiwan). Even though my body dies, I will certainly defend you.
Please give my kindest regards to the neighbors. I hope you will always keep in contact with Mr. Ebihara of Honjo. Since I have been busy, I have not been able to write a letter to him for a long time. Please give my greetings to Mr. Nishigaya also.
With this I give you my final farewell. Thank you for everything. Goodbye, goodbye.
Second Lieutenant Tomisawa
Lieutenant Kishi Fumikazu to his family
Killed in the Philippines on 24 October 1944 at age 22.
Dear Mother and Father, Brother and Sister,
End of autumn. The backyard must be filled with the cries of insects, as it is every year around this time. My heart is full to bursting with memories of the many evenings we spent talking together. I suppose you are all somewhat concerned about how I’m doing.
During my visit home in May, Sister said to me, “Ever since you joined up, Mother has been setting meals before your photograph. She’s given up drinking tea, and every evening she visits the shrine to pray for you.” I was so moved that I was unable to thank her. Mother really wore herself out at the farewell party the night before I left to join my unit. She was so busy preparing for my departure that she didn’t sleep at all the night before.
And on my sun flag, she wrote HAPPILY WAITING FOR A RETURNING CHILD. Whenever I can, I gaze at those four noble characters for the nourishment they give my soul. The fighting has become extremely intense, and there is no guarantee of my safe return. The image of all those poor school kids and everyone else singing war songs and waving a sea of flags as they saw us off to the front is burned indelibly into my mind. I firmly believe in the benevolence of the Emperor and of our parents. Mother seems to be growing weaker by the day. Brother and Sister, you will have to give her the love that I cannot.
Please forgive my impiety; I pray for the continued good health of you all. The three photo albums I sent the other day are keepsakes for Brother and Sister. Please don’t worry about me. When you hear of my death, be happy for me, for I will have achieved my ambition.
Last Letters of Kamikaze Pilots.(2001) Manoa 13 (1). 120-123.
Naemura, Hichiro. 1993. Rikugun saigo no tokkou kichi: Bansei tokkoutaiin no isho to isatsu (Gordon, .B.trans.) Osaka: Toho Shuppan.