On July 3, 1945, a sealed letter was delivered to Harue Yanaga, who lived in Yamamoto Village in Mii-gun, Fukuoka Prefecture. Correspondence there had been cut off for some time, so she turned it over to see if it came from her son Teruo. However, written on the back was a sender whose name was unknown, "Touichi Manzen, Hyakurigahara Navy Air Base, Higashiibaraki-gun, Ibaraki Prefecture." She cut the seal with an feeling of uneasiness.

Morning of My Sortie

Dear Mother and Sister,

Mother, thank you very much for your care in so many ways for such a long time. Bravely I go to ram into an enemy carrier. I hope that everyone will take good care of themselves.

Teruo Yanaga
Kamikaze Special Attack Forces
Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class
 Last Letter of Teruo Yanaga

I had an opportunity to read this last letter after the end of the war. The morning of his sortie is not the day he sortied from Kushira Air Base but rather the day he departed from Hyakurigahara Air Base. Then, this last letter was written about April 22. The details of how Touichi Manzen kept this last letter and why it took two months before being sent can only be imagined.

Touichi Manzen belonged to the 601st Air Group's No. 1 Attack Flight Corps, also stationed then at the same Hyakurigahara Air Base. They were in different units, but Mr. Manzen was a friend of Mr. Yanaga since they both received training together in the 23rd Unit at the Naval Flight Training School. Probably Mr. Manzen took care of sending Mr. Yanaga's last letter because of their friendship as classmates as well as being glad to meet again at the same base.

Having experienced the same circumstances in the Special Attack Forces, I can imagine to a certain extent the situation during that time. In those days letters that we sent to family and friends were submitted unsealed in a batch to the Warrant Officer in order to maintain military secrets. These letters could not be sent until he censored them. It was prohibited for anyone to send a letter freely. Therefore, it was a time when we could not write anything but typical sentences, such as, "I am earnestly performing my military service, so please rest assured." Upon joining the Special Attack Forces, it was also not unusual to send a last letter addressed to one's mother to give one's farewell to this life.

Mr. Yanaga also must have felt bad to have his squad members read his last letter. Therefore, he probably discussed it with his classmate Mr. Manzen, told him his mother's address, and requested him to send it. However, Mr. Manzen was a member of the 601st Air Group's No. 1 Attack Flight Corps, generally known in the Imperial Japanese Navy in those days as the Seiri Unit. He was in a position where he did not know when he would be assigned to a Special Attack Forces unit and would sortie. He could not leave the base as he waited for his Special Attack mission assignment, so he looked for an opportunity of how to send Mr. Yanaga's last letter that he had hidden away. Time passed. And his last hour was imminent.

On August 9, 1945, Petty Officer 1st Class Touichi Manzen departed Hyakurigahara Air Base on board a Suisei carrier dive bomber (Judy) as a member of the No. 4 Mitate Unit Kamikaze Special Attack. He carried out a "body-crashing attack" with certain death against an enemy task force that had attacked east of Kinkazan. It was the end of his short 17-year life. This happened one week before the war's end.

A last letter and will from Touichi never was delivered to the home of his mother Shizu, who lived in Yokogawa Town in Aira-gun, Kagoshima Prefecture. Perhaps a report was received of an enemy task force near the mainland, and a Special Attack unit was hurriedly organized to immediately sortie, so I guess there was no free time for him to write a last letter.

Or perhaps he wrote a last letter and left it with someone. The war may have ended without his getting a chance to send the letter, and it may have got lost in the confusion at the war's end. Anyway, one imagines that he probably earnestly sortied according to orders toward the enemy ships without even dreaming that the war would soon end and without being able to tell his final goodbye to his mother in his faraway hometown. For his mother Shizu, this difference of one week must have caused her exceedingly deep regret that seemed the same as a hundred years.

   Kamikaze Special Attack Forces, Courageous Men of No. 1, No. 2, and No. 3 Seiki Corps 
Back Row: Petty Officer 2nd Class Yamada, Petty Officer 2nd Class Maeda, Chief Petty Officer Kirihata, Petty Officer 2nd Class Hoshino, Petty Officer 2nd Class Yanaga, Midshipman Ueda, Ensign Iwasaki, Ensign Ena.
Middle Row: Chief Petty Officer Ariike, Petty Officer 2nd Class Negishi, Chief Petty Officer Arihisa, Ensign Suda, Ensign Odagiri, Ensign Suga, Petty Officer 2nd Class Sugazawa.
Front Row: Squad Leader, Flight Corps Leader, Assistant Leader, Commander, Flight Leader, Lieutenant Junior Grade Igarashi, Ensign Adachi.

   Kamikaze Special Attack Forces, No. 1 Seiki Corps Crew Members

No. 1 Plane Pilot - Ensign Yoshimune Suga (Tokyo, 14th Class, Rikkyo University)
Reconnaissance - Ensign Hisatoyo Iwasaki (Yamaguchi Prefecture, 14th Class, Chuo University)
Radio - Petty Officer 2nd Class Teruo Yanaga (Fukuoka Prefecture, 12th Class, Ko Flight Training Program)
No. 2 Plane Pilot - Chief Petty Officer Kotaro Kirihata (Oita Prefecture, 4th Class, Hei Flight Training Program)
Reconnaissance - Ensign Takuya Adachi (Hyogo Prefecture, 14th Class, Tokyo University)
Radio - Petty Officer 2nd Class Tatsuru Sugazawa (Chiba Prefecture, 12th Class, Ko Flight Training Program)

Deceased Navy Ensign Teruo Yanaga departed from Kushira Air Base at 4 p.m. on April 28, 1945, on board a Type 97 carrier dive bomber as the radio man on the no. 1 plane of the Kamikaze Special Attack Forces No. 1 Seiki Corps. He died a heroic death as he sacrificed his own body as he carried out a "body-crashing attack" against an enemy ship around Okinawa.

When I read Mr. Yanaga's last letter, I could not stop my tears as I perceived his emotions hidden between the lines. In those days life in the barracks for us petty officers was subject to restraints in all ways. We did not have freedom. Even when sending a postcard, it was submitted to the Warrant Officer and was subjected to censorship. This was not an environment where we could write down our personal thoughts.

Even though one tried to write a last letter upon entering the Special Attack Forces, it was prohibited to even write any correspondence since it was said, "the Special Attack Forces are a military secret, and nothing can be leaked outside one's unit." Also, even though one wrote a last letter, there was no guarantee that it would be passed to one's family. Moreover, if one thought that it would be looked upon by others' eyes to be censored, writing what really was in one's heart was unthinkable.

Mr. Yanaga also must have been worried about writing his last letter as he faced death. First, he probably searched for a way to make sure it got delivered to his mother without being censored. If this could be done, then he could write down his final thoughts without any alterations.

Next, he probably thought about how to write to express the feelings inside his heart. He most likely searched for expressions that would allow his family to interpret his true feelings but would not seem strange even if read by others. However, he could not write such skillful sentences.

In those days a regular home did not have a telephone. Even supposing there were, the fact is that one could hardly hear on long distance intercity calls. It is unimaginable with today's development of the telephone. At that time I also joined the Special Attack Forces at Ooi Air Base, and I faced the same situation as him. Therefore, I can guess what he felt inside. While he wanted to write and leave behind many things, suitable words could not be found, so the result was conventional writing.

Might it not be that he was distressed in writing these few lines in his last letter without even any sleep?

His heart has been compressed into the seven letters of "bravely." While he had many things he wanted to write, he did not put together sentences even if they took all evening. He entrusted his flood of thoughts and emotions to these seven letters. He bravely restrained his feelings of grief for his family and his regrets for this world. No matter who read his letter, his determination to crash his body into an enemy ship according to orders was a fine expression of which there was nothing to be ashamed. But he was probably really irritated at not being able to write one ten-thousandth of what he wanted to tell.

At the time of his sortie, he probably prayed that the letter entrusted to his classmate Touichi Manzen would be delivered safely to the home of his mother. Also, the image of his kind smiling mother must have been etched in his mind at the moment of his "body-crashing."
Translated by Bill Gordon
March 14, 2004