To Hometown Skies

To Hometown Skies

Even though I was a member of two kamikaze units, I do not remember writing a farewell letter. However, I did give a father who came to visit a simple farewell tanka poem written on the back of a photo to commemorate the formation of one of the kamikaze units.

But this did not provide me great preparation. I had an attachment to life more than others, and I was anxious about death. However, we petty officers did not have a way to communicate our feelings to our families.

In those days we who faced death were worried about the contents of our last letters and how they should be written. At the same time we had a hard time being able to pass them to our immediate family without being seen by others.

The late Manabu Matsuki graduated from bomber flight training at Usa Air Base. He was assigned to the 762nd Air Group stationed at Izumi Air Base together with his classmates Mr. Eto and Mr. Furukoji. Here they started training on the new and powerful Ginga bomber. However, since the southern Kyushu area frequently had enemy aircraft attacks and B-29 air raids, Mr. Matsuki's flight unit moved to Miho Air Base to conduct training exercises apart from his original Air Group.

At the end of training he joined a kamikaze unit, which moved to an air base in Miyazaki. During the flight there, he ignored the rules, left formation, and flew over his parents' home. He did a special maneuver to drop his scarf wrapped around his last letter addressed to his mother.

The story I heard after the end of the war is that on May 10, 1945, a twin-engined plane began to circle at low altitude over Nagatsu Village in Ehime Prefecture. It dropped something wrapped in a white cloth and flew away to the southwest skies while waving its wings. When Mrs. Toki Matsuki looked at this package, she sensed her son had come to convey his final farewell. Therefore, not only did she pick it up and take it to the police station, she also opened it in front of a policeman.

Dear Mother,

I sincerely give you my thanks while alive. There is nothing that can be compared to my deep emotion for you. I pray to God for the prosperity of the Japanese Empire.

A cherry blossom torn by hand
Becomes a sacred shield, only this I know

Manabu Matsuki
Petty Officer 1st Class
406th Air Group

Ginga bomber just before takeoff

      

Petty Officer 1st Class Matsuki's hometown is in Ehime Prefecture. The flight course from Miho Air Base to Miyazaki Air Base was a little to the east of his hometown. Also, fortunately the pairs of planes were flown only by petty officers. His classmate Mr. Yamane, who flew reconnaissance, was his partner. Therefore, ignoring flight regulations, Mr. Matsuki could do this special feat of flying over his parent's home.

Petty Officer 1st Class Yamane's hometown, Onomichi City in Hiroshima Prefecture, was also near the flight course. One can guess that he discussed with Mr. Matsuki flight visits to each of their hometowns in order to bid their final farewells. However, no story remains of Mr. Yamane dropping his last letter. Perhaps he was dissuaded from a low altitude flight because of the topography around Onomichi. However, one can imagine he passed by looking down at the row of homes where he grew up, secretly saying goodbye to his parents while being flooded with emotion as he remembered the days of his youth. Below is a final tanka poem penned by Mr. Yamane.

My oath, cherry blossoms in Kudan's gardens
Together with my war comrades

Mitsuo Yamane

The late Manabu Matsuki (Ehime Prefecture, 19 years old) and the late Mitsuo Yamane (Hiroshima Prefecture, 18 years old) sortied from Miyazaki Air Base at 5:21 a.m. on May 11, 1945. They were members of the Kamikaze Special Attack Corps Ginga Unit No. 9, made up of members of the 406th Air Group. They carried out fatal ramming attacks against the enemy fleet thronged around Okinawa, and they died valiantly in defense of our country. Their distinguished service was announced to the all armed forces in Combined Fleet Bulletin No. 233.

Mr. Mitsuo Yamane

     
Translated by Bill Gordon
February 15, 2004