I Do Not Yet Want to Die!

I Do Not Yet Want to Die!

April 15, 1945

Dear Father, Mother, and Sister,

Thank you for everything you did during my lifetime. Now I have been chosen to go to Okinawa to make a decisive counterattack against our hated enemies, the Americans. When I reflect back, my life only has been full of wonderful memories. During the 18 years of my life, by the love of you father and mother, I can give my short 18 years as a member of the Special Attack Force of the skies. Truly I cannot suppress this long-cherished desire. In spite of facing death in air battles off Taiwan, I shamelessly survived and truly apologize to my comrades who died before me. Now at last I will have a splendid place to die, so I can apologize to my comrades and to you father and mother. Without any regrets I can go to crash into an enemy ship. I hope my hometown friends are doing well and striving their hardest, and please say hello from me to my friends at work, school, and the farm. Please also give my best regards to Uncle Nakamura and to my other acquaintances. As I write this letter of final farewell, I say goodbye to this life. Please take care. Father, Mother, and Sister, I wish you the best.

Yoshiaki                                                     

   
I wish you health and joy this New Year. Only two postcards came from my older brother from Shanghai. In addition to these, only his last letter remains. On the morning of April 25, 1945, Mr. Fukuda's mother came with the following news, "I just returned from a visit to Kagoshima. If you go soon, you may be able to still see your son."

My mother and I quickly got tickets, and we started from Kurume City by night train. Early the next morning we arrived at West Kagoshima Station. Soon we heard air raid warnings, and we were delayed until about noon. Even trains on the Nippo Line were not running. We were worried, but the rail line opened again at about 4 p.m. We went to Hayato Station, walked from there as it became evening, and reached Hinatayama Onsen (Spa). That evening we stayed at the onsen.

We departed early the next morning. While walking toward the base, there were more air raid warnings, and we were delayed again at about noon. We finally arrived at the mountain and were able to meet him at about 1 p.m. on the 27th. It was a short farewell of about three hours in a farmhouse garden.

The ohagi (rice dumplings covered with bean paste) my mother had made and brought from home now tasted funny since they had been in the heat for a long time, so unfortunately we could not eat them.

In exchange for the white silk muffler my mother had worked hard to buy, my brother took off the muffler from around his neck and gave it to us. This is our only keepsake from him.

Our hearts were touched when at the time of his final parting he spoke just the words, "I do not yet want to die." These were his last words to us. The muffler he gave to us had the following words and autographs written on it.

Fall, comet's cherry blossoms Petty Officer 2nd Class Kashima
Struggle hard, men of Kyushu Petty Officer 1st Class Harashima
Die for an eternal cause Chief Petty Officer Motokawa

"Hyakurigahara Air Base" is written as the address on his last letter, but I could not copy it since it is badly damaged. I am sending to you his final letter and photographs. Please take good care of yourself during this cold season.

Mutsuko Ono
    

   Photo of Yoshiaki Ono
Although Yoshiaki Ono wrote a final letter, he probably wondered about how he would get it to his family. They fortunately got his message since Mr. Fukuda's mother stopped by the Ono home in Kurume to deliver it.

In those days, death in battle was considered to be the highest honor. How much did a mother feel in her heart when sending off her son to certain death in a Special Attack Force? No matter how much the honor, no parents wish their child's death. A mother's anguish must have been painful.

This writer has experienced also that there are ups and downs in a person's feelings. Even though someone made a firm decision of "Yes, I'll do it!" when joining a Special Attack Force, thoughts of "I do not yet want to die" arose as time passed. So both the declaration written in Mr. Ono's last letter and the words he blurted out at his final farewell when he met his mother represented his true feelings.

"The public praises us as members of the Special Attack Forces, but the truth is I do not want to die." This is probably what Mr. Ono really felt as he faced death the following day. However, even though he could confess his feelings, it breaks one's heart to imagine the distress of his mother who could do nothing about it.

No. 2 Seitoo Kamikaze Corps' Type 99 Carrier Dive Bomber
Departing from Hyakurigahara Air Base

   

Heroes of No. 2 Seitoo Kamikaze Corps (Classmates)
Middle row, second from left: Akio Kashima
Front row from left: Yoshiaki Ono, Norio Itoo,
Kaneyuki Fukuda, and at far right edge, Yasuo Urushidani

   

Translated by Bill Gordon
March 4, 2004