Connecting Threads

Connecting Threads

September 1, 1997

Dear Mr. Nagasue,

Please forgive me for sending this letter without prior notice. I am the niece of Teruo Yanaga, who was a member of the Kamikaze Special Attack Forces.

I think this happened last August 15 in the evening. I stared at the screen when I heard the word "tokkotai" (Special Attack Forces) come from the TV that I had been watching without really paying attention.

Since my father's younger brother was a member of the tokkotai, from a very young age I became sensitive even to hearing "tokkotai."

Since your age of 70 appeared on the TV screen, while I watched I thought, "Oh, Teruo also would have been exactly 70 years old if he had lived."

However, in the next instant the last letter written by Teruo Yanaga showed on the screen, and it took my breath away. Teruo is my father's youngest brother (third son and youngest child in family).

He is my uncle, but my brother who was born in 1938 and I who was born in 1940 called him oniichan (older brother). We are the only ones that remember the photo (shown below).  When talking about his life (we call him Teruo, not uncle), we had fond memories of that photo when he was young.

On August 25 I bought your book Wings of No Return at the Nishitetsu Kurume Station, and I finished reading it late at night on the 29th. During that time I thought several times of the cruelty of the training and wiped away my tears.

It would have been better for him not to have volunteered, but . . ..
It would have been better for him not to have passed the exam, but . . ..
It would have been better for him to have got sick and returned home, but . . .
Such things crossed my mind many times.

From the time he entered the Special Attack unit until his last day, I think he also must have had some happy moments. I who was a very young child at the time do not know how Teruo's last letter was delivered, but it certainly was delivered to his home in Yamamoto Village, Mii-gun. Even though his mother Harue had resigned herself to his death, the death in battle of her very dear youngest son must have been terrible.

Our father, who was the oldest son in his family, was working at that time in Taiwan at a sugar refining plant in Taiwan, and my mother, my brother, and I were with him. However, he left Taiwan in 1943 when he was drafted. My mother took my five-year-old brother and me, who was three at the time, back all the way from Taiwan to settle down in my father's home. While my grandmother, my mother, and we young children continued on day and night in Japan, we received the official announcement of Teruo's death in battle.    

Mr. Yanaga during a return home in February 1944
   
My father found about Teruo's death in battle when he was repatriated from Java Island in 1947. My father, who was the oldest brother in the family and separated by several years from Teruo, surely loved his younger brother and was kind to him. He remembered Teruo by cutting out and keeping newspaper articles and buying books on the Special Attack Forces. He would close up when someone talked about him. My father passed away in 1981.

My mother also often told us, "Teruo had a really cute face." After my grandmother died, my mother carefully kept Teruo's last letter, and she arranged various items in an album. These are still at their home in Yamamoto. Two years after the Buddhist memorial service in 1995 held to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of Teruo's death, my mother also passed away in 1997 at 80 years of age.

Yamamoto Village in Mii-gun merged with Kurume City in 1958, and now is has become Yamamoto-machi in Kurume City. Teruo's older brother has been taking care of his childhood home after his parents passed away. However, since he resides in Fukuoka City, he goes back and forth to Yamamoto on the weekends. I live in Ogori City, and we have three people in my family, my husband, daughter, and me. 

Right next to Tachiarai Town is a place that used to be the Tachiarai Airfield. The quasi-public Amagi Railway has a train that runs through from JR Kiyama Station to Amagi City. There is a peace museum at Tachiarai Station, which is the third stop from Matsuzaki Station, which I always use. Since I have never been there, I think I'll try to go at this time.

Mr. Nagasue, thank you very much for publishing Wings of No Return. Also, I am filled with gratitude for that day's TV broadcast. If I had not seen that program, I would not have been able to contact you, the author of the book. In addition, I would have not know at all about Kushira Air Base from where Teruo's plane sortied, the current Peace Park, the erection in 1975 of the War Memorial, and the memorial services held annually on October 15.

Not knowing before, Teruo must have been very lonely with no relative visiting for such a long time. I am not used to traveling, but I surely want to visit the place you talk about in the book. I cried when I read the main part of your book. In the afterward, I could not stop crying as I thought of the compassion shown by your words, "In spite of the long passage of time, even now the images of our young classmates who disappeared in the skies over there always remain before our eyes vivid in our memory."

This very long letter with poor handwriting may bother you, but I wanted to send this letter to you somehow. So I telephoned the publisher of your book, and they gave me your address.

Please forgive me for my rudeness. Mr. Nagasue, I hope you take good care of yourself.

Yours sincerely,
Masako Narasaki

On August 15, 1997, my personal experiences during my time in the Special Attack Forces were broadcast on a television program called "Special Program on War's End." Mrs. Narasaki just happened to see it, and she wrote me the above letter. Even so, I feel it can not be regarded as mere chance.  

"FBS-TV
   
On September 28, the "18th Annual Memorial Service and National Class Reunion for the 12th Ko Flight Training Program Graduates" was scheduled to be held in Beppu City. I quickly contacted Katsumi Suzuki in Beppu who was the coordinating this meeting, and he arranged for Masako Narasaki to attend the class reunion.

On the day of the meeting, I introduced her to Hirutoshi Nishibe (Fukuoka Prefecture), who served in the same squad as Teruo Yanaga at the air bases in Kagoshima, Shanghai, and Hyakurigahara, and to Yoshiharu Tsutsui (Saga Prefecture), who entered the Navy together with Teruo Yanaga from the same middle school and who carried out operations together with him at the air bases in Kagoshima and Shanghai.

She also expressed her desire to attend the memorial service at Peace Park hosted by Kushira Air Base, so I requested Kushira Town to send her a memorial service invitation letter through Sumiko Nakanishi, who lives in East Kushira Town and who has done many kind things for bereaved families of the war dead. Also, I asked Isao Uchiyama, a classmate who lives in Kanoya, to be her guide on the day of the memorial service.

October 28, 1997

Dear Mr. Nagasue,

Lately I feel the coolness of the late autumn wind. How have you been doing? I sincerely thank you for all of your thoughtfulness, including the class reunion in Beppu and the memorial service in Kushira.

Thanks to you, 52 years after the end of the war, I was able to attend for the first time the memorial service at Kushira, where my uncle Teruo Yanaga made his final sortie. I met Sumiko Nakanishi at the meeting place, and she was as happy as I was to go there. Mrs. Nakanishi was doing very well.

In addition, Teruo's classmate Mr. Chitoshi Sato told me, "I was together with Mr. Yanaga in his group in the Naval Flight Training Program." I also met Kentaro Indo's younger sister and her husband. In many wreaths of flowers, I was happy with the things from the former members of the Seiki Kamikaze Corps.

Thinking that I probably would not know anyone since this was the first reunion for me to attend, I heard, "Is Mrs. Narasaki here?" Four men together were searching for me based on the name register, and they invited me to sit with them, "If it is OK, please take a seat here." They were Mr. Ena, Mr. Kato, and Mr. Maeda, who were members of the Seiki Kamikaze Corps. Also, Mr. Kobayashi, who was together with everyone at Hyakurigahara Air Base, was there. Everyone who knew Uncle Teruo gave me wreaths of flowers. I also received much material.

The next day Mr. Uchiyama came to the hotel by car to get me, and we met Mr. Ena and Mr. Kobayashi when we went to the Kanoya War Memorial. Mr. Uchiyama invited the two men to accompany us, and we were able to make leisurely visits to Kanoya Air Base Museum and the Ohka Memorial. Mr. Uchiyama took care of everything for me for two days, and he even bought some souvenirs for me during our return.

I really appreciate the great kindness shown to me by your classmates who I met though your connections. I think this surely will also be passed on to Uncle Teruo. Even though an immense amount of time, 52 years, has passed since the war's end, the connecting threads have not been cut with those who have departed this world despite living far, far from here. It was an autumn when I fully realized this.

Thank you for all your consideration for me. Since is it getting colder, I hope that you will stay healthy.

Mrs. Narasaki

P.S. This evening the Beppu meeting photos arrived. It brings back warm memories of that great meeting.

Peace Park Memorial

   

Mrs. Narasaki at memorial ceremony. 
In background, name of Mr. Yanaga engraved in epitaph.

   

Translated by Bill Gordon
April 18, 2004