I am keenly aware of the tremendous personal honor involved in my having been chosen to be a member of the Army Special Attack Corps, which is considered to be the most elite attack force in the service of our glorious fatherland.
My thoughts about all these things derive from a logical standpoint which is more or less the fruit of my long career as a student and, perhaps, what some others might call a liberal. But I believe that the ultimate triumph of liberty is altogether obvious. As the Italian philosopher Benedetto Croce has proclaimed, “liberty is so quintessential to human nature that it is absolutely impossible to destroy it. “I believe along with him that this is a simple fact, a fact so certain that liberty must of necessity continue its underground life even when it appears, on the surface, to be suppressed—it will always win through in the end.
It is equally inevitable that an authoritarian and totalitarian nation, however much it may flourish temporarily, will eventually be defeated. In the present war we can see how this latter truth is borne out in the Axis Powers themselves. What more needs to be said about Fascist Italy? Nazi Germany too has already been defeated, and we see that all the authoritarian nations are now falling down one by one, exactly like buildings with faulty foundations. All these developments only serve to reveal all over again the universality of the truth that history has so often proven in the past: men’s great love of liberty will live on into the future and into eternity itself.
Although there are aspects to all this which constitute something the fatherland has reason to feel apprehensive about, it is still a truly wonderful thing to feel that one’s own personal beliefs have been validated. On every front, I believe that ideologies are at the bottom of all the fighting that is going on nowadays. Still further, I am firmly convinced that the outcome of each and every conflict is predictable on the bases of the ideologies held by the opposing sides.
My ambitious hope was to have lived to see my beloved fatherland—Japan—develop into a great empire like Great Britain in the past, but that hope has already been dashed. If those people who truly loved their country had been given a fair hearing, I do not believe that Japan would be in its present perilous position. This was my ideal and what I dreamt about: that the people of Japan might walk proudly anywhere in the world.
In a real sense it is certainly true that a pilot in our special aerial attack force is, as a friend of mine has said, nothing more than a piece of the machine. He is nothing more than that part of the machine which holds the plane’s controls—endowed with no personal qualities, no emotions, certainly with no rationality—simply just an iron filament tucked inside a magnet itself designed to be sucked into an enemy air-craft carrier. The whole business would, within any context of rational behavior, appear to be unthinkable, and would seem to have no appeal whatsoever except to someone with a suicidal disposition. I suppose this entire range of phenomena is best seen as something peculiar to Japan, a nation of spirituality. So then we who are nothing more than pieces of machinery may have no right to say anything, but we only wish, ask, and hope for one thing: that all the Japanese people might combine to make our beloved country the greatest nation possible.
Were I to face the battles that lie ahead in this sort of emotional state, my death would be rendered meaningless. This is the reason then, as I have already stated, that I intend to concentrate on the honor involved in being designated a member of the Special Attack Corps.
When I am in a plane perhaps I am nothing more than just a piece of the machine, but as soon as I am on the ground again I find that I am a complete human being after all, complete with human emotions—and passions too. when the sweetheart whom I loved so much passed away, I experienced a kind of spiritual death myself. Death in itself is nothing when you look upon it, as I do, as merely a pass to the heaven where I will see her once again, the one who is waiting there for me.
Tomorrow we attack. It may be that my genuine feelings are extreme—and extremely private! But I have put them down as honestly as I can. Please forgive me for writing so loosely and without much logical order. Tomorrow one believer in liberty and liberalism will leave this world behind. His withdrawing figure may have a lonely look about it, but I assure you that his heart is filled with contentment.
I have said everything I wanted to say in the way I wanted to say it. Please accept my apologies for any breach of etiquette. Well,then.
—Captain Ryoji Uehara
Uehara was killed during an attack on the US Fleet at the Battle of Okinawa, May 11th, 1945. He was 22 years old. Among his personal effects was a book on philosophy by Benedetto Croce, in the cover of which he had written,
“Goodbye, my beloved Kyoko-chan. I loved you so much;but even then you were already engaged, so it was very painful for me.Thinking only of your happiness,I suppressed the urge to whisper into your ear. That I loved you. I love you still.”