A collection of 27 farewell letters to an Imperial Naval captain in the Tanimbar Islands of Indonesia, April 1945

During the Japanese occupation of the Dutch East Indies from 1942 to 1945, there was a contingent of the Imperial Japanese Navy that occupied the Kai islands of the Tanimbar islands, which were relatively remote regions of Indonesia that were far from the main population centers. In April 1944, one platoon unit of Japanese troops landed in the town of Tual on the island of Dullah and advanced onto a place named Wainrama (ワインラマ), according to this historical blog related to Japanese military memorials. They stayed there at least until April 1945, which is the date on one of the letters. It was presumably during that time that these farewell letters (27 pages in all) were written by the members of one platoon unit to their popular captain who was going to be transferred to another unit, presumably to a more active war zone. 

This area of Indonesia did not see much military action during World War II, because it was mostly bypassed by the Allies on their way to attack mainland Japan. However, a shipfitter in the U.S. Navy apparently took possession of these farewell letters, and his great-grandchild, u/chromesamurai, in Southern Louisiana later posted them on Reddit and on Imgur decades later for me to encounter them on the r/translator subreddit. Redditors managed to translate one or two pages out of the 27 pages, but I felt that just translating two letters didn’t do enough justice to the contents of this very interesting collection of farewell letters. So, I spent lots of time closely examining the handwriting, transcribing, researching, and translating these pages to document this extremely compelling time capsule which is a snapshot of one moment of one Imperial Naval platoon in April 1945 somewhere in the South Pacific.

Whoever this platoon captain was, he was apparently very much loved, respected, and admired by everyone in his unit, at least 26 members in all, most from Hiroshima, but others from places like Yamaguchi, Fukuoka, Ehime, and Osaka. Their love and camaraderie are captured in each intimate letter, the different handwriting styles reflecting each soldier’s unique individual personality. We learn some personal details about the captain, like his singing talent and his reluctance to wash his hands. I did my best to decipher the cursive writing, but the parts that I could not decipher are indicated with the brackets []. I’m hoping that readers could reach out to me with corrections and edits to make this record more complete. 

In the meantime, I will reach out to the Obon Society to see whether the farewell letters can be returned to the original platoon captain and his family, and also share these letters with the surviving families of the original authors of the farewell letters. I encourage readers to do the same to bring these letters to their attention. I am hoping that the Obon Society could do more thorough research to further investigate the background of these farewell letters.

Well then, let’s take a look at all 27 pages, one by one:

In the top right corner, it says “別れ 離れ!” (Farewell, separation!)  Then superimposed on some musical notes are the Chinese characters “祈武運長久!!” (Praying for good fortune in your military endeavors!!) which are a repeated theme in these farewell letters. Below the Chinese characters are some musical notations singing “カイマナヲシビテ” or “Emotionally touched by Kaimana“, which may be referring to a beach in Indonesian Papua. Then we will look at the vertical text to the left side of this page, which carries a deep and somewhat archaic tone:


We may be two bodies, but we vow that our hearts are one. When the time comes for the captain to depart from the land of Northern Oceania, when we think that this time is about to come to an end, your shadows will be embraced in our memories, even when you leave this base. When it is time for our remains to be scattered, so they will be scattered in the field of war. The mountains are not heavy. Keep in your thoughts: Just as big bird has light feathers, so are our lives light.” 

By saying that their lives were light, it was meant that life was cheap or expendable. 

On the bottom left corner, it says “マトワ岬展望より”, or the view from Point Matowa. Perhaps it may be referring to Madwaer beach? On the bottom of the page is an address in Hiroshima: 広島市旭町1690-1. 於ワインラマ (at Wainrama). The author of this letter was 西川軍曹, Sergeant Nishikawa. Dated 20.4.1, or April 1st, 1945 (the 20th year of the Shōwa Era). 

The above letter is addressed to the captain by the entire platoon unit.

別れ!!この位嫌な、そして悲しい言葉は無いと思います。吾々はお互いに多くの”別れ”の悲しい味わいを幾度かなめて来ました。いいや、なめられて涙のかわく目とてない、と心の奥底での囁きをききます。命令だから仕方がない。それも軍になぐさめの弁解に過ぎません。”会うは別れのはじめ”の逆原理に淡い希いを託してお別れいたします。差し上げる物もありません。只意のあるところだけをお汲み執り下さい。いよいよ武運の長久ならん事を祈ります。 ー小隊一同

Farewell! There is no other word that we can think of that is as unpleasant and sad as this one. We have both tasted the sadness of many “goodbyes” many times. No, we hear a whisper deep in our hearts that there is no such thing as a dry eye without tears among us. “It’s an order, so it can’t be helped”. That is just another excuse by the military to console itself. You will leave us with a faint hope in the reverse principle of “meeting is the beginning of parting”. We have nothing to offer you. Please understand only what we intend to say. We pray for your good fortune in your military endeavors. From the Whole Platoon

The letters following this letter are all addressed to the captain by individual soldiers.

懐かしき小隊長殿を此のワインラマの地にて他部隊に送ります。 事は非常に残念の事と思います。 が、これも皇国の為致し方ありません。 どこか他部隊に行かれましても我とは身は遠く彼の地に離れて居りしても心は何時も小隊長殿と一所であります。終に小隊長殿の武運の長から事を御祈り致します。 廣島懸山懸郡 保村中原 小田三郎

We are sending our dearly missed captain to another unit here in Wainrama. I think it is very unfortunate. However, this is also a matter of course for the Imperial Nation. Even if you go to another unit, my heart will always be with you, even though we are far away from each other in this faraway land. Finally, I wish you good fortune in your military endeavors.

Mr. Oda Saburō, Hiroshima Prefecture, Yamagata District, Yasumura Village, Nakahara

[Credit to u/kakubinn]


Two years have passed since I met you, captain. We have been in the war clouds for two years now, and I can’t help but feel nostalgic when I hear of our days far away in the South Pacific. I can only think of today’s farewell, and my thoughts about the past come and go in my brain more quickly than the spirits of the heavens. The principles of Japanese chivalry are an undying source of moral education which teach us grief, gratitude, and melancholy. You will forever be in my heart, and today I will say farewell to you.

Mr. Kenzō Yamashita, Ihara Village, Takada District, Hiroshima Prefecture.

思い出。隊長殿は朗らかなる人だ。マトワで始めてお目にかかり[]と教育も受け指導されて来ましたが、愈愈役立時と思ったらお別れで残念で有ります。[]他部隊に御出でになりまして一魂御躰に気をつけて奮闘を願います。吾は若い時から歌が好きで小隊長殿に聞いて戴けないと思いも別れで聞いて戴く事も出来ず残念であります。広島県世羅郡上山村、太字飯田 守脇 弘

Memories: Captain, you are a cheerful person. I met you for the first time in Matowa, where you trained me and guided me, and I am sorry to say goodbye when it is finally time for me to be useful. I hope that, when you will be in another unit, you will continue to fight hard and take care of your body and soul. I have loved singing since I was young, and I was looking forward to you listening to me sing, but I am sorry that you cannot listen to my singing because of your departure.

Mr. Moriwaki Hiroshi (Surname Iida in bold print) Kaminoyama Village, Sera District, Hiroshima Prefecture

垣根に咲いた白いバラ、清浄であり潔白であり、而も目かなる気色、枯らせたくない、別れたくない。命令!!と言う悪風が吹いて来た。噫呼今日の離別。未来の御育訓を謝し併せて武運長久を祈ります。広島県佐伯郡栗谷村(字後原)、藤堂 勇

White roses blooming on the hedge, clean and innocent, and then, too, a faint, withering temperament, I don’t want to let them wither, I don’t want to part with them. A bad wind blows saying, “It’s an order!” Oh no! Today is the day when we part ways. I thank you for your future guidance and pray for your continued good fortune in your military endeavors.

Mr. Isamu Tōdō (printed Sedohara), Kuritani Village, Saeki District, Hiroshima Prefecture


The first breath is the beginning of death. We have no choice but to be fatalists! Whether we like it or not, we are all Japanese! Let us not be ruled by small emotions, and let us put our whole souls into the Imperial Nation!

Mr. Sugihara Hiroo, Yamano Village, Fukayasu District, Hiroshima Prefecture

[Credit to u/Noobseriously]

武運長久をお祈り致します。今日までは苦楽をともにみちぎかれ、明日の別れにあうぞ口惜しい。広島県比婆郡久代村[] 藤岡庄栄

I pray for your good fortune in your military endeavors. We have shared many hardships and joys together until today, and I regret to say goodbye to you tomorrow.

Mr. Fujioka Shōei, Hiroshima Prefecture, Hiba District, Kushiro Village

小隊長を送るにあたりて、己を責むるきびしき隊長の去りませば、独楽のこは小と、戦友に語りぬ。希望!理想!”夢”儚さ!努力![]るまで夢を追う決心です。自分自活訓です。”カイマナ”時代を思い(憶い)山々して下さい。土の手を洗いもやらず、吾が隊長は「雨マ降ると」、笑いまし給いぬ。寺本 詢、(広島県)高田郡可愛村

Captain, when I send you off, I will not tell my comrades in arms, “When the strict captain, who is so hard on himself, is gone, the top will spin ever smaller arcs”. Hope! Ideals! Dreams! Transience! Effort! I am determined to pursue my dreams until they are realized. It is a lesson in self-sufficiency. Think back to our days in Kaimana. You would not wash the soil off of your hands and you would say, “it will rain anyways”, which was hilarious.

Mr. Teramoto Jun, Hiroshima Prefecture, Takada District, Kawai Village)

The above letter was written by a soldier from the Akiyoshi Coal Mine in Fukuoka prefecture, which was shut down in March 1964.

二年とも生死を共にし大長と我、別れの日こそ名残惜しめる。武運長久祈る。福岡県嘉穂郡臼井町 昭嘉鉱兼所 吉田新市

Captain, you and I have risked life and death together for two years, and we will miss each other. I pray for your good fortune in your military endeavors.

Mr. Yoshida Shin’ichi, Fukuoka Prefecture, Kaho District, Usui Town, Akiyoshi Mine and Office

小隊長殿バンザーイ 万事自我 流漂の蟲 井上号長

Banzai captain! Take care of yourself. We are like a swarm of drifting insects. 

Chief Inoue


広島県世羅郡広定村小童 小川 純

I pray for your good fortune in your military fortunes, and thank you for the training that you have given me. Mr. Ogawa Jun, Hiroshima Prefecture, Sera District, Hirosada Village


長崎県佐世保市熊野町ノ二一 山下真二


Destroy the U.S. and Britain, let’s build a Greater East Asia.

Mr. Yamashita Shinji, Nagasaki Prefecture, Sasebo City, Kumano-chō 21

This message is much harder to decipher, but I’ll give it a try:


祈武運長久!! 吉垣呉長

To my captain who is leaving, that war, that pain, where we met in Northern Oceania, the field of our battles. Praying for your good fortune in your military endeavors!!

Mr. Yoshigaki Kurenaga

Another letter which is extremely difficult to decipher, but I’ll give it my best shot:





Today’s farewell is a parting of the ways. I long for the spring day of tomorrow, but we won’t see the flowers together.

I’m sure there are others who also have comforting farewell letters. 

Yamaguchi Prefecture, [Blank] District, Migita Village

Mr. Sōden Nobukatsu, (Hiroshima Prefecture), Kamo District, Nakazato Village

The following letters are much shorter messages from the rest of the individuals in the platoon unit.

米英撃滅、武運長久。広島県芦田郡国府村府川 草切勇

Destroy the U.S. and Britain. Wishing good fortune in your military endeavors.

Mr. Kusakiri Isamu, Hiroshima Prefecture, Ashida District, Kunifu Village, Fugawa


My captain, I pray for good fortune in your military endeavors.

Mr. Hisazawa Otsuichi, Hiroshima Prefecture, Aki District, Fuchu Town

武運長祈 高槻市芥川末広町三五八 宮本昭人

Wishing you good fortune in your military endeavors. 

Mr. Miyamoto Akito, Takatsuki City, Akutagawa Suehiro District, 358

小隊長殿、祈武運長久 広島県山県郡吉坂村 折出年丈

Captain, I wish you good fortune in your military endeavors.

Mr. Oride Toshitake, Hiroshima Prefecture, Yamagata District, Yoshizaka Village

必勝 山口県阿武郡三見村明石 早川苦夫

Sure victory! 

Mr. Hayakawa Kufu, Yamaguchi Prefecture, Abu District, Sanmi Village, Akashi

武運長久を祈る 小隊長殿

愛媛県温泉郡北条町駅前通り 姫本興喜三

Captain, I wish you good fortune in your military endeavors.

Mr. Himemoto Kōyoshizō, Ehime Prefecture, Onsen District, Hokujō Town, Train Station Avenue

小隊長殿、祈武運長久 広島県沼隈郡熊野村 広川博一

Captain, I wish you good fortune in your military endeavors.

Mr. Hirokawa Hiroichi, Hiroshima Prefecture, Numakuma District, Kumano Village


I wish you good fortune in your military endeavors, and I wish you well.

Mr. Amakawa []

祈武運長久 広島県甲奴郡田総村[]森[] 中村義人

Praying for good fortune in your military endeavors.

Mr. Nakamura Yoshihito, Hiroshima Prefecture, Kōnu District, Tabusa Village


呉市公園通三丁目四 塩田勇

Wishing you good fortune in your military endeavors. 

Mr. Shioda Isamu, (Hiroshima Prefecture), Kure City, Kōen Dōri, Sanchō-me 4 


広島県豊田郡忠海町四九四六 脇本博

Praying for your good fortune in your military endeavors. 

Mr. Wakimoto Hiroshi, Hiroshima Prefecture, Toyota District, Chūkai-chō, 4946


広島市立町一番地 山本哲夫

Belief is power. I pray for your good fortune in your military endeavors.

Mr. Yamamoto Tetsuo, Hiroshima City, Tachi-chō, Area One