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Last Letters of Corporal Hitoshi Hamada to His Parents

On June 22, 1945, Corporal Hitoshi Hamada took off from Miyakonojō East Airfield as a member of the 179th Shinbu Special Attack Squadron and died in a special (suicide) attack west of Okinawa at the age of 19. He piloted an Army Hayate Type 4 Fighter (Allied code name of Frank). After his death in a special attack, he received a four-rank promotion to Second Lieutenant. He was from Matsusaka City in Mie Prefecture and was a member of the 14th Class of the Army Youth Pilot (Rikugun Shōhi) training program.

He wrote the following final letter to his parents:

It has become the season of early summer with deep green. From the faraway land of Kantō, I suppose that Grandfather first and everybody else are in good health and are striving to increase production on the home front.

Recently my long-cherished desire has been realized successfully. It has come about that as a member of the Shinbu Special Attack Corps I will make a sortie for the Emperor to the decisive battleground at Okinawa near the mainland to hit an aircraft carrier of the American and British fiends. I will attack riding in my Hayate fighter and fall together with an enemy aircraft carrier. As a young man in this world, I am glad with this long-cherished ambition. Grandfather first and Father and Mother, thank you for many things. I was totally self-centered. I regret that I lived until now without repaying your kindness in any way. However, when I splendidly sink a ship, I will be happy if you forgive this lack of filial piety.

Also, to Fumio, Kayo, and Taeko, I think that I was without honor by doing nothing as an older brother. However, I think that my younger brother and sisters certainly will be glad when I fall for the Emperor.

I regret going without sending letters to my teachers and seniors who showed kindness to me until now and without repaying any of their kindness, but I apologize from the bottom of my heart.

Now at the time of my departure I have nothing to say, but I apologize for the misfortune and my impoliteness. I pray for the health of everyone.

I go gladly thinking that being able to go now for the Emperor is the greatest joy.

Farewell.

He later wrote another final letter with a death poem in tanka form (31-syllable poem with a syllable pattern of 5-7-5-7-7) at the end:

Dear Parents [1],

Fortunately before my sortie I will write a note to you.

I thought that the letter that I wrote at Narimasu Airfield [2] would be the final one, but I think that I am fortunate to be able to write now.

Thinking about times past, it has been more than three years since I requested you forcibly to become a pilot. After leaving the 10th Rensei (Training) Hikōtai, I transferred to Shimodate and Narimasu. When I transferred from Narimasu to Hōfu Airfield in Yamaguchi Prefecture, I saw Akeno to my right and passed right over our house. At this time while lost in thought when I saw the school where I learned when young and that road, I waved my wings up and down mightily above our house. When I departed, I dropped a bunch of flowers and went. The time was exactly 1500 hours on the 3rd.

I was able to do a great deal also at Matsusaka Factory.

After transferring to Hōfu, I have idled away the time here for about a week. It was scheduled for us to move to Miyakonojō on the 12th and to make a sortie on the 13th, but it seems that I have lived a long life because of the rain.

I have also many memories, and I cannot stop them. Since my personal articles are at Hōfu Airfield, please go to get them. When you get off at Mitajiri Station, the Shinbu Barracks are there. Father, my remaining cigarettes are there, so please smoke them.

In addition, there is a handkerchief inside that was sent to me by Sawada-sama who lives near Narimasu Airfield. To make sure I will tell you her address. It is Mitsuko Sawada at Doshida-chō, Itabashi Ward, Tōkyō Prefecture. She also came to see me off at my departure.

I was thinking of writing one time to the relatives, but since time did not permit, I ask that you please give them my regards from our family. I wanted to say many things, but I repay your kindness until now with an enemy ship. Everyone, take care.

There is nothing that surpasses this as the long-cherished desire of a young man. Smiling with gladness, I go to die. Next time I will see you at Yasukuni [3].

Even though my wings fall and my control stick is broken
My pursuit will not stop to Okinawan Sea


Letters and poem translated by Bill Gordon
August 2018

The letters and poem come from Terai (1977, 115-7). The biographical information in the first paragraph comes from Chiran Tokkō Irei Kenshō Kai (2005, 150, 189) and Osuo (2005, 206).

Notes

1. Yasukuni (1995, 121-2) indicates that this letter was addressed to Hamada's parents, although Terai (1977, 116-7) does not show any addressee for this letter.

2. Narimasu was an Army airfield located in Nerima Ward in Tōkyō Prefecture.

3. Yasukuni Jinja (Shrine) in Tōkyō is the place of enshrinement for spirits of Japan's war dead.

Sources Cited

Chiran Tokkō Irei Kenshō Kai (Chiran Special Attack Memorial Society), ed. 2005. Konpaku no kiroku: Kyū rikugun tokubetsu kōgekitai chiran kichi (Record of departed spirits: Former Army Special Attack Corps Chiran Base). Revised edition, originally published in 2004. Chiran Town, Kagoshima Prefecture: Chiran Tokkō Irei Kenshō Kai.

Osuo, Kazuhiko. 2005. Tokubetsu kōgekitai no kiroku (rikugun hen) (Record of special attack corps (Army)). Tōkyō: Kōjinsha.

Terai, Shunichi, ed. 1977. Kōkū Kichi Miyakonojō Hayate Tokkō Shinbutai (Miyakonojō Air Base Hayate Special Attack Shinbu Unit). Tōkyō: Genshobō.

Yasukuni Jinja, ed. 1995. Eirei no koto no ha (1) (Words of the spirits of war heroes, Volume 1). Tōkyō: Yasukuni Jinja Shamusho.