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Last Letter of Ensign Shigeo Kaida to His Parents

At 1245 on April 6, 1945, Ensign Shigeo Kaida took off from Kushira Air Base and died in a special (suicide) attack off Okinawa at the age of 21. He was a member of the Kamikaze Special Attack Corps 1st Gokō Shirasagi [1] Squadron from Himeji Air Group. He piloted a Type 97 Carrier Attack Bomber (Allied code name of Kate) carrying a 800-kg bomb. He was from Ehime Prefecture, attended Ehime Teachers College, and was a member of the 13th Class of the Navy's Flight Reserve Students.

He wrote the following final letter with a death poem in tanka form (31-syllable poem with structure of 5-7-5-7-7 syllables) at the end:

Dear Father and Mother,

Now it has been decided  that I will participate in a sortie as a member of the Kamikaze Special Attack Corps Waki Unit Gokō Shirasagi Squadron.

I am deeply satisfied that nothing will surpass this as the long-cherished desire of a military man to die attacking an enemy ship together with his aircraft. When I think of my 23 years [2] of life, I have not been able to repay anything for your kindness. However, with a smile please forgive me that from the beginning I offered myself for the country.

The war is plunging into an increasingly critical period, but I believe in victory for the Empire. I believe others will follow after me. Smiling, I will make a taiatari (body-crashing) attack against an enemy ship. I am resolved that I will repay a ten-thousandth of the Emperor's kindness. I have not been as thankful as today to be born a Japanese person.

I, thy humble subject
Live not in vain, having seen
Both heaven and earth prosper
In this glorious age of thine.

This old poem [3] is my state of mind.

Please give my regards to my teachers at elementary school, junior high school, and teachers college; all of the relatives; and the villagers.

Finally, I am praying for the welfare of everyone in the family.

Naval Ensign
Shigeo Kaida

Bravely
I will fall
Knowing way of samurai
Receive blessings
For the Emperor


Type 97 Carrier Attack Bomber carrying bomb drawn by
Kaida during evening before sortie from Kushira Air Base


Letter and poem translated by Bill Gordon
April 2018

The letter and poem come from Yasukuni Jinja (1995, 60-1). The biographical information in the first paragraph comes from Yasukuni Jinja (1995, 60) and Osuo (2005, 220).

Notes

1. The word Gokō means protecting the Empire. Shirasagi means white egret. Himeji Castle, which dates back to the 14th century, has the name of Shirasagi Castle.

2. The traditional Japanese method of counting age, as in much of East Asia, regards a child as age one at birth and adds an additional year on each New Year's day thereafter. This explains why the letter indicates his age as 23 whereas the current way of counting age based on his birth date in Yasukuni Jinja (1995, 60) indicates that his age was 21 at time of death.

3. The English translation for this poem in the Manyōshū comes from Nippon Gakujutsu Shinkōkai 2005, 197.

Sources Cited

Nippon Gakujutsu Shinkōkai. 2005. 1000 Poems From The Manyōshū: The Complete Nippon Gakujutsu Shinkōkai Translation. Mineola, NY: Dover Publications.

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

Yasukuni Jinja, ed. 1995. Sange no kokoro to chinkon no makoto (Spirits of heroic dead and devotion to repose of souls). Tōkyō: Yasukuni Jinja.