Last Letter of Second Lieutenant Isamu Okamoto to His Parents
On April 28, 1945, Second Lieutenant Isamu Okamoto took
off from Miyakonojō East Airfield as the 61st Shinbu Special Attack
Squadron Leader and died in a special (suicide) attack west of Okinawa at the age of
20. He piloted an Army Hayate
Type 4 Fighter (Allied code name of Frank). After his death in a special attack,
he received a promotion to Captain. He was from Wakayama City and graduated from
the Imperial Japanese Army Air Academy in the 57th Class.
He wrote the following final letter with the death poem of Yoshida Shōin
(1830-1859) in tanka form (31-syllable poem with a syllable pattern of
5-7-5-7-7) at the end. Yoshida strongly advocated the Emperor's restoration to
power, which challenged the ruling shogunate.
Dear Father and Mother,
I will fall in the southern seas as the 61st Flying Squadron Leader of
the honored Special Attack Corps. When I think about it, for more than
twenty years you raised me strongly with your warm affection. Now I sadly
apologize for not being able to do anything during that time. Even though I
courageously fall in the southern seas, my spirit forevermore will fly
through the Empire's skies, and I am praying for the Empire's timeless
existence. Even though I die bravely, please definitely do not mourn. Please be
glad, be glad.
Now we are confronting a time of crisis for the Empire. There is nothing
done by dying once bravely, but certainly I will carry through with the
spirit of Dai-Nankō (Kusunoki Masashige) 
with seven lives to serve the country. With regards to family matters, I do not have anything to say to you, but
only please communicate my regards to persons in the families of the men who
died under my command. I pray that you stay healthy and have a long life. I
am sorry for my sloppy writing. Please forgive me.
Take care. Farewell, farewell.
Parents' heart surpasses children's heart for parents
How will they hear the news of today?
Letter and poem translated by Bill Gordon
The letter and poem come from Terai (1977, 19-20). The biographical information in
the first paragraph comes from Chiran Tokkō
Irei Kenshō Kai (2005, 197), Osuo (2005, 200), and Terai (1977, 19).
1. Kusunoki Masashige was a 14th-century samurai
warrior who symbolized courage and devotion to the Emperor. Dai-Nankō (or Nankō)
is the honorary title given to Kusunoki Masashige.
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).