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Last Letters of Navy
Special Attack Corps
(1971)

 
Last Letters of Lieutenant Kiyoshi Satō to His Wife

At 1245 on April 6, 1945,Lieutenant Kiyoshi Satō took off from Kushira Air Base as pilot in a three-man Type 97 Carrier Attack Bomber (Allied code name of Kate) carrying a 800-kg bomb. He was leader of the Kamikaze Special Attack Corps 1st Gokō Shirasagi [1] Squadron from Himeji Naval Air Group. The 1st Gokō Shirasagi Squadron had 39 men in 13 aircraft who died in special attacks off Okinawa. Satō was from Ōita Prefecture and was a member of the 15th Class of Pilot Trainees (Sōjū Renshūsei) who completed training in April 1930 [2]. He died at the age of 38.

He wrote the following two final letters to his wife:

I read with deep emotion the letter addressed to Himeji Air Group that I received at the base on April 1.

Now there are some things to say. I earnestly believe in the permanence of Shinshū [3] as eternal as heaven and earth. Vowing to make a hisshi hitchū (certain-death, sure-hit) attack, I will repay the Emperor's grace and respond to the country's kindness. I desire to further the family name. I only will crash my plane to destroy the haughty enemy. Regarding affairs after my death, I absolutely believe in you, and there are no words that I must say to you.

I wrote down names below that I thought up for the baby. How do they sound?

If a boy, Katsutoshi Satō

If a girl, Seiko Satō

Masashi and Yūko, be well. Please bring them up to be fine and gentle Japanese persons.

I am praying for everyone's long life and prosperity. Farewell.


Preliminaries omitted. Since you always are prepared, there is nothing to deliver to you, and there is not even anything to tell you now. The thing that I think about is that I have caused you many troubles. There is just no excuse. Also, now I will die with you alone shouldering responsibilities based on my wishes and with my entrusting to you the children's future.

Furthermore, even though for some time I was thinking that I must write letters to Older Brother in Hita [4], Watari, Tōgenji Temple, and the families of relatives to ask them for their care in the future, while my laziness in writing continued I went out without giving any greetings or making any requests with my lack of correspondence just as it was. I truly regret it, and there is no excuse for it. I will make a sortie as I shout to the skies my apology from the bottom of my heart. I ask that you please communicate to them my wishes.

Masashi, Yūko, and the child in the belly not yet seen, I will sacrifice myself for the great cause of protecting the country as a man of Shinshū. I certainly must destroy the arrogant enemy. You please focus on Mother and as brothers and sisters get along with each other, help each other, and show the way to each other. Have spirits with your father's aspirations, and surely become a fine Japanese man or Japanese woman so you will not be laughed at by others. Please grow up to be strong, proper, and cheerful persons. Even while writing this letter, I saw an attack by enemy planes. I am strongly indignant. I am supremely inspired that they will not win. My blood seems to be boiling. The men who report to me and who will crash dive together with me are in very high spirits, and they already are preparing everything. They are a group of exceptional young men in high spirits. I, who will be at the head of these excellent young divine hawks, am deeply moved to be able to be on the firing line in the enemy destruction. You, Masashi, and Yūko, please sense this.

Also, my wife and children, certainly please rise up as a fine bereaved family. I pray before the gods that Father who is the Chief Priest and Mother will both take care of their health and live long to die a natural death. I ask that you give my warm regards to Hatsue and her children. Please summarize this letter for Mother in Hita, Older Brother, Older Sister-in-law, and everyone. Please take care of your health and handle affairs after my death. I stop writing now.

Farewell everyone, please be in high spirits. Goodbye.


Letters translated by Bill Gordon
August 2018

The letters come from Matsugi (1971, 164-7). The biographical information in the first paragraph comes from Matsugi (1971, 164) 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 15th Class of Pilot Trainees (Sōjū Renshūsei) had training from June 1929 to April 1930 (Hata and Izawa (1989, 411).

3. Shinshū refers to Japan and literally means "divine land."

4. Hita is a city in Ōita Prefecture.

Sources Cited

Hata, Ikuhiko, and Yasuho Izawa. 1989. Japanese Naval Aces and Fighter Units in World War II. Translated by Don Cyril Gorham. Originally published in 1970 by Kantosha in Japanese. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press.

Matsugi, Fujio, ed. 1971. Kaigun tokubetsu kōgekitai no isho (Last letters of Navy Special Attack Corps). Tōkyō: KK Bestsellers.

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