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Last Diary Entries of Sergeant Major Shinpei Satō

On April 16, 1945, Sergeant Major Shinpei Satō took off from Chiran Army Air Base as a member of the 79th Shinbu Special Attack Squadron and died in a special attack west of Okinawa at the age of 23. He piloted an Army Type 98 Direct Cooperation Reconnaissance Aircraft (Allied code name of Ida). After his death in a special attack, he received a promotion to Second Lieutenant. He was from Iwate Prefecture and was a member of the 7th Class of the Sendai Pilot Training School.

He wrote the following final diary entries after his assignment to the Special Attack Corps. He gave his diary the title of Ryūkonroku (Record of Everlasting Spirit), which is the same name as the diary of Yoshida Shōin (1830-1859), who strongly advocated the Emperor's restoration to power, which challenged the ruling shogunate at the end of the Edo Period. Satō's diary entries include separate final letters to his father and mother, with the letter to his mother in two parts on different dates. He also wrote four death poems in tanka form (31-syllable poem with a syllable pattern of 5-7-5-7-7) and a haiku (17-syllable poem with lines of 5-7-5 syllables) to his deceased older brother. He also wrote another final letter to his parents inside a trunk sent to his family.

March 27

The long-awaited day finally has come. I live for an eternal cause as a member of the Special Attack Corps. As a young Japanese man and as an aerial warrior, there is no joy that surpasses this.

I was born into a kind world and was brought up with a great deal of kindness. I just will repay this with a hisshi hitchū (certain-death, sure-hit) attack.

*

When I reflect, it has been a quick six years since I aspired to the skies and started a life with wings. I had requested this for a while, and since last year I expressed three times my fervent desire for the Special Attack Corps. I have not abandoned my soul.

*

Six years passed as I trained and drilled to be more than self-confident in my skills.

Except I did not take sufficient care of my health, and I have not worked hard at practicing instant sinking.

Father and Mother also will be glad.

My self-discipline as a military man allows me to obtain a splendid place to die. Gripping the control stick until the end, I can obtain a welcome place to be able to die full of a feeling of happiness.

*

My deceased older brother surely would be glad. I will continue my diary from now until the day of the instant sinking. I will not write separately a final letter.

Fate of life and death not worth arguing
Young man calmly falls in skies

March 28

In the morning, I received a new flight suit.

In the afternoon, I went to Kumagaya with the squadron commander to receive a plane. We reported the current matter to Captain Misono and expressed our thanks.

Finally from tomorrow it is planned that there will be training on instant sinking.

There was a message from Sergeant Toyosaki: "At last with the departures there are expected to be military results in the Battle of Okinawa." I pray only for a hit on a target.

March 29

In the morning, Squadron Commander Second Lieutenant Yamada gave the following briefing: "We who have been selected to the Special Attack Corps, which is the highest honor for an aerial warrior, will have our actions measured on the basis of our great self-confidence and pride. I want it to be said that those usual actions produced great battle results." Accomplishment of the mission is essential with only hisshi (certain death).

Death is easy, and duty is heavy. With a tokkō (special attack) spirit through my normal training, for the first time I can die in a way so that I can be useful. I will lengthen what is left in my life until August. It is a short time until that moment when I accomplish my mission, but it seems like I can do many useful things. I will strive for improvement in my spiritual skills.

In the afternoon we executed ways to handle equipment and materials for my plane. Even though it is a plane type that I trained on only once, it is absolutely the only weapon to accomplish the mission. If I live with the plane in life or death until the day I hit the target, then there is much room for research.

At about 1600, by chance Sergeant Watanuki, who was my classmate from the time when I was at Sendai Pilot Training School, came by plane from Tachikawa [1]. For more than an hour we had a lively conversation about things during training school, news about 3rd Class trainees, and fond memories. He told me that they also would soon depart for the front line, and I wished them success.

I heard that one classmate had died in battle at Ōita. I will make efforts so at the gathering of classmates at Yasukuni Shrine [2] I can relate an account of a heroic exploit and bring a present.

March 30

Fine weather continues every day in this place.

At 8 a.m., we went to Haiyama [3] to receive out planes. I barely missed Takeshi Nakamoto and was not able to see him.

We drilled on take-offs and landings. Since it was said that the planned sortie was soon, there were drills in the morning and afternoon.

Since on the trail also duty is duty, it was very lively.

At 1630 we went to Kawagoe City [4] for a meal together. The twelve men under the squadron commander opened up to each other in a friendly way, and we passed a pleasant evening.

March 31

At last we started training on attacking ships.

At about noon, our former unit commander Captain Misono came. He told us that within a few days we would depart for an advance base.

I was given a hachimaki (headband) from the Army Minister.

*

I was thinking that I would visit my Older Brother's grave once more before the sortie, but there is not time.

Father, Mother, I have no regrets at all. I just am full of joy to be able to die splendidly for the country.

My only worry is for you Father and Mother, who will have lost two children in half a year.

The words that Older Brother always was saying were, "I only caused worries for Father and Mother, but in the future I will show filial piety with all my might."

In truth, even now when I returned home not long ago, I had worked out the current situation for the most part, but in the end I did not say anything to you.

However, Father and Mother, when I die my spirit will live forever and ever.

Older Brother's spirit and my spirit will always be watching over you Father and Mother.

Even though you lost two children, do not be disappointed. Even Older Brother could work to increase production greatly. Since even I trained considerably up to now to be an aerial warrior, I now will live for an eternal cause as a member of the Special Attack Corps, the highest honor for a military man.

*

There is nothing that brings such joy. When there is news that I hit an American or British ship, Father, please drink sake with your dining companions because of me.

Also, please gladly give my remaining years to Fumio and Yōji. As for Yōji, his name also has a deep connection with mine.

April 1

Training has reached the serious stage.

Hisshi (certain death). Hitchū (sure hit). It seems simple when you say the words, but it is an extremely difficult mission.

*

Just one aircraft carrier has 100,000 rounds of shells and bullets that can be shot in a minute.

Even though hisshi (certain death) is simple, hitchū (sure hit) certainly is difficult. Nevertheless, I have a spirit that is tenaciously strong.

*

Although I am only thinking, it is thrilling to thrust at a huge warship as it thrusts at me. According to the place that reports the news, there are still 300 ships near Okinawa.

*

Truly a divine opportunity has come.

With today's order we also at last on the 4th will leave for an advance base.

*

There are several days in this world. It seems somehow a lie. As for the matter of death, I do not at all catch on quickly.

Is it because of the importance of my mission? Or perhaps I have a well-cultivated mind without knowing it.

*

In the afternoon I went to the Air Academy to receive my plane.

I by chance met Second Lieutenant Nakano and the shakuhachi flute teacher Second Lieutenant Yanagihara from my days at Tatebayashi [5]. They asked where I had been and expressed their congratulations. They were extremely envious of me.

*

Finally all of the planes have assembled.

Training also generally has ended.

*

Next there is only daring to make a hissatsu (certain-death) hit on a ship by strong unity with the squadron leader at the core.

To Mother,

When I think about it, I caused you only a lot of troubles when I was young. I was naughty, and also I only was complaining.

When I close my eyes, the things of my childhood spring vividly to my mind to a marvelous degree.

I was made to apologize to the gods when I did something bad. When I was young, you were a mother who every day strictly was telling me to respect the gods with sayings like "Please make it a good day today" and "Thank you for the good day today."

Today your teachings from that time truly are for me. I caused you concern when I was sick, and I also caused you many worries when I worked my way through school.

As for working my way through school, when I was in Tōkyō it was imprinted on my mind that your tears were flowing in the kitchen when I left home. I did not know how much I wanted to return home during that time.

I understood your true virtue when I left for Tōkyō. From that time I was rarely at home, and it is regrettable that there was not an opportunity when I could show my filial piety to you with no hurry.

After entering the Army, I saw you only three times. One time was the break last year. The second time was near the end of last year when you came to Tatebayashi. That time I could not contain myself for joy and more joy.

When I saw you after you had taken the trouble to make a long trip with a rucksack on your back to see me, I said something, and tears were about to flow. There was no excuse when finally I told you that it would have been best if you had not taken so much trouble to come, and I concluded by saying some contrary things.

Even after I go to Paradise, the memory of that time when I walked with you through Tōkyō will be a pleasant and fond memory.

Soon I will be presented to Yasukuni Shrine where there is a huge torii gate. We went there holding hands. The next time when I returned home for a break, you flew out of the house to greet me.

It was the same also last year.

April 2

In the afternoon I went to Tachikawa for nighttime outfitting of the plane.

We received a send-off from many people, and we went to Mibu Airfield [6] and landed there.

I met Second Lieutenants Muramatsu and Ōzawa from my days at Tatebayashi. I also met about 20 others, and there were fond memories. Also, I met Sergeant Major Taniguchi who I truly had not seen for more than three years after Nasu [7].

Everywhere there were many people to see us off, and I was overwhelmed with emotion. From 1600 I was permitted to spend the night off base for one day. Without returning home, I went to Tatebayashi.

I drank sake with Mr. Ietomi, and it was 11 o'clock. In the end I stayed at his house.

April 3

I visited the Tatebayashi Training Unit that I had not seen in five months.

All of the student factory workers were there as in the old days.

I was congratulated by everyone on my ambitious undertaking.

*

I ate at the homes of the students Matsuzawa and Satō. I went also to Hayakawa's home to bid farewell.

I stayed at Tatebayashi for one year and nine months. Since this is the place where I stayed longest, it also has the greatest number of families that provided care to me.

I also ate at the place of the woman from Saitō Bookstore. She took the trouble to go the train station to see me off. Although I was shedding tears, I did not express to her any words of appreciation.

When I think about it, she was a woman who always showed to me special hospitality.

For her many kindnesses as she looked after me like my parents, I will just repay her with a great battle result.

*

I received undeserved farewell gifts from the student Matsuzawa, the dentist Saitō, and Ietomi.

At 1500 I departed from Tatebayashi. I went to the place of Uncle Kagaku from Tōkyō. He had just returned from his hometown.

We had a lively conversation about various things.

We drank until about 9, and I returned.

*

Father, Mother, good night.

April 4

At last tomorrow will be the departure.

Dear Parents, today I will end my diary.

For the great kindness shown to me in various ways, there is no excuse for my not being able to do enough for you.

*

Today I took steps to send my baggage.

Since my photos and film were done at Morieda's place, please get them afterward.

*

There are various things that I want to write, but since I cannot get there no matter how much I write, I will stop with this.

I truly thank you for my 25 years.

Please take good care of yourselves so that you can live out your allotted span of life.

To Father

Father, as the son of you who went to the Russo-Japanese War [8], I have obtained a place to die that you will not be ashamed of. Please be glad.

It is inexcusable that from my childhood I always caused you troubles.

I was thinking that I would show you filial piety with all my might to repay your kindness, but please forgive me that finally it ended without my being able to do anything.

I, who used to sleep with you until I was quite big, when I was young I was told by Mother, "you are Father's child, and Bungo is my child."

I, who was loved exceptionally with a strict side from my childhood, truly was happy.

I remember fondly your figure from long ago when you were drunk and did gidayū (type of reciting used in the puppet theater) and a dance.

Please always enjoy good health and bring up Fumio and Yōji lovingly.

There are several more things that I would like to write, but I will stop here today.

*

I who had Japan's best mother was always happy.

I cannot stop pleasant memories that come one after another such as when I visited the grave of the mother of Kako-chan with you while in the evening it was drizzling, when we walked together through town for the Patriotic Women's Association, and when I went to tell the gods about my grades.

Mother, perhaps you will regret that you could have sent me a letter and encouraged me if I had notified you quickly about the Special Attack Corps. As I understand your feelings to an extreme degree and since I always appreciate you, please do not worry about needless things. As for me, since you would find out soon, I did not notify you quickly since this would cause you worries. So please do not think badly.

Please take sufficient care of your rheumatism and neuralgia. You absolutely must live just the span of life given to you by heaven.

Please watch over Fumio and Yōji carefully and train them to be splendid children.

Please by no means be disappointed, and take care so as to not damage your body.

*

Father acted in a strange way when he fell behind.

*

Excuse me for going a short time before you.

*

Tonight there was a farewell party. Since I am a little bit drunk, my written characters also are messy.

I request that you give my regards to Kawano-sensei and Kobayashi-sensei.

I certainly will show you a great battle result.

Please expect a battle result off Okinawa.

April 5 morning

Dear Parents,

It is fine weather suitable for going to battle.

Finally at 12:00 today I will depart.

I certainly will carry out an instant sinking.

I pray for your happiness.

Morning of departure for battle

Shinpei

There is a final letter inside the trunk.

Final Letter

Dear Parents,

Long live His Majesty the Emperor. I have received an Imperial command. Now I will set off on my way to destroy a ship of the despicable enemy as a member of the Special Attack Corps. There is nothing that surpasses this as the long-cherished desire of a young Japanese man. By a hitchū hitchin (sure-hit, sure-sinking) attack, I will offer repayment for the Emperor's kindness.

As for today's honor, I deeply appreciate the gift of your training for more than twenty years.

Even though my body dies, my spirit always will be at your side. Since both of you are old, please take good care of yourselves. By no means overwork yourselves.

I who am Japan's happiest person, always with a smiling face and in high spirits, will depart for my last act of filial piety for you.

Give my regards to all of the relatives and to the neighbors.

Shinpei

Death Poems

Even though my body shatters with enemy ship
I will live seven times with a true heart

Making good use of being born into kind world
I will go to battle with that joy

To My Parents

Not repaying kindnesses that surpassed seas and mountains
Full of high spirits I will go on my way to battle

To my deceased older brother

In Paradise
My brother
Recalling liquor


Cover of diary titled Ryūkonroku (Record of Everlasting Spirit)
by Sergeant Shinpei Satō. Characters on right-hand side indicate
this was standard notebook issued by Kumagaya Army Flight School.


Diary entries translated by Bill Gordon
October 2018

The diary entries come from Muranaga (1989, 18-30). The biographical information in the first paragraph comes from Chiran Tokkō Irei Kenshō Kai (2005, 113, 156), Muranaga (1989, 18), and Osuo (2005, 202).

Notes

1. Tachikawa is located in the western part of Tōkyō Prefecture.

2. Yasukuni Shrine in Tōkyō is the place of enshrinement for spirits of Japan's war dead.

3. This location (灰山 in Japanese) could not be determined.

4. Kawagoe City is in Saitama Prefecture.

5. Tatebayashi is a city located in Gunma Prefecture.

6. Mibu is a town located in Tochigi Prefecture.

7. Nasu is an area in the northeast part of Tochigi Prefecture.

8. The Russo-Japanese War was fought between Russia and Japan in 1904 and 1905, and Japan won a series of decisive victories against Russia.

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.

Muranaga, Kaoru, ed. 1989. Chiran tokubetsu kōgekitai (Chiran special attack forces). Kagoshima City: Japlan.

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