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Continuation • Ah, Cherry
Blossoms of Same Class
(1995)

 
Last Letters of Ensign Masaaki Shirosaki to His Family

Sometime between 1230 and 1430 on April 6, 1945, Ensign Masaaki Shirosaki took off from Kokubu No. 2 Air Base as pilot in a Type 99 Carrier Dive Bomber (Allied code name of Val) carrying a 250-kg bomb and died in a special (suicide) attack off Okinawa at the age of 22. He was a member of the Kamikaze Special Attack Corps 1st Hachiman Gokō [1] Squadron from Usa Air Group. He was from Hyōgo Prefecture, attended Ritsumeikan University in Kyōto to study economics, and was a member of the 14th Class of the Navy's Flight Reserve Students (Hikō Yobi Gakusei).

He wrote the following final letter dated April 3, 1945, at Usa Air Base in Ōita Prefecture:

I trust that everyone has been doing well as usual. Since I am getting along well as usual, please be at ease.

The war situation is becoming more and more critical, and our duties also have become increasingly important. Recently I also was transferred to a special attack unit. I think that nothing surpasses this as the long-cherished desire of a young man. I thank you, Noboru [2], and Shōko for raising me for more than 20 years. When I reflect on things until today, I am filled with emotion. I caused much trouble for you. I remember that I argued a lot and you scolded me when I was 13 years old at Nishinomiya [3].

We who face this crisis of the Empire's existence are determined absolutely to make a splendid assault. I think that I will not be able to see all of you again. I pray earnestly that you care for your health and that you have great happiness.

I will go a short time before you, and at the Sanzu River [4] I will take on the ogre with sumō. Now the cherry trees are in full bloom at my location. I think that it will be good that I will fall beautifully like those cherry blossoms.

Noboru, please work well to follow my spirit. Shōko, I ask that you become a Japanese lady. It is regrettable that I was not able to meet Grandmother who lives in Kyōto. I cannot give up my personal feelings for the country. A letter came today from Haruo and Takako in Kido. Please send quickly to Haruo a fountain pen for the engagement.

I will enclose some photos taken by a comrade. Please look at them. Since there is not much free time to write, excuse me for taking my leave around here.

Father and Mother, please be glad about your son's mission. Please take care of the home front, and we will take charge of the war.

I truly regret not being able to help Shōko's groom. Well, now there is not much more to write. Please take good care of your health.

Shirosaki also wrote the following letter dated April 5, 1945, at Usa Air Base:

I will go in high spirits.

There are a few remaining things, and I will send you some tobacco and soap and a small amount of spending money. Since there was a distribution of exercise shoes to me, I will enclose them. Please receive them.

I earnestly pray for the happiness of everyone. My long-cherished desire is to be able to die smiling. Give my regards to everyone.


Letters translated by Bill Gordon
April 2018

The letters come from Kaigun Hikō Yobi Gakusei Dai 14 Ki Kai (1995, 59-60). The biographical information in the first paragraph comes from Kaigun Hikō Yobi Gakusei Dai 14 Ki Kai (1995, 59) and Osuo (2005, 215).

Notes

1. Hachiman is the Japanese god of military power. Usa City in Ōita Prefecture has the first Hachiman Shrine, which was established in the early 8th century. Gokō means "protecting the Emperor" in Japanese.

2. The given name of 襄 can be pronounced as either Noboru or Jō. It could not be determined what is the correct pronunciation, so Noboru was used for the letter's translation.

3. Nishinomiya is a city in Hyōgo Prefecture.

4. Sanzu River is the Japanese Buddhist equivalent of the River Styx.

Sources Cited

Kaigun Hikō Yobi Gakusei Dai 14 Ki Kai (Navy Flight Reserve Students 14th Class Association), ed. 1995. Zoku Ā dōki no sakura (Continuation Ah, cherry blossoms of same class). Tōkyō: Kōjinsha.

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