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Abe Masaya shōi: Nido senshi shita tokkōhei (Second Lieutenant Masaya Abe: Special attack soldier who died in battle twice)
by Takashi Fukushima
Revised edition, originally published in 2011 by Kadokawa Gakugei Shuppan
Gakugei Miraisha, 2012, 271 pages

On April 29, 1945, Second Lieutenant Masaya Abe took off from Chiran Air Base in an Army Type 2 Toryū Fighter (Ki-45, Allied code name of Nick) as a member of the 24th Shinbu Special Attack Squadron. He was from Fukuoka Prefecture, attended Meiji University in Tōkyō, and was a member of the 1st Class of the Army Special Cadet Officer Pilot Training (Tokubetsu Sōjū Minarai Shikan) Program. His engine developed problems after take-off, and he was forced to make a water landing at about 7 a.m. near the sparsely-populated small island of Kuroshima, 50 kilometers from the southern coast of the Japanese mainland. Abe survived the landing and met that day an Army pilot, Second Lieutenant Shin'ya Shibata, who had made a sortie from Chiran Air Base as part of the 29th Shinbu Special Attack Squadron and crash landed on a rocky shore of Kuroshima on April 8, 1945. Shibata had been severely burned in the crash and was in need of burn ointment. In the morning of May 1, Abe and a 16-year-old islander, Katsumi Yasunaga, departed Kuroshima in a small boat and rowed to the southern coast of Kyūshū near Mount Kaimon. They arrived at about 6 p.m. on May 2, and Abe made a telephone call to the Chiran Air Base command post to explain his situation. He reported in person to Chiran Air Base during the morning of May 3 when a truck came from the base to pick him up at the home of a family who lived near Mount Kaimon. The book's main objective is to determine the actual date of Abe's death in battle by a special (suicide) attack, which turns out to be a very difficult and complex task due to the lack of official Army records that document when Abe actually died after he returned from Kuroshima. The author's conclusion is that Abe took off again from Chiran Air Base in the morning of May 5, dropped medicine for Shibata's burns and other items at Kuroshima, and then proceeded to Okinawa for a special attack.

Takashi Fukushima, author of Abe Masaya shōi: Nido senshi shita tokkōhei (Second Lieutenant Masaya Abe: Special attack soldier who died in battle twice), is extremely thorough in his research regarding Masaya Abe's life and the circumstances of his death. In addition to a bibliography of 25 books, Fukushima conducted personal interviews and engaged in personal correspondence with individuals who knew Abe personally or had facts about his life or death including the following: Shūitsu Miura (24th Shinbu Squadron member whose plane was shot down on May 4, 1945, and became POW for six months after rescue from water by American ship [1]), Hidetaka Kubota (maintenance man assigned to Abe's Army Type 2 Toryū Fighter), Katsumi Yasunaga (went with Abe in small boat from Kuroshima to the southern coast of Kyūshū), Yasuo Hidaka and Sada Hidaka (Kuroshima residents during time when Abe made forced landing there and when he returned with his plane to drop off medicine and other items), Shikae Nakagawa (Abe's older sister who provided Fukushima with many of Abe's writings including 26 letters, 17 postcards, and three notebooks with diary entries and other information written after he joined the Army), Yoshiko Terashima (women with maiden name of Karasawa who when she was in high school knew Abe well from when he went to Meiji University in Tōkyō until his death), and Takehiko Ena (Kamikaze Special Attack Corps crewman who made forced landing in water off Kuroshima on May 11, 1945). Fukushima, who retired in 1995 from Dentsū Advertising Agency, also wrote Nanajūsai de chōsen shita sanbaka torio no amerika tairiku ōdan 10,000 kiro no tabi (10,000-km trip across American continent by trio of 70-year-olds who took on the challenge) (2007) in his retirement years.

Chapters 1 to 3, which comprise the first third of the book, cover background information about Chiran, Kuroshima, and how Fukushima got involved with his research on Second Lieutenant Masaya Abe's life and death. Parts of these chapters read almost like a travel memoir when Fukushima visits Chiran and Kuroshima, the two key places in the last week of Masaya Abe's life. He provides background information in profusion about these two locations but does not reveal too much of his personal reactions until the very end of the book. The story mainly gets told from the author's perspective as he tries to find out about what happened to Masaya Abe from April 29 until his death and when exactly he died in battle. Since Fukushima knew little about Japan's Special Attack Corps until Abe's sister Shikae sent his wife a treasure trove of Abe's writings and other related documents, the book also provides much general information as the author learns about the Special Attack Corps, which carried out suicide attacks near the end of the Pacific War.

Second Lieutenant
Masaya Abe

Chapter 4 or the middle third of the book chronicles Abe's life from his birth in Aoyagi Village (present-day Koga City), Fukuoka Prefecture, to his preparation for his first special attack sortie on April 29, 1945. Abe's parents divorced when he was five years old, and both later remarried. He attended Ryōyō (Liaoyang) Commercial High School in Manchuria. When Abe attended Meiji University in Tōkyō, he developed a very close relationship with the Karasawa Family while far away from his home prefecture of Fukuoka. The mother Hisako Karasawa was the younger sister of the wife of the younger brother of Abe's father. He wrote last letters before his special attack to Hisako and her daughter Yoshiko who had just graduated from high school. When Abe graduated from Meiji University, he considered two options of teaching at an elementary school and an offer to work at the Bank of Japan. Instead, he decided to join the Army in the 1st Class of the Army Special Cadet Officer Pilot Training Program when he passed the entrance examination. The book has few details about Abe's life before he joined the Army on October 1, 1943. The author presents many excerpts from Abe's diaries that he maintained while training in the Army until he was selected for the Special Attack Corps on December 5, 1944. Although most entries are not that interesting or unique, they show that during training he quickly developed a strong patriotism and willingness to die for the country. On February 9, 1945, he was assigned to the 24th Shinbu Special Attack Squadron at Hitachi Training Air Division in Ibaraki Prefecture.

Chapters 5 and 6, which take up the last third of the book, investigate in detail what happened to Abe from his sortie from Chiran Air Base on April 29, 1945, to his final sortie that resulted in his death in battle. Over the years much confusion has existed and a good deal of erroneous information has been published regarding what happened to Abe. The Army recorded the date of his death in a special attack as April 29, 1945, and no Army record exists regarding a second sortie by Abe after he returned to the mainland from Kuroshima. However, there were many witnesses on Kuroshima Island who talked with Abe after his forced landing there on April 29, and the Kagoshima Nippō newspaper published an article in its edition dated May 31, 1945, about Abe's forced landing at Kuroshima and his astounding return to the mainland by rowing a small boat with Katsumi Yasunaga, although the article does not provide the name of the pilot and does not mention what happened to him after his return. As of May 3 when Abe returned to Chiran, three 24th Shinbu Special Attack Squadron members remained at Chiran Air Base because one pilot was not able to take off on April 29 due to engine problems and the other two pilots' planes developed engine problems after take-off on April 29 so they had to return to base. These three remaining men in the 24th Shinbu Squadron made a sortie on May 4, one day after Abe had returned to Chiran Air Base, but the one member who survived (Shūitsu Miura) after rescue by an American ship and Katsumi Yasunaga, who had returned with Abe, said that Abe did not meet any of these three squadron members after his return from Kuroshima, which would have been expected as soon as he had given his report at Chiran's command headquarters.

A fact that Kuroshima islanders could attest to was that an aircraft returned on a certain day in May and dropped burn medicine for Shin'ya Shibata, chocolate, caramels, cigarettes, and 200 yen of money, but they could not remember the exact date that this happened. Although none of the islanders saw the plane or the pilot, they concluded that the plane whose roar that they heard when it passed overhead must be Abe since he dropped the burn medicine near the house where Shibata was staying. On May 11, 1945, Takehiko Ena's three-man Type 97 Carrier Attack Bomber (Allied code name of Kate) made a forced landing in the sea off Kuroshima, and on that date he met Shibata who had already received the burn medicine, so the "certain day in May" when the package was dropped from a plane had to be before the 11th. A military practice session on how to use bamboo spears to fight with the enemy was held each week at the children's school on Saturday at Katadomari Village on the west side of Kuroshima Island, and a package dropped there by the plane occurred while a practice session was being held. The first two Saturdays of May 1945 were the 5th and 12th. It could not have been the 12th, since Shibata already had the burn medicine by the 11th when Ena arrived. Therefore, the author concludes that the date of Abe's sortie and death in battle must have been May 5, 1945.

Due to the mysteries and open questions surrounding Abe's death such as how he obtained an aircraft for his second sortie from Chiran and why the Army has no official record of his returning to Chiran and making a second sortie, some persons have speculated that Abe may even have survived the war. However, no information ever has been discovered about what happened to him. For example, a 1982 NHK television documentary about Kuroshima Island asked viewers to contact NHK if anyone had any information on Abe's whereabouts, but there was not a single response. Sakurai (2007) provides evidence that Abe did not sortie again from Chiran Air Base in a special attack on May 4, 1945, and he speculates that perhaps an Army reconnaissance plane or a Navy seaplane dropped the package at Kuroshima for Shibata after Abe provided his report when he returned to the mainland. Based on available evidence, Sakurai cannot conclude on what happened to Abe, but he thinks that there is a high likelihood that he did not die in battle even though his name is recorded on the list of men who died in special attacks on May 4, 1945. Fukushima's book could have been improved by addressing the facts and conclusions presented earlier in Sakurai's article. Also, another step missing from the process about what happened to Abe was to examine American Navy records regarding what happened on May 5, 1945, to see if any American ships or carrier-based fighters reported shooting down a Nick fighter.

24th Shinbu Special Attack Squadron
members. Second Lieutenant Masaya
is fourth from right with only head visible.

The Japanese Army official records contain another error related to 24th Shinbu Squadron members. In addition to showing incorrectly that Masaya Abe had died in a special attack on April 29, 1945, the records erroneously indicate that Shinjirō Shinohara was at Kuroshima Island on May 4, 1945, even though actually he made a sortie from Chiran Air Base on this date and never returned to base. Regardless of the Army records, the Chiran Peace Museum for Kamikaze Pilots displays his photograph with other 24th Shinbu Squadron members who died in special attacks.

A monument in remembrance of Masaya Abe stands in Ōsato Village on Kuroshima Island. Katsumi Yasunaga, who went with Masaya Abe on a small boat from Kuroshima to the mainland, erected this monument in 2004. One side of the monument, which faces toward Okinawa, shows a propeller and Abe's name. The monument's other side has the following inscription written by Yasunaga:

Anxious about his homeland
Concerned for his seriously injured comrade
With help from others
And heaven and the gods
He flew again to the South Seas
May his spirit
Forever rest in peace

In the final section, Yasunaga expresses his appreciation to the author for bringing Masaya Abe to life again in the book. He mentions that now he commemorates the date of Abe's death on May 5 based on the book's convincing reasoning.

Katsumi Yasunaga gives speech at ceremony
for erection of Masaya Abe Monument in 2004

Even after reading this book, what exactly happened to Army Second Lieutenant Masaya Abe remains a mystery with several unanswered questions. The author Takashi Fukushima should be commended for his extremely thorough research and for his analysis that Abe's most likely date of death was May 5, 1945. He thoroughly considers and rejects several other possibilities of what might have happened to Abe. The book has a few parts where it seems to stray from the main topic and where information is repeated, but this does not take away from its value as a meticulous investigation to determine what exactly happened to Abe in his death.


1. Shūitsu Miura may have been rescued by the American ship PCE(R) 852, which stands for Patrol Craft Escort (Rescue) 852. This ship picked up a downed pilot on May 4, 1945, and the doctor on board treated his wounds. See "If We Save But One": Going to War with Jinrai Butai "The Kamikaze" by Raymond R. Malott for additional details.