Resolved to Die
by Shirō Satō, member of 136th
Shin'yō Special Attack Squadron
During the final months of World War II, Shirō Satō was a motorboat pilot
in the 136th Shin'yō Special Attack Squadron assigned to Miho Base in
Shizuoka Prefecture in order to carry out
special (suicide) attacks by crashing shin'yō motorboats loaded with explosives into enemy
ships as they neared the shore.
The following is a newspaper article written by Shirō Satō and published in
2007 in the Hokkaidō Shinbun:
In March 1944 when I completed the third year at Toyohara Middle School
in Karafuto (Sakhalin), I volunteered for the Navy. After I received one
year of training as a Hikō Yokaren (Preparatory
Flight Training Program) trainee at Tsuchiura Naval Air Group in Ibaraki
Prefecture, I was transferred to Kawatana Totsugeki (Assault) Unit in
Nagasaki Prefecture. There I received training to pilot shin'yō
special attack motorboats loaded with 250 kilograms of explosives to make
taiatari (body-crashing) attacks on the enemy, and I became a member of
the Marine Special Attack Corps.
The commemorative photograph at the bottom of this
page with the men around Squadron Commander Shingo Saiki
was taken in May 1945 when I completed special attack training and was assigned
to a squadron in Shizuoka Prefecture.
While every day we protected Suruga Bay in Shizuoka, we felt uneasy as to
whether "we could make successful crashes when American landing craft
arrived," but we were determined to die.
It was a time when young men faced death. The following words of Squadron
Commander Saiki at war's end remain in my heart, "I want you to cherish your
one life, return to your hometown, and strive to rebuild."
The following is an excerpt from an interview with Shirō Satō published in
2006 in Sei to Shi o Kangaeru Kai Kaihō
(Newsletter of Association to Consider Life and Death):
I have an experience of going through an extreme situation of life and
death. No matter how much I think about what is death, it is something that
is inevitable. Whether one thinks about it or does not think about it, a
human being surely will die. Rather than this, I believe it is most
important to think about how best to live.
I now am 79 years old, and I can be proud to have in my personal history
the experience of surviving in the Navy for a year and a half. The war was a
time when the pendulum swung between fortune and misfortune, and there were
no regrets to become a deified hero at Yasukuni Shrine. After the war, when
I was troubled finding a job or bogged down at work, that survival
experience became my treasure, and I would revive. The memory of that
experience gave me a strong spirit of "what the hell," and I think that it
Out of 120 squadron members, a third were assigned as special attack
pilots. On the day before the assignment, the squadron commander explained
that, based on the current war situation, going forward there was no other
way to break through except by carrying out taiatari (body-crashing)
attacks. Volunteers were asked to take one step forward. Everyone stepped forward. Forty men were
selected the next day. When that happened, I think our faces turned pale.
Those not selected surely must have felt relieved. There was silence for
some time, and nobody approached other squadron members to talk. Eventually
someone from the same squadron came up to me and said, "I also wanted to go,
but unfortunately I was not selected," but then as he laughed I
could see in his eyes that he thought his non-selection was good. However, in the
postwar period when we gathered, the energetic ones were men who had
been selected. Those who had not been selected seemed somewhat to be in
shock. I do not know whether or not they may have felt a sense of
With hopes of peace, Shirō Satō said the following that was
published in a Chūnichi Shinbun
Even though we were selected as Special Attack Corps members, it was good
fortune that we survived. I want to drink sometime and talk with my squadron
members from those days in Miho.
136th Shin'yō Special Attack Squadron
(Shirō Satō, far left of 2nd row from back)
Chūnichi Shinbun. 2011. Shi
o kakugo wakamono renshū (Young men trained and resolved
to die). August 11.
Hokkaidō Shinbun. 2007. Renshū
uke suijō tokkōtaiin ni
(Training and then Marine Special Attack Corps member).
Sei to Shi o Kangaeru Kai Kaihō
(Newsletter of Association to Consider Life and Death). 2006. Kaiin intabyū
(Association member interview). Vol. 25, July 10, 13-4.
Shin'yō Association (Shin'yōkai), ed. 1990. Ningen heiki:
Shin'yō tokubetsu kōgekitai (Human weapon: Shin'yō Special Attack
Corps). Shirō Arai, general editor. Volume 2 of 2, pp. 212-3. Tōkyō: Kokushokankōkai.
Translated by Bill Gordon
Minoru Tokuda, Shirō Satō's son-in-law, kindly provided information for this