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Shirō Satō

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 supported me.

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 inferiority.

With hopes of peace, Shirō Satō said the following that was published in a Chūnichi Shinbun article in 2011:

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
March 2022

Minoru Tokuda, Shirō Satō's son-in-law, kindly provided information for this story.