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Last Letters from Corporal Nobuo Aihana to His Parents

Corporal Nobuo Aihana was a member of the Army Special Attack Corps 77th Shinbu Squadron. The squadron made a sortie from Chiran Air Base on April 28, 1945, but only Aihana remained behind as his Army Type 97 Fighter (Allied code name of Nate) had mechanical problems. However, on May 4, 1945, he took off from Chiran together with the 78th Shinbu Squadron to make a special (suicide) attack near Okinawa. He died in battle at the age of 18 [1]. After his death in a special attack, he received a promotion to Second Lieutenant. He was from Miyagi Prefecture and was a member of the 14th Class of the Army Youth Pilot (Rikugun Shōhi) training program.

Nobuo Aihana wrote the following final letter to his father and stepmother:

I joined an Attack Corps Shinbu Squadron and was able to repay my debt of gratitude to the country.

Father and Mother, I set out to battle in high spirits.

Father and Mother, I put a photograph of my older brother in my flight suit.

Father and Mother, I am deeply ashamed of myself that until the end I did not rectify my improper and rude speech as a child.

Mother, you raised me since I was six years old, and I did not say "Mother" [2] to you who are more than my birth mother.

How sad you must have been. I thought many times to call you that, but I could not say that to your face since I was embarrassed to do so.

Now is the time for me to call you in a loud voice: "Mother."

Probably my older brother in central China also feels the same. Mother, please forgive us two brothers.

Now as I leave for battle to make a special attack, my only concerns are the two things mentioned above. Other than these, I have no regrets.

People live 50 years, and I have lived a long life to 20 years of age. As for the remaining 30 years, I give half to each of you, Father and Mother.

Please use the enclosed money for Mother's favorite cigarettes.

Father and Mother, I go. I am going with a smile to surely destroy an enemy ship.

On the day before Aihana's first sortie on April 28, 1945, he visited the restaurant run by Tome Torihama in the center of Chiran Town. He told her, "I have no borrowing or lending and no relationship with a woman, and I have nothing to regret in this world. My only sorrow is that until now I have not said 'Mother' to my stepmother who raised me" (Asahi 1990, 99). That evening when Corporal Aihana returned to the base's triangular barracks (sankaku heisha), the first thing he did was write the following final letter to his stepmother:

Missing My Mother

Dear Mother, how are you doing?

Thank you very much for what you have done for so long. You raised me since I was six years old. Even though a stepmother, there never once was any misconduct.

You are a mother who looked after me with loving care, a kind mother, a precious mother. I was happy.

Until the end I did not call you "Mother." Several times I resolved to call you that, but I must have been weak-willed. Mother, please forgive me. How sad you must have been.

Now is the time for me to call you in a loud voice: "Mother, Mother, Mother."

Corporal Nobuo Aihana was from Sanbongi Town in the Sasanishiki grain-growing region of Miyagi Prefecture. The above letter along with Nobuo's muffler, military sword, and other items are kept together at the Buddhist family altar. Aki, his stepmother who received the letter after the end of the war, kept it as her most precious possession.

Nobuo's real mother, Tamai, died of illness in 1930 at the age of only 34. His father Heisaku, who then had two sons for whom to care, remarried with Aki two years after Tamai's death. Heisaku and Aki worked as rice farmers. Before long, Shun'ichi, Nobuo's brother who was eight years older, went to the battlefront.

Shun'ichi returned to Japan from China in June 1946 and found out about his younger brother's death in battle. After reading Nobuo's letter at the family altar addressed to his mother, Shun'ichi resolved to do his best to treat his stepmother like a real mother to carry out his younger brother's wishes. Heisaku, who was overjoyed at his son Shun'ichi's return, passed away in 1948 at the age of 57. Shun'ichi's stepmother Aki lived until the age of 77 and passed away in 1975.

Letters translated by Bill Gordon
September 2010

Sources of Letters and Background Information

First letter shown above to his father and stepmother: Yasukuni Jinja 2000, 33-4.

Second letter shown above to his stepmother: Chiran Tokkō Irei Kenshō Kai 2005, 124 (image of actual letter); Muranaga 1989, 42, 45 (text of letter).

Background information included on this page: Asahi Shimbun Seibu Honsha 1990, 99-101, Chiran Tokkō Irei Kenshō Kai 2005, 157.


1. Yasukuni Jinja (2000, 33) gives Aihana's age at death as 20, not 18. A child is one at birth in the traditional Japanese way of determining age, and each year a person's age increases one year on New Year's Day. This accounts for the difference of two years in age at death.

2. The Japanese word used here for Mother is okāsan, which is a familiar way in which most children address their mother in speech. The beginning of the sentence uses the Japanese word hahaue, which is a formal, respectful way of addressing one's mother in a traditional letter. The end of the translated sentence has the Japanese word seibo, which refers to one's real mother by birth. This line of the letter could be shown as follows:

Hahaue, you raised me since I was six years old, and I did not say "okāsan" to you who are more than my seibo.

In the English translation of Aihana's two letters, there has been no attempt to try to show the different Japanese words being used for mother.

Sources Cited

Asahi Shimbun Seibu Honsha. 1990. Sora no kanata ni (To distant skies). Fukuoka: Ashishobō.

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.

Yasukuni Jinja, ed. 2000. Eirei no koto no ha (Words of the spirits of war heroes), Volume 6. Tokyo: Yasukuni Jinja Shamusho.