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Last Letters of Corporal Saburō Hasegawa to His Mother

On April 28, 1945, Corporal Saburō Hasegawa took off from Miyakonojō East Airfield as a member of the 61st Shinbu Special Attack Squadron and died in a special (suicide) attack west of Okinawa at the age of 19. He piloted an Army Hayate Type 4 Fighter (Allied code name of Frank). After his death in a special attack, he received a four-rank promotion to Second Lieutenant. He was from Gifu Prefecture, attended Gifu Teachers College, and was a member of the 14th Class of the Army Youth Pilot (Rikugun Shōhi) training program.

He wrote the following final letters to his mother:

Dear Mother,

Smiling, now I will depart toward an instant sinking of a ship. I do not know what is good to say to you for only causing you various worries. Mother, for me as a single individual, I only shed tears as I recall the times when I was young. For twenty years [1] I was not able to give you any relief. Since I certainly will do my best to be second to none, please forgive me.

Older Brother and Older Sisters, thank you for various things.

Tetsu, Shinobu, and Hajime, please do your best to work hard. In my dive I will fall as a cherry blossom in the southern seas together with an enemy ship that I surely will hit. There is nothing that surpasses this joy for a young man. Until this time there has been nothing but gifts from various teachers and instructors who raised and taught me. Before my departure, I warmly thank them.

Mother, please take care of yourself.



Today I received an Imperial command and will depart. I am very glad. Mother, please forgive me for going before you. Since I am full of high spirits and will try my best, please rest assured. With my messy writing I will tell you about my feelings along with sending my photo. Now in this truly make-or-break, critical situation for the country, I appreciate being in aviation. I am glad about your gifts to me. From the Akatonbo (Red Dragonfly) trainer to the Type 97 fighter, next I will ride a cutting-edge fighter at the Greater East Asia decisive battle. I will make a taiatari (body-crashing) attack as a Special Attack Corps member. Surely I will sink a ship instantly. I ask that you give my best regards to the people in the neighborhood, school teachers, my acquaintances, and Uncle in Gifu.

Falling suddenly with the cherry blossoms that bloom is a young man's joy. I will go to Yasukuni Shrine [2] after Japan wins. Until then my spirit, serving my country with seven lives, certainly will sink American and British ships in the Pacific Ocean.

Since I surely will be at Yasukuni Shrine, please take care of yourself. You cared for me in many ways. Not showing you any filial piety, I only caused you worries. Also, when I think of when I was a first-grade student and when I was in school, it became boring for me, and I cannot help but recall that I caused worries for you. Yesterday I came here, and tomorrow I will go by airplane to Kyūshū. Since I certainly will do it, please be assured.

Falling cherry blossoms
Remaining cherry blossoms too
Falling cherry blossoms

Dear Mother, Older Brother, and both Older Sisters,

Thank you for caring for me in many ways.

Since finally tomorrow will be the sortie, I think that this will be the last letter from me.

Since Tōkyō Aviation School, I advanced steadily in piloting at Kumagaya, Kakogawa, and Sagami. I gained skills to take up a cutting-edge Type 4 Fighter.

In the Greater East Asia War, finally the enemy is approaching closer and closer to our nearby seas. There have been several great sea battles. However, in the Empire's rise and fall, this decisive battle at Okinawa is the greatest crisis for the country since the beginning of Shinshū [3]. Sinking at once an enemy aircraft carrier with my plane at this grand battleground is a joy surpassed by nothing else for this young man of twenty years of age. I suppose that everyone will only be glad when this happens. Filled with fighting spirit, I only will do my best to accomplish the mission for the Emperor.

On March 26, I graciously received an Imperial command. On March 29, I arrived by plane in Kumamoto. I worked hard at training. I appreciate the warm hospitality that we received in many ways from the local people. On April 12, I went to Miyakonojō. I waited for the first battle, and finally it has been set for tomorrow.

Mother, please take good care of yourself.

Older Sisters and Older Brother, you have given me only your care in many ways. Please forgive me for not being able to live up in any way to your expectations.

Younger Brothers, please do your best.

Hajime, please study hard. Without being able to do anything like an older brother, I certainly regret this, but the only thing that remains is for me to push forward with sincerity on the road of loyalty and filial piety.

Mother, when I recall the time when I was young, even now from time to time I see you before my eyes.

I have dressed myself tightly in a flight suit. Tomorrow will be interesting with the roar and throb of planes one after another to the place of the decisive battle in the skies. When Boeing bombers calmly invade the skies of Shinshū acting as if they owned the place, even though I quietly bear this with unstoppable tears, it is all because of tomorrow.

Certainly I will go smiling to make a hitchū hitchin (sure-hit, sure-sinking) attack. I ask you to give my regards to all of the neighbors and my teachers. I tell you this on the day before shown below.

Night before April 28


Hasegawa wrote the following two death poems in tanka form (31-syllable poem with a syllable pattern of 5-7-5-7-7):

There is not life or death and my spirit
Will protect and defend the Empire

A cornerstone of glorious country for a thousand generations
A young cherry blossom did not know even spring

Saburō Hasegawa

Letters and poems translated by Bill Gordon
August 2018

The letters and poems come from Terai (1977, 27-30). The biographical information in the first paragraph comes from Chiran Tokkō Irei Kenshō Kai (2005, 184), Osuo (2005, 200), and Terai (1977, 27).


1. The traditional Japanese method of counting age, as in much of East Asia, regards a child as age one at birth and adds an additional year on each New Year's day thereafter. This explains why the letter indicates his age as 20 whereas the current way of counting age (Chiran Tokkō Irei Kenshō Kai 2005, 184) indicates that his age was 19 at time of death.

2. Yasukuni Shrine in Tōkyō is the place of enshrinement for spirits of Japan's war dead.

3. Shinshū refers to Japan and literally means "divine land."

Sources Cited

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.

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

Terai, Shun'ichi, ed. 1977. Kōkū Kichi Miyakonojō Hayate Tokkō Shinbutai (Miyakonojō Air Base Hayate Special Attack Shinbu Unit). Tōkyō: Genshobō.