Continuation • Ah, Cherry
Blossoms of Same Class (1995)
Last Letters of Ensign Yūsaku Hirabayashi to His Parents and Two Comrades
At 1130 on April 14, 1945, Ensign Yūsaku Hirabayashi took off from Kanoya Air
Base as pilot of a Zero fighter carrying a 250-kg bomb. He died in a special
(suicide) attack east of Tokunoshima at the age of 23. He was a member of the
Kamikaze Special Attack Corps 1st Shōwa Squadron from Yatabe Naval Air Group in
Ibaraki Prefecture. He was from Karafuto Prefecture (southern part of Sakhalin
Island that is now part of Russia),
attended Hōsei University in Tōkyō to study in the School of Economics, and was a
member of the 14th Class of the Navy's Flight Reserve Students.
He wrote the following letter at Kanoya Air Base:
Recently I was selected for the honored Special Attack Corps, and I
arrived last night at this base. Soon, possibly today, I must make a sortie,
and I am on stand-by. This is my first time in Kyūshū, but it is not as warm
as I thought it would be. Double-petalled cherry blossoms are in full bloom.
Since you took many photos, I expect that friends have them. Please do
not grieve at all and think of me always as working on the battlefield.
On the way I was able to meet with Older Brother in Wakayama, and I feel
truly grateful. I am happy that Yūko-chan 
seems to be a healthy child.
I know that soon you will be going to Morioka .
Please live healthily and happily. I received care also from Older Brother
in Nerima after I went to Tōkyō. I have obtained a place of death that is
more than I deserve, and please think of it at least as repayment for your
The day when Takanobu will enter the military is near. I hope that he
will do things in very high spirits.
Other than my brother Toshikiyo, I was able to see everyone. It was very
good fortune. I am determined to carry out my duty excellently. In the time
of danger I do not know that I will make my intention known. I only will try
April 12, 10:25
On April 12, 1945, Hirabayashi also wrote the following final letter at
Kanoya Air Base to two comrades at Yatabe Air Base who also were in the 14th Class of
Flight Reserve Students:
Kondō and Kobari,
I have not written in a while. Last night I arrived at Kanoya, and I do
not know if I will make a sortie even today. This base greatly boosts morale
with battle results of special attack units one after another. As for
the lodging, there are beds woven with bamboo in classrooms of an elementary
school. I am playing an organ. In the morning I washed my face in a (dirty)
stream. Double-petalled cherry blossoms already are in full bloom. It is not
as warm as I thought it would be, and last night I slept shivering. I
request that you contact my family. Please show them this letter. I want to
write something, but I do not know what to say. Without making my intentions
known, also I am busy. With an unfinished letter, there was a naming
ceremony, and it was decided to be the Shōwa Unit. I certainly will do my
best. Also, it is a supreme opportunity.
I was shown great care by everyone. I will not forget Fukii first and all
of the students one by one. If we are able to realize your expectations,
there will be promising prospects for the Empire. Certainly now dawn's light
can be seen. Not missing this opportunity, we will be in the general attack.
We in the 14th Class must follow through on this. Now we are ready on
As soon as the glowing clouds return, I think it will be the sortie.
Since Sugiyama took photos, I ask that if possible you send many of these
and those from before to my family. You two, please grant this request. I
want my parents to think that I always am working on the battlefield.
Hirabayashi wrote the following final letter at 9:30 on April 13, 1945:
To all of the students,
Yesterday I did not get a chance, and I still am on stand-by. The 2nd
attack came yesterday. It was lively. I wrote something to my family, but
there is not much to write. I only asked that they live healthily and
happily. I do not know well where are the units and other things at this
base. Around this area there is an extremely narrow basin-shaped valley
where there are farmers' homes. Last night I took a bath at a farmer's home.
There is simple human kindness. As expected, I like such countryside. The
lotus flowers also are very nice. When I heard that they become fertilizer,
I thought that figuratively they are like us.
Letters translated by Bill Gordon
The letters come from Kaigun Hikō Yobi Gakusei Dai 14 Ki Kai
(1995, 81-3). The biographical information in the first paragraph comes from
Kaigun Hikō Yobi Gakusei Dai 14 Ki Kai
(1995, 81) and Osuo (2005, 203).
1. The suffix chan is often added to
children's names when calling them by their given names.
2. Morioka is a large city in Iwate Prefecture.
Kaigun Hikō Yobi Gakusei Dai 14 Ki Kai (Navy Flight
Reserve Students 14th Class Association), ed. 1995. Zoku
• Ā dōki no sakura (Continuation
• Ah, cherry blossoms of same class). Tōkyō:
Osuo, Kazuhiko. 2005. Tokubetsu kōgekitai no kiroku (kaigun
hen) (Record of special attack corps (Navy)). Tōkyō: Kōjinsha.