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Continuation • Ah, Cherry
Blossoms of Same Class

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:

Dear Parents,

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 [1] seems to be a healthy child.

I know that soon you will be going to Morioka [2]. 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 kindness.

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 my best.


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 stand-by.

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
January 2019

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.

Sources Cited

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: Kōjinsha.

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