Tadamasa Itatsu with copies of photos and last writings
of special attack comrades (October 23, 2014, at home in Inuyama City,
Survival: Nationwide Pilgrimage to Request Friends' Last Writings
(Ikinokori: Tomo no zeppitsu motome zenkoku angya)
Researched and written by Shūji Fukano and Fusako Kadota
Pages 22-5 of Tokkō kono chi yori: Kagoshima shutsugeki no kiroku
(Special attacks from this land: Record of Kagoshima sorties)
Minaminippon Shinbunsha, 2016, 438 pages
This story is based on an interview with Tadamasa
Itatsu, former Army Special Corps member and first director of
Chiran Peace Museum for Kamikaze Pilots.
May 28, 1945, was supposed to be the day of his death.
He was 20 years old at the time. He wrote last letters that expressed thanks to his parents and elementary school teachers, and he left behind a
Even though late for comrades at Yasukuni 
I also will be scattered in Okinawan sea
Tadamasa Itatsu (Inuyama City, Aichi Prefecture) took off from Chiran
Airfield (Minamikyūshū City, Chiran) at 5 a.m. on the day of the 9th General Attack
aimed at the American fleet off Okinawa . He was a member of the Army's 213th
Shinbu Special Attack Squadron.
However, he made a forced landing on the island of Tokunoshima due to engine
problems with the Type 97 Fighter (Nate) that he was flying. After he returned
to Chiran, he received orders twice more for special (suicide) attack sorties, but they
were cancelled due to rain. Also after the fall of Okinawa in the last part of
June, he stayed in Chiran to fight in the decisive battle for the mainland, and
there he saw the day of the war's end.
"The men who made sorties with me died, but I survived free from care."
Three days after the war's end, Itatsu and other unit members were directed,
"Return home soon. If you are found by the American military, the first thing is
that you will be killed." They departed as if they had been driven away.
Even Special Attack Corps members who were honored during the war as
gunshin (war gods or heroes) and kamiwashi (divine eagles) were not
accepted in the postwar period by a society whose values had changed. The deep
feeling that they had a debt to pay weighed on the spirits of Special Attack
Corps members who survived.
Itatsu, who returned to his hometown in Aichi Prefecture and become an
employee of Nagoya City Hall, for 30 years continued to hide from those around
him that he had been a Special Attack Corps member. There were also many
survivors who committed suicide, but "I did not have the courage. Being sorely
afflicted, there is no memory that I laughed sincerely." From the beginning he
did not drink alcohol nor smoke tobacco. Instead, "I devoted myself to work."
In 1974, the turning point arrived. He attended the unveiling ceremony for the
Kamikaze Pilot Statue that
was erected in the Peace Park at the site of Chiran Airfield. He met again with
Tome Torihama, who owned a local restaurant where she cared for Special Attack
Corps members prior to their sorties. She counseled him, "You must think of the
reason why you survived." He was 50 years old.
He soon began his trips to console the spirits of his deceased friends in the
Special Attack Corps. He obtained from the Ministry of Health and Welfare
Demobilization Bureau the names of those in the Army who died in
battle by special attacks, and he sent letters to the bereaved families. However, there were many
errors, and there also were many cases where they were returned as addressee
unknown. He directly visited the family if there was a reply. Even if he was not
able to make contact by letter, he went to the place and persistently searched
for the person again and again.
When he visited bereaved families he told them about the final state of
affairs at the base. The special attack strategy was a military secret at the
there were parents who did not know anything other than the date, time, and
place of their son's sortie.
As he continued his pilgrimage, he was concerned that the last letters would
be scattered and lost. There are also many parents who requested that these be
placed with their remains in their own coffins.
"The disappearance of these last letters that told the truth about special
attacks would be a national loss. Somehow I had to preserve them."
For Special Attack Corps members who died at sea, the last letters were a
substitute for their remains. With what type of feelings did they write? As a
person who wrote a last letter, it would have been unbearable for him to have
those feelings be forgotten completely. During his trips to console spirits
of the deceased, he gathered last letters and photographs, and he was entrusted
with the mission to document their lives.
He was impatient as time passed. He could not keep up in his spare time from
work. Itatsu, who retired early from Nagoya City Hall at the age of 54,
earnestly searched and walked through the entire country. The "mementos" of his
Special Attack Corps comrades that he obtained were turned over to the Chiran Tokkō
Ihinkan (Chiran Special Attack Items Museum).
For four years in total before and after 1987, when the Chiran Special Attack
Items Museum changed over to the Chiran Peace Museum for Kamikaze Pilots, he was
asked to serve as first museum director. While engaged in
preparations, he worked as a guide and related his own experiences. About 10
percent of the museum's exhibited materials that honor the 1,036 Army Special
Attack Corps members who died in battle during the Battle of Okinawa are items
that Itatsu collected during the latter part of his life.
"There are also persons who do not like the preservation of these historical
materials for the reason that they glorify special attacks. However, I thought
that records should be preserved as records." "Probably nothing would have been
preserved if I had not been in this world."
A few days before the interview for this article, he received a detailed
medical checkup, and the doctor was surprised that nothing wrong was found. He
keenly feels the significance of having survived.
Tadamasa Itatsu (left)
beside Tome Torihama (June 1945)
Translated by Bill Gordon
1. Yasukuni Jinja is Japan's national shrine to
honor spirits of soldiers killed in battle.
2. Itatsu took off from Chiran Airfield on May 28,