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Tadamasa Itatsu with copies of photos and last writings of special attack comrades (October 23, 2014, at home in Inuyama City, Aichi Prefecture)

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 death poem:

Even though late for comrades at Yasukuni [1]
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 [2]. 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 time, and 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
July 2022


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, 1945.