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Another "Eternal Zero":
Tsukuba Naval Air Group

Last Letter of Ensign Masao Kanai to His Family

At 1610 on April 6, 1945, Ensign Masao Kanai took off from Kanoya Air Base as pilot in a Zero fighter carrying a 250-kg bomb and died in a special (suicide) attack off Okinawa at the age of 23. He was a member of the Kamikaze Special Attack Corps 1st Tsukuba Squadron. After his death in a special attack, he received a promotion to Lieutenant. He was from Gunma Prefecture, attended Sendai Higher Technical School, and was a member of the 13th Class of the Navy's Flight Reserve Students (Hikō Yobi Gakusei).

He wrote the following final letter:

Dear Parents, Brothers, and Sisters [1],

I do not know what is good for me to write and send to you.

Outside the spring rain continues to fall gently, and a song on the radio can be heard softly. It is a quiet evening.

Waiting for the weather to improve, I will make a sortie. If this rain had not fallen, today about now I probably would have fallen already. The front line is waiting eagerly for us to come. It is a man's last moment. I will try to work with all my strength.

I am stepping on the same mainland as you, but it is regrettable that I cannot see you. Instead, I will take off without regrets. The happiness of my life will be left during the battle results at Okinawa. I absolutely will not be able to return alive from the attack. I want to die like Kei. Kei's way of dying had the characteristic of an aircraft observer. I believe that I also have obtained a good place to die. Please rest assured.

I wanted to send some recent photos, but I could not make this happen since there has not been an opportunity to take them.

Just now is the time when I started growing a beard. It probably has grown a centimeter. My head did not lengthen.

Older Brother, I wanted to see Kei's photos, but this did not work out. However, at the time of my attack I will carry a photo of everyone.

The cherry trees at the inn are already in full bloom. Perhaps the hometown cherry trees also are in full bloom. Now I fondly remember the time when they were at the peak. Mount Kōbō and the like are all happy memories.

It seems like the wind has started up a little. Tomorrow probably will be clear. I will advance to an air base at the southern tip of Kyūshū. As for Miura-sensei, there is the town of Shibushi.

I truly was thinking of filial piety in the future. You and my brothers and sisters, everyone please live long.

Writing and writing, what have I written? I do not have a feeling that I have forgotten to write anything.

Please live long and do not work too hard.

If the country is defeated, what mountains and rivers will there be? I certainly will achieve success and meet your expectations.

As I gaze out at the drizzle outside the window, I am waiting quietly for my sortie. Recalling my hometown's mountains and rivers, someone is singing "Hakutō-zan Bushi" (Tune of Mount Hakutō).

Do not weep. Do not grieve. I certainly will return. I will come in a box of paulownia wood. Please come to meet me at Kudan Hill [2].

I am praying that you will fare well.

Letter translated by Bill Gordon
July 2018

The letter comes from Katabami (2014, 78, 80). The biographical information in the first paragraph comes from Katabami (2014, 78) and Osuo (2005, 197-8).


1. The letter does not specify the number of brothers and sisters. There could have been one or more of each.

2. Kudan Hill is the location in Tōkyō of Yasukuni Jinja, Japan's national shrine to honor the spirits of soldiers killed in battle.

Sources Cited

Katabami, Masaaki. 2014. Mō hitotsu no "Eien no Zero": Tsukuba Kaigun Kōkūtai (Another "Eternal Zero": Tsukuba Naval Air Group). Tōkyō: Village Books.

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