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Last Letter of Second Lieutenant Masao Kaneko to His Parents

On April 28, 1945, Second Lieutenant Masao Kaneko took off from Chiran Air Base as 67th Shinbu Special Attack Squadron Commander and died in a special (suicide) attack west of Okinawa at the age of 22. He piloted an Army Type 97 Fighter (Allied nickname of Nate). After his death in a special attack, he received a promotion to Captain. He was from Yamagata Prefecture and graduated from the Imperial Japanese Army Air Academy in the 57th Class.

He wrote the following final letter, which includes two tanka poems (31-syllable poems with lines of 5-7-5-7-7 syllables):

Dear Parents,

On April 28, finally the long-awaited time has come. I will carry out a certain-death, certain-kill taiatari (body-crashing) attack.

Now I have no view at all of death and life. Not having life and not having death in my heart, there is only a taiatari attack on an enemy ship. This will become my true view of death and life. Nothing surpasses this as the long-cherished desire of a military man.

My body in farthest
South sea
Even though in end will fall
My spirit eternally
Will protect the Empire

Please forgive me for not showing you any filial piety in my 23 years [1].

Although I die once, since I certainly will be born anew and live, please do not cry. I live for an eternal cause.

I ask that you give my regards to all of the relatives. Shō also, do well.

Many countries in danger
Bravely rising up
I will go
To southwest skies

Just before sortie at OO [2]

Since I am sending the money that I do not need, please give the money to others.

Letter and poems translated by Bill Gordon
April 2018

The letter, poems, and other information on this page come from Chiran Tokkō (2005, 118, 159) and Osuo (2005, 200).


1. The traditional Japanese method of counting age, as in much of East Asia, regards a child as age one at birth and adds an additional year on each New Year's day thereafter. This most likely explains why the letter indicates his age as 23 whereas Chiran Tokkō (2005, 118) indicates that his age was 22 at time of death.

2. This place name (Chiran) was either censored or not included by Kaneko in the letter due to military restrictions on providing details such as location.

Sources Cited

Chiran Tokkō Irei Kenshō Kai (Chiran Special Attack Memorial Society), ed. 2005. Konpaku no kiroku: Kyū rikugun tokubetsu kōgekitai chiran kichi (Record of departed spirits: Former Army Special Attack Corps Chiran Base). Revised edition, originally published in 2004. Chiran Town, Kagoshima Prefecture: Chiran Tokkō Irei Kenshō Kai.

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