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Last Letter of Second Lieutenant Masashi Katsura to His Parents

On May 11, 1945, Second Lieutenant Masashi Katsura took off from Chiran Air Base and died in a special (suicide) attack west of Okinawa at the age of 21. He was the 65th Shinbu Squadron Leader. He piloted an Army Type 97 Fighter (Allied code name of Nate). After his death in a special attack, he received a two-rank promotion to Captain. He was from Ishikawa Prefecture and graduated from the Imperial Japanese Army Air Academy in the 57th Class.

He wrote the following final letter to his parents:

Dear Parents,

Finally the day to be useful has come. As commander of an honorable special attack squadron together with my squadron members, I cheerfully depart to die, believing in the Empire's eternity.

I am sorry that I was not able to show any filial piety to you in 22 years [1]. I live for great filial piety.

Please let both Tetsuo and Hideki follow after me.

Satsuko and Shizue, be exemplary Japanese women.

Long live the Emperor. Long live the Empire of Japan.

Mother, Father, farewell. I will be waiting for you in the other world. When I die, please give praise that I did well.


Katsura also wrote the following tanka (31-syllable poem with a syllable pattern of 5-7-5-7-7):

Death poem, while looking at cherry blossoms

Both in the coming year
And again the next year
Praying they will bloom
I also will bloom

Not sparing my life for a worthy cause
Squadron Commander Katsura, Second Lieutenant

He also wrote the following opinions one day before his death by special attack:

My Thoughts

1 - I do not want to let my men die in vain. In order to do this, we must be thorough in training in tokkō (special attack) skills.

2 - I desire excellent planes for special attack planes. However, how is the current situation? Superior pilots who have nearly 1,000 hours of flying time are departing in Type 98 Direct Cooperation Planes [2] or Intermediate Trainers. The feeling that they are not flying machines even though they are machines has reached a peak now.

3 - Detailed consideration is required for formation of special attacks. Men who have not completed training for a Type 1 Fighter (Allied code name of Oscar) are carrying out attacks in them. It seems that men who even have finished fighting with Type 1 Fighters are going in aircraft such as Type 97 Fighters (Allied code name of Nate) or Direct Cooperation Planes.

4 - There are few persons who truly understand the special attack spirit. It is extremely unpleasant when one sees a person intent on self-gain.

May 10

My opinion is that we need planes.

My current mental state is ordinary and calm.

Writings translated by Bill Gordon
March and December 2018

The letter and poem come from Chiran Tokkō Irei Kenshō Kai (2005, 126), and the last writing titled "My Thoughts" comes from Kitagawa (1970, 204). The biographical information on this page come from Chiran Tokkō Irei Kenshō Kai (2005, 126, 179) and Osuo (2005, 200).

This photo below shows from right to left: Masashi Katsura, 65th Shinbu Squadron Commander; Second Lieutenant Haruo Araki, 51st Shinbu Special Attack Squadron Commander; and Second Lieutenant Kunio Kuroki, 55th Shinbu Squadron Commander (Makino 1979, 219). Katsura, Araki, and Kuroki graduated together from the Imperial Japanese Army Academy in the 57th Class, and they each led a special attack squadron from Chiran Air Base on May 11, 1945. Haruo Araki wrote a last letter to his wife Shigeko.

Masashi Katsura (at far right) in photo at
Chiran Air Base (taken by Toshirō Takagi
on May 10, 1945, the day before Katsura's sortie)


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 22 whereas the background information in Chiran Tokkō Irei Kenshō Kai (2005, 126) indicates his age as 21.

2. The text actually reads Type 97, but the Army did not have a Type 97 Direct Cooperation Plane, but this must have been an Army Type 98 Direct Cooperation Reconnaissance Plane (Allied code name of Ida), which was used by several Army pilots in special attacks. Most likely this number was transcribed incorrectly by someone, since it is highly unlikely that Katsura with his training would have made a mistaken identification.

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.

Kitagawa, Mamoru, ed. 1970. Ā kamikaze tokkōtai: Kaerazaru seishun no isho shū (Ah, Kamikaze Special Attack Corps: Collected last letters of youth that would not return). Tōkyō: Nihon Bungeisha.

Makino, Kikuo, ed. 1979. Ichioku nin no shōwa shi (Nihon no senshi 4): Tokubetsu kōgekitai (Shōwa history of 100 million people (Japan's war history, Volume 4): Special Attack Corps). Tōkyō: Mainichi Shinbunsha.

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