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Last Letters of Second Lieutenant Ryōichi Ōtake to His Family

On May 28, 1945, Second Lieutenant Ryōichi Ōtake took off from Miyakonojō East Airfield as a member of the 59th Shinbu Special Attack Squadron and died in a special (suicide) attack west of Okinawa at the age of 22. He piloted an Army Hayate Type 4 Fighter (Allied code name of Frank). After his death in a special attack, he received a promotion to Captain. He was from Okayama Prefecture, attended Hōsei University in Tōkyō, and was a member of the 1st Class of the Army Special Cadet Officer Pilot Training Program.

He wrote to his family the following last letter with a postmark of May 25, 1945:

Preliminaries omitted. I feel like the energy of the green leaves.

I express my thanks for your visit to the base after a long trip.

With everyone's vocal encouragement with your whole heart, I will go with conviction that I certainly will be able to accomplish my important mission. I will do it with all my power focused.

Everyone, be in high spirits forever and ever.

He wrote to his family the following last letter with a postmark of May 26, 1945, with a return address of Chikuyō Honten Restaurant, which is mentioned in the letter below. The family who owned the restaurant provided lodging to Special Attack Corps members in Miyakonojō.

I surely will go to battle. Everyone, farewell!! I was truly happy that we could send you off at Chikuyō Honten Restaurant at the end of your visit. It surely will be difficult to forget. I do not know how to say thanks for love that surpasses yours. Certainly please send them a letter of thanks. Please continue the friendship forever. The extent of their kindness truly exceeds that of my siblings. They are sincere people. I wrote of these persons to repay their kindness as some record to remember them. Certainly please send them a letter of thanks.

As I part from this life, I know long-lasting love that is sincere. By this I can live forever. Certainly be friends and do not forget the persons who cared for us.

Yoshiko Kano of Chikuyō Honten Restaurant wrote a letter to Ryōichi Ōtake's family to send news of his death in battle at 6 p.m. on May 28, 1945. This letter is published in Terai (1977, 96-7).

Letters translated by Bill Gordon
October 2018

The letters come from Terai (1977, 95-6). The biographical information in the first paragraph comes from Chiran Tokkō Irei Kenshō Kai (2005, 200), Osuo (2005, 199), and Terai (1977, 95).

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.

Terai, Shun'ichi, ed. 1977. Kōkū Kichi Miyakonojō Hayate Tokkō Shinbutai (Miyakonojō Air Base Hayate Special Attack Shinbu Unit). Tōkyō: Genshobō.