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Last Letter of Ensign Akira Satō to His Wife

On November 20, 1944, Ensign Akira Satō died in a special (suicide) attack at the age of 26 when submarine I-47 launched his kaiten manned torpedo at Ulithi Atoll. On November 8, 1944, submarine I-47 made a sortie from Ōtsushima Kaiten Base in Yamaguchi Prefecture with four kaiten pilots who were members of the Kaiten Special Attack Corps Kikusui Unit. He was from Yamagata Prefecture, attended Kyūshū Imperial University, and was a member of the 3rd Class of the Navy Branch Reserve Students (Heika Yobi Gakusei). He received a promotion to Lieutenant after his death by special attack.

Satō wrote the following final letter to his wife:

Dear Marie,

I have been prepared for some time. The day has come for my honorable departure of the longed-for "If I go away to the sea" [1]. It is natural for a Japanese man to stand carrying on his shoulders the Empire's fate. This compels my conscious feeling that "I also am a Japanese man," and I am very glad.

It was a short time, but you dearly cared for me. You were for me the best wife in Japan. Wherever I may be, I will protect you. Please live properly and cheerfully on the appropriate path.

Please raise our children also in a dignified manner. There is no need that you make them so-called distinguished, and there is no need that they be wealthy persons. Bring them up to be men who will sacrifice themselves without notice by others as they take responsibility for the fate of Japan. I also will die nobly.

Please take sufficient care of yourself. As I think of an image of splendid Japan, please live properly and cheerfully.

On the occasion when I go to battle in the Greater East Asia War


Letter translated by Bill Gordon
August 2018

The letter comes from Yasukuni Jinja (1995, 101-2). The biographical information in the first paragraph comes from Yasukuni Jinja (1995, 101) and Mediasion (2006, 43-4, 79).


1. "Umi Yukuba" (If I go away to the sea) was a patriotic song popular in World War II. It was originally a poem in the Manyōshū, the oldest surviving anthology of Japanese poetry compiled in the last half of the 8th century.

Sources Cited

The Mediasion Co. 2006. Ningen gyorai kaiten (Kaiten human torpedo). Hiroshima: The Mediasion Co.

Yasukuni Jinja, ed. 1995. Eirei no koto no ha (1) (Words of the spirits of war heroes, Volume 1). Tōkyō: Yasukuni Jinja Shamusho.