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Last Letters of Ensign Shunji Shinozaki to His Family

At 1130 on April 14, 1945, Ensign Shunji Shinozaki tried to take off from Kanoya Air Base as pilot of a Zero fighter carrying a 250-kg bomb. He died at the age of 23 during takeoff when the bomb dropped from his fighter, and the explosion also damaged the runway [1].

Shinozaki was a member of the Kamikaze Special Attack Corps 1st Shōwa Squadron from Yatabe Air Group. On April 14, 1945, ten other members of the 1st Shōwa Squadron died in special (suicide) attacks east of Tokunoshima [2]. He was from Tōkyō Prefecture, attended Keiō Gijuku University in Tōkyō to study law, and was a member of the 14th Class of the Navy's Flight Reserve Students (Hikō Yobi Gakusei).

Even though he had been a member of the Kamikaze Special Attack Corps and died during his takeoff to make a special attack, the Japanese Navy did not recognize Shinozaki's death as one during a special attack, which entitled a crewman to a posthumous two-rank promotion [3].

He wrote the following letters to his family from Yatabe Air Base in Ibaraki Prefecture on April 11, 1945, three days before his death:

Dear Father,

I will go wearing the muffler and senninbari (thousand-stitch belt worn for good luck) that you sent to me.

Dear Mother,

Now I will make a sortie. Thank you for the care that you gave to me for a long time. Now I have no complaint. Since I suppose that you understand my feelings, I will not say anything. Anyhow, there is no time since the order was received three hours ago. I put a lock of hair as a memento in my trunk. Please give my best regards to people who showed me kindness during my school days.

Dear Hisako and Michiko,

Please show filial piety to our parents for my share also. Michiko, I am sorry that I was not able to see you even one time, but please understand that this is due to the situation.

Dear Older Sisters, Sachiko, Fumiko, Kazuo, and Yoshio,

The other day was the end. Please live in good health. Being busy, there is nothing to say, but I will fall with your photo and our parents' photo. Everyone, be strong.

A friend will enclose photos taken before the sortie. I also intend to send you money.

After Shinozaki arrived at Kanoya Air Base where the 1st Shōwa Squadron was scheduled to take off toward Okinawa, he wrote the following last letter to his parents just before his attempted takeoff. He also wrote a death poem.

Dear Father and Mother,

Excuse me for the other day. Since you suspected my situation, it was difficult emotionally for me also. Yesterday I arrived at Kanoya, and today I will make a sortie. Thank you for your care for a long time. We absolutely will defend Shinshū [4] Japan with our tactics.

On the way to come here, I passed through the skies above Ōsaka and off the shore of Hanshin. Ōsaka is marvelous. Off the shore of Aoki, with my plane I saluted our old home with fond memories.

I am worried about Mother, but it is not a worry that she will be a mother of Japan. I will make a splendid attack on an enemy aircraft carrier.


As kamikaze (divine wind) blew
Sea eagle turns into fireball
I will go

Letters translated by Bill Gordon
April 2018

The letters and biographical information come from Kaigun Hikō Yobi Gakusei Dai 14 Ki Kai (1995, 56-8).


1.  A Japanese web page on the history of the Yatabe Naval Air Group provides information on the accident that caused the death of Shunji Shinozaki when he was taking off at Kanoya Air Base. <http://pico32.web.fc2.com/kaigun/sentoki/yatabe.htm> (April 2, 2018).

2. Osuo 2005, 203.

3. The name of Shunji Shinozaki does not appear among the following listings of special attack deaths for the 1st Shōwa Squadron: Hara 2004, 204; Osuo 2005, 203; Tokkōtai Senbotsusha Irei Heiwa Kinen Kyōkai 1990, 184.

4. Shinshū refers to Japan and literally means "divine land."

Sources Cited

Hara, Katsuhiro. 2004. Shinsō kamikaze tokkō: Hisshi hitchū no 300 nichi (Kamikaze special attack facts: 300 days of certain-death, sure-hit attacks). Tōkyō: KK Bestsellers.

Kaigun Hikō Yobi Gakusei Dai 14 Ki Kai (Navy Flight Reserve Students 14th Class Association), ed. 1995. Zoku Ā dōki no sakura (Continuation Ah, cherry blossoms of same class). Tōkyō: Kōjinsha.

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

Tokkōtai Senbotsusha Irei Heiwa Kinen Kyōkai (Tokkōtai Commemoration Peace Memorial Association). 1990. Tokubetsu Kōgekitai (Special Attack Corps). Tōkyō: Tokkōtai Senbotsusha Irei Heiwa Kinen Kyōkai.