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Last Letter of Ensign Tetsuo Yamada to His Family

At 1345 on April 6, 1945, Ensign Tetsuo Yamada took off from Kushira Air Base as pilot in a Type 97 Carrier Attack Bomber (Allied code name of Kate) carrying an 800-kg bomb. He was a member of the Kamikaze Special Attack Corps 1st Goō Hakuro [1] Squadron from Himeji Naval Air Group. He died in a special (suicide) attack off Okinawa at the age of 25. He was from Tōkyō Prefecture, attended Rikkyō University in Tōkyō, and was a member of the 13th Class of the Navy's Flight Reserve Students.

He wrote the following final letter on the day of his sortie from Kushira Air Base:

Dear Father, Mother, Mariko, Emiko, and Toshiko,

Thank you for your great kindness up to my 27 years of age [2].

I will fall with the cherry blossoms.

April 6


Letter translated by Bill Gordon
December 2018

The letter comes from Hakuō Izokukai (1995, 121). The biographical information in the first paragraph comes from Hakuō Izokukai (1995, 121) and Osuo (2005, 221).


1. The word Goō means "protecting the Emperor." Hakuro (白鷺), also pronounced as shirasagi, means white egret. Himeji Castle, which dates back to the 14th century, has the name of Shirasagi Castle or Hakuro Castle. The squadron's pronunciation of Hakuro comes from several Japanese sources including the following article from Sankei News dated May 23, 2017: "Hakuro-tai no tokkō ni shiryō de semaru: Himeji-shi heiwa shiryōkan de ihin nado 200-ten tenji" (Approaching the special attacks of Hakuro Squadrons through source material: 200 objects displayed at Himeji City Peace Museum) <https://www.sankei.com/region/news/170523/rgn1705230024-n1.html> (January 13, 2020).

2. 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 explains why the letter indicates his age as 27 whereas the current way of counting age in Hakuō Izokukai (1995, 121) indicates that his age was 25 at time of death.

Sources Cited

Hakuō Izokukai (Hakuō Bereaved Families Association), ed. 1995. Kumo nagaruru hate ni: Senbotsu kaigun hikō yobi gakusei no shuki (To the end of the flowing clouds: Writings of Navy reserve students who died in war). Expanded edition. Tōkyō: Kawade Shinbō Shinsha.

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