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Continuation • Ah, Cherry
Blossoms of Same Class

Last Letters of Ensign Kōji Yamagata to His Family

At 1210 on April 16, 1945, Ensign Kōji [1] Yamagata took off from Kanoya Air Base as pilot of a Zero fighter carrying a 250-kg bomb. He died in a special (suicide) attack southeast of Kikaijima at the age of 24. He was a member of the Kamikaze Special Attack Corps 3rd Tsukuba Squadron. He was from Fukuoka Prefecture, attended Hōsei University in Tōkyō to study economics, and was a member of the 14th Class of the Navy's Flight Reserve Students.

He wrote the following letter at Tsukuba Air Base on April 10, 1945:

Preliminaries omitted. I trust that everyone is getting along in high spirits. In very high spirits, I am training enthusiastically as my number one priority. Here also the cherry trees now are in fully bloom. They truly are the heart and spirit of a young Japanese man. The enemy also has come to a corner of the mainland. At last my turn has come to display my skills. Surely, surely I will do it as a Yamagata child.

Finally, I pray for everyone's health and happiness.

Please forgive me for the troubles that you experienced because of me for a long time. Now I will repay your kindness.

Yamagata wrote the following final letter in April 1945 after his arrival at Kanoya Air Base:

To Father and everyone else,

Preliminaries omitted. I trust that everyone is getting along well without changes. I also am in increasingly high spirits. I sent my last letter from Tsukuba, but I was able to write this letter. I am at the same place in Kyūshū [2]. Now I am only waiting for the sortie after I get the news. I did not say anything until now, but before I was selected for the Special Attack Corps. I think that there is no greater honor. Every day I was working hard at training. I received care from everyone for 25 years [3], and it was regrettable that I was not able to show any filial piety at all to you my parents, but please think that this is a tenth of your kindness. I know that all of my baggage will be arranged and sent by my comrades. I am waiting for the sortie as I write this letter. There is nothing that has changed from normal for all of the squadron members. We are only praying to hit the target. There is nothing in particular to write.

I certainly will succeed. I earnestly pray for everyone's health.


Letter translated by Bill Gordon
January 2019

The letter comes from Kaigun Hikō Yobi Gakusei Dai 14 Ki Kai (1995, 122-3). The biographical information in the first paragraph comes from Kaigun Hikō Yobi Gakusei Dai 14 Ki Kai (1995, 122) and Osuo (2005, 198).


1. The pronunciation of the given name of 康治 could not be confirmed. Both Kōji and Yasuharu are common pronunciations, so Kōji has been selected arbitrarily for this English translation.

2. This means that both Kōji Yamagata and his family were on the Japanese main island of Kyūshū, Kōji at Kanoya Air Base in Kagoshima Prefecture and his family at their home in Fukuoka Prefecture.

3. 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 gives his age as 25 whereas the birth date given in Kaigun Hikō Yobi Gakusei Dai 14 Ki Kai (1995, 122) indicates that his age at death was 24.

Sources Cited

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.