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Last Letter of Ensign Shunsuke Yukawa

At 1245 on April 6, 1945, Ensign Shunsuke Yukawa took off from Kushira Air Base as navigator/observer in a Type 97 Carrier Attack Bomber (Allied code name of Kate). He died in a special (suicide) attack off Okinawa at the age of 25. He was a member of the Kamikaze Special Attack Corps 1st Goō Hakuro [1] Squadron from Himeji Naval Air Group. He was from Ōsaka Prefecture, attended Kwansei Gakuin University, and was a member of the 13th Class of the Navy's Flight Reserve Students (Hikō Yobi Gakusei).

He wrote the following final letter to his family. He included several poems in the letter.

Thank you for many things during my long 25 years. Finally the time has come when I also will become a shield for the Emperor. I go in good spirits. Supported by everyone's hopes, I surely am determined to hit the target with my plane.

I will make a sortie in the Himeji Air Group Wake Unit 1st Shirasagi Squadron. There is no honor greater than this.

Mother, please be well. I believe that the Empire of Japan absolutely will not lose and will flourish more and more. Please raise Shōko (oldest daughter of oldest brother) with great care.

So this is my farewell. Enjoy good health.

Even though there are a billion mothers for a billion persons
There is no mother who surpasses mine (Minamoto no Sanetomo [2])

Going to the end on the way a warrior goes
My youth in the end not returning (Fleet Admiral Yamamoto)

I think only to be a shield for the Emperor
Without desire for honor even after my death

I also composed a few poems:

Until the day I go as the Emperor's shield
I will not spare my strength

Seeing me off when I take off to go to battle
When I recall mother who I cannot say anything to

Time now has come when mountain cherry blossoms must fall
This the path where we will live

Our lives offered to the Emperor
Spirits fun-loving as usual

I offer myself without reserve for a sacred battle
I will go as the Emperor's shield

Now I must take leave of everyone since I am busy. Please give my regards. I read your letter dated March 25. Now in my mind there is only hitting the target with my plane. So I will depart. The cherry trees also are blooming. Tomorrow I will attack from Kushira Base. It is a land of reminiscences. Mother, please take care of your health.

Older Brothers, you have cared for me for a long time. I am going a short time before you. The time has come when I will die for an eternal cause as an Imperial military man and as a member of the most honored Special Attack Corps. Supported by everyone's hopes, I surely am determined to hit the target with my plane.

I have been cared for by Mother during the long period of 25 years. I will depart without having done a single act of filial piety, but I want to show my devotion to Mother through my death. Afterward, I ask that you, my three Older Brothers, may make it so Mother will live in happiness. Older Sister Asako, you have cared for me in many ways. I go in high spirits. I will be praying for everyone's happiness at Yasukuni Shrine [3], where my spirit always will be even though without a body.

Please raise Shōko with great care. Together with a photograph of Shōko, I will hit the enemy. Give my regards to Older Sister Masa and also to Aki-chan. I will pray for Mother's health. My Older Brothers, in my absence I ask that you do my part also for Mother.

Letter and poems translated by Bill Gordon
March 2018

The letter and poems on this page come from Kanoya Kōkū Kichi Shiryōkan Renraku Kyōgikai (2003, 43).


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. Minamoto no Sanetomo was a shōgun who lived from 1192 to 1219. He was an accomplished waka poet. A waka poem has 31 total syllables with a syllable pattern of 5-7-5-7-7.

3. Yasukuni Shrine in Tōkyō is the national Shintō memorial for soldiers killed in battle.

Source Cited

Kanoya Kōkū Kichi Shiryōkan Renraku Kyōgikai (Kanoya Naval Air Base Museum Coordinating Committee). 2003. Kokoro no sakebi (Cries of the heart). Kanoya, Kagoshima Prefecture: Kanoya Kōkū Kichi Shiryōkan Renraku Kyōgikai.