Last Letters of Corporal Yukio Araki
Yukio Araki died at the age of 17 in a suicide attack on American ships
near Okinawa on May 27,1945. A very famous photo shows Araki holding a puppy
with four other young men of the 72nd Shinbu Squadron around him. An Asahi
Shimbun cameraman took this photo on the day before the departure of the 72nd Shinbu
Bansei Air Base.
Araki wrote the following letter to his family just before his sortie:
I am writing my last letter. I trust you have been doing well
I am leaving today (May 27) on a glorious mission. I will surely achieve
great success in battle. I will be waiting for the day we meet at Kudan 
the cherry trees blooming.
Please take care of yourselves. Please give my regards to my younger
brothers and to everyone in the neighbor association.
He also wrote the following short note in pencil to his parents:
Dear Father and Mother,
I trust you and everyone are doing fine.
I am finally leaving on the 27th to the place of the decisive battle. I am
sending to you locks of my hair cut the night before my sortie and the 72nd
Shinbu Squadron's badge on my flight suit until the end.
Please take care of yourselves. Please excuse this hastily written note.
During his last trip home on April 5, 1945, Araki left with his family three
letters to be opened when they found out about his death. The three letters
were written to his parents, his older brother Seiichi, and his three
younger brothers. The following letter is the one addressed to his parents:
Dear Father and Mother,
I trust you and my brothers are doing well recently.
It has been decided that at last I will go to take part in the Battle of
Okinawa as a member of the special attack forces. I am deeply moved. I only
look forward to sinking a ship with a single blow.
When I look back, I apologize for not being devoted to you in any way for
some ten years to this day.
Through teaching by various senior officers after I entered the Army, I
now devote myself to my country as a special attack force member. Please
find pleasure in your desire for my loyalty to the emperor and devotion to
I have no regrets. I just go forward on my path.
I ask that you teach my three younger brothers so they can serve our country
as noble airmen. I sincerely hope you take good care of yourselves and make
strenuous efforts on the home front.
Please give my regards to all my relatives and to everyone in the
72nd Shinbu Squadron
Araki wrote the letter below to his older brother Seiichi:
Dear Older Brother,
I want to give my thanks to you for taking care of me for a long time. I go
to die with no regrets and will earnestly make a hit.
I apologize that up to now I have not been able to repay you in any way for
your kindness to me. Please be glad that this dispatch to the front will be
my repayment to you.
Today as the war situation is becoming more and more intense, it is
necessary for me to crash my 18-year-old  body into the enemy. This year you
also will enter the military, and I sincerely expect that you will exert
yourself with hard work and devoted military service.
I have something to ask of you and our parents. I especially would like that
you give a good education to our three younger brothers and that in the
future they follow after me as fine Japanese men.
Let's meet under Kudan's flowers.
He wrote the following letter to his three younger brothers:
Dear Yasuyoshi, Yoshio, and Kunikatsu,
Study very hard and eat plenty of food. Do not hesitate with food rations.
You will not grow if you do not eat.
Please do what your parents say, and become good Japanese men.
You must not be content to accomplish little in life. Do not be proud with
small successes, and do your best in everything. Remember Toyotomi Hideyoshi
From long ago failure has been the foundation of success.
Your older brother
Yukio Araki was from Gunma Prefecture and was a member of the 15th Class of
the Army's Youth Pilot (Shōhi) Program. He piloted an Army Type 99 Assault Plane
(Allied nickname of Sonia) in his special attack on May 27, 1945.
Translated by Bill Gordon
1. Kudan Hill is the location in Tōkyō of the
Yasukuni Jinja, Japan's national shrine to honor the spirits of soldiers killed
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 18 whereas Mōri (2004) gives his age as 17 at time of
3. According to legend, Toyotomi Hideyoshi rose
from a humble background as the homeless son of peasants. After he had taken
control of Japan in the late 16th century, he made an unsuccessful attempt to
conquer Korea and China.
The sources of the five letters above are indicated below:
- Naemura 1993, 145; Mōri 2004, 219.
- Mōri 2004, 191.
- Ibid., 221-2.
- Ibid., 222-3.
- Ibid., 224.
Mōri, Tsuneyuki. 2004. Yuki wa jūnanasai tokkō de shinda: Koinu
yo saraba, itoshiki inochi (Yuki died at 17 in a kamikaze attack: Goodbye puppy, dear
life). Tōkyō: Popurasha.
Naemura, Hichirō. 1993. Rikugun saigo no tokkō kichi:
Bansei tokkōtaiin no isho to isatsu (Army's last special attack base: Last
letters and photographs of Bansei special attack corps members). Ōsaka: Tōhō
The biographical information in the last paragraph comes from page 166 of the
Chiran Tokkō Irei Kenshō Kai (Chiran Special Attack
Memorial Society), ed. 2005. Konpaku no kiroku: Kyū rikugun tokubetsu
kōgekitai chiran kichi (Record of departed spirits: Former Army Special
Attack Corps Chiran Base). Revised edition, originally published in 2004. Chiran Town, Kagoshima
Prefecture: Chiran Tokkō Irei Kenshō Kai.