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Last Letters of Flight Petty Officer 1st Class Sakae Hirashima

At 2050 on May 24, 1945, Flight Petty Officer 1st Class Sakae Hirashima took off in a Shiragiku trainer from Kushira Air Base and died in a special (suicide) attack near Okinawa at the age of 20. He was a member of the Tokushima 1st Shiragiku Squadron of the Kamikaze Special Attack Corps. He grew up in Miyazaki Prefecture and was a member of the 18th Otsu Class of the Navy's Yokaren (Preparatory Flight Training Program). After completion of training, he became a member of the Tokushima Naval Air Group.

He wrote the following last letters to his family:

Final Letter

I received my life from this Emperor in this time when a great fateful crisis that happens once in a thousand years is imminent for the Empire, our sacred country. Best of all in this world, there is absolutely nothing that surpasses a young man's long-cherished desire to make a sortie as a flight petty officer. Father, Mother, please understand what is in my heart. I went flying gladly.


To Older Sister,

Older Sister, I will die honorably as a crewmember in the Imperial Navy. Please do well as a fine housewife who wonderfully serves her husband and who raises children who will be responsible for the future Japan. Farewell.


To Yoshiko,

I went happily. Now before I make a sortie, I realize what a disappointment it was for you to not go to upper school. Filial piety to our parents was more important than doing that. Please show more than enough devotion to our parents.

Sakae


Akiyoshi, Masayoshi, and Tadashi [1],

Regarding the war situation, as you know in Okinawa even the elementary school children are part of a shock corps. Study hard. Without fail follow after me and avenge me by striking down my foe. I will be waiting for you at the forest at Yasukuni [2]. During that time, listen closely to what Father and Mother tell you even as they get older and show more than enough devotion to them.

Your older brother Sakae


Final Letter

From the time when I volunteered for the air force, more than ever I have this strong desire. Whether I die in training or die in battle, it is exactly the same since there is no distinction in devoted sacrifice for the country. There is not even a little special honor when a soldier dies in battle. Rather, I think that it is normal. I record the following steps for all of the difficult thoughts.

1. Do not be surprised at all.
2. Do not be discouraged at all.
3. Even if I do a heroic deed, I should not be praised by others.
4. Raise and educate my younger brothers to offer service as fine soldiers.

- The day of my sortie, which I have been eagerly awaiting, has come. There is no long-cherished desire of a young Japanese man that surpasses this.
- Even if the worst comes, do not forget my pride in the strength of the Japanese people, the best in the world.
- Gladly without any worry, I will crash into the hull of a giant enemy ship.

I fondly remember your total love for me as you did everything for me, your own child, for ten and several more years. Father and Mother, please take care until the day when we win this Greater East Asia War.

I sincerely pray that you will raise my younger brothers to become fine persons who will be responsible for the future Japan.

Navy Flight Petty Officer 1st Class Sakae Hirashima


Letters translated by Bill Gordon
February 2018

The letters and biographical information on this page come from Kanoya Kōkū Kichi Shiryōkan Renraku Kyōgikai (2003, 63).

Notes

1. The kanji character for his name has several readings in Japanese, so one of the most common ones, Tadashi, was selected for this translation.

2. Yasukuni Shrine in Tōkyō is the place of enshrinement for spirits of Japan's war dead.

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.