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Ah, Cherry Blossoms
of Same Class
(1966)

 
Final Diary Entries of Ensign Yasuo Ichijima

At 1426 on April 29, 1945, Ensign Yasuo Ichijima took off from Kanoya Air Base as pilot in a Zero Fighter Trainer carrying a 250-kg bomb and died in a special (suicide) attack off Okinawa at the age of 23. He was a member of the Kamikaze Special Attack Corps 5th Shōwa Squadron from Yatabe Air Group in Ibaraki Prefecture. He was from Tōkyō Prefecture, attended Waseda University in Tōkyō to study commerce, and was a member of the 14th Class of the Navy's Flight Reserve Students (Hikō Yobi Gakusei).

Ichijima wrote the following entries in his diary during the final ten days of his life from April 20 to April 29, 1945:

April 20, 1945

It was a peaceful day. I did not see any family members, but I freely chatted with some dear persons. I was able to spend a pleasant time.

Even though I will not be able to see them again if I leave today, there was not prompting in the least of sadness or pity. To a marvelous degree we were able to part while having a friendly talk.

For me, I do not feel at all that I will die within a week from now. Furthermore, I also have not had any agitation and pity.

However, when I calmly imagine my final moment, I feel that it all seems like a dream. Even I do not know whether or not I will be calm in this way until the moment that I die, but it seems like it will be unexpectedly easy.

My friendship with Nakamura had a strange connection when I think about it. For only one year we were together, and what is more is that this was the short time of the last year of our lives, but there always will be unforgettable memories.

I am full of a feeling just to pray for everyone's happiness.

April 21

In the morning there was a test flight. My plane that had been taken to the apron had been made exactly right by the maintenance men, which made me cry.

0740 - First I made a final test flight. The altitude was 2,000 meters, and cruising capability was good. Finally, piloting the fighter, I freely made a last special flight in the skies over Tsuchiura. Visibility was rather good, and it was very pleasant even though it had been a while. From above in the plane, I bid a final farewell to my dear friends.

1130 - Consultation

1300 - Line-up in front of command post

My classmates showed me kindness in anything and everything, and they had decorated the top of my plane with double cherry blossoms.

1330 - Drank a toast

The engines were thundering to the blue skies. We received the order for a sortie, and we gave our final salutes. We approached our planes at a run. Friends passed to us hachimaki (headbands) with writing in blood. Saying that we would not let the spirit of our older brothers go to waste, each person wrapped one firmly around his head.

1350 - They took away the wooden chocks from the first plane. They next took them away from my plane. The sound of the smooth engines of the eight planes roared high and low with each other and shook the spring skies. Friends, who we had spent time together as one, waved flags, and their faces that were shouting something passed and vanished like phantoms.

1355 - The first plane took off, my plane followed, and the other six planes also took off following us. We assembled in formation and did a flyover.

Farewell. Fondly-remembered Tsuchiura, my second hometown that I would not set foot in again, was vanishing behind me.

My engine was in top condition, and I just continued flying with my mind free from thoughts. I flew right over my house in Kawasaki.

When I passed over Mount Ashigara, I saw incomparably magnificent Mount Fuji on my right side. How wonderful! I was moved to tears at where Japan was born. The form of Fuji from above in my plane was exceedingly majestic. It surpassed my imagination. I offered one or two branches of cherry blossoms from above in my plane and headed straight west.

1530 - Arrived at Suzuka. I went to a glider event here when I was in the Shōkū Association. I met Kawata, Yoshikawa, and Furuta. I was glad at the unexpected meeting. In the evening we went out to Shiroko, and we talked together. Even though they asked us about our state of mind, at this late hour they could not understand our feelings when they asked us. We only laughed without answering. They were happy about our cheerfulness, and they vowed to follow after us. The friends were earnest with feelings that there will be good things.

The pear flowers already have withered, but I could not bear to throw them away. I wrapped them in a chart and held them near my heart.

April 22

0830 - Departed Suzuka. We went by way of Nara, Kyōto, and Ōsaka and along the southern coast of Awaji Island, famous because of the song. At 0930, we arrived at Tokushima. We planned to fill up on fuel, but because two or three fuselages were in bad condition, we requested them to be serviced. We opened some chocolate and canned pineapple and ate a meal. The sun in the southern land was bright, and it felt like a picnic. There were a bunch of 14th Class men. Since classmates were going into battle, they took good care of us in various ways. They made me cry considerably.

1545 - We departed Tokushima and headed straight for Kanoya. There was a lot of fog, and visibility was poor. At Hakata Island there was no way to do what we hoped for originally. The number one plane was leaking oil considerably, and I was worried. My plane also developed a slight vibration. Of course due to the old fuselages, the long flight seemed to expose defects.

Finally all planes made forced landings at Matsuyama. Since it was expected that there would be complete maintenance on the plane fuselages, we decided to spend one night in Matsuyama. Men in the 13th Class gave me various care and assistance. They gave me a warm reception while firing off questions, "Are men in the 14th Class at last leaving? It makes us cry. It makes us cry."

The crews of five carrier bombers from Hyakurihara also made forced landings. When they approached and I saw them, there were three friends from my days in the Shōkū Association. I was happy at the chance encounter. It was because my carrier bomber friends had not yet made crash dives. I searched for Ensign Shiina and another person who I had met at Nakamura's place, since I had heard that they had not yet made a sortie when I inquired, but I could not find them. Finally I was overcome with emotion when I thought that they had become leaders in the attack.

April 23

At 1100 the maintenance of the fuselages was completed.

1145 - Departed Matsuyama. At last we started the final leg of our flight. As we increased our watchfulness, we reached Miyazaki from the ocean, and we arrived in the skies above Kanoya after passing over many mountains. When we passed over while making a cautious landing, there were buildings and other structures that had been destroyed due to bombing. Since the runways also had holes, we did an observation from a low altitude and landed since there was one runway that had been repaired completely.

All over the airfield there were a lot of holes, and I was filled with feelings of being at the battle front. Then I was taxiing my aircraft on the ground, I was surprised when I saw the six faces of Ensign Kaneko from the 1st Shōwa Squadron and Lieutenant Junior Grade Marushige; Ensigns Sadakata, Kitahara, and Nemoto; and Flight Petty Officer 2nd Class Yoshinaga from the 2nd Shōwa Squadron. Since I believed that Lieutenant Junior Grade Marushige and others had made crash attacks, I thought that I was seeing phantoms. When I asked about the details, it was explained that they arrived on the flight line for a sortie on the 16th. Just when they started to move forward, Grumman fighters attacked, and due to strafing gunfire the 250-kg bomb carried by Ensign Kitahara's plane exploded, and it caused explosions also on other planes. Since the planes of the persons mentioned earlier were destroyed by fire in a instant, it was planned that they except for Nemoto and Yoshinaga would return to Yatabe the day after tomorrow.

However, with the two classmates who remain, Kaneko and Nemoto, when Nemoto makes a sortie with us, Kaneko will be the one person who has returned alive. His feelings are complicated. He arrived at Kanoya first, and everyone in the 1st Shōwa Squadron excluding him has joined the number of dead. Also, he sent off his friends in the 2nd Squadron, and now also he has the fate of sending us off on our sorties. He remarked that a person truly does not know tomorrow's events. He really has a positive sentiment.

The lodging was an elementary school down a slope a short distance from the airfield. The ceiling had open holes from a bombing, and in the classrooms only desks and bamboo beds had been placed. On top of the desks someone had decorated them with cut roses, wood sorrel, and Rodger's brown leaf. They were a touch of loveliness among the dreariness. In one corner there were the ashes of Ensign Shinozaki who died in a regrettable explosion [1] and Ensign Nishida who died when his plane just before take-off was hit in the rear by a plane that had landed.

When I think about living in this room with my classmates Matsumura, Hirabayashi, Sasaki, Kashiwakura, Yajima, Shinozaki, Nakamura, Satō, Onodera, Kamihara, and Sasamoto and more than 30 other people who I am close to, there are unending fond memories for every single one of these men. What is more, all of them will give their lives for an eternal cause, and there is no now. Lying down on my bed, when I looked at the pale moon through the damaged roof, their apparitions visited one after another, and it even seemed like they were whispering to me.

Since perhaps tomorrow will be the sortie, we went by bus winding along a rural road. The end of my 25-year life [2] at last is getting close, but I do not feel like a person who will go to die tomorrow. Now I have come to the end of a southern land. I cannot imagine that tomorrow I will brave fierce antiaircraft fire and crash dive into an enemy ship while being blinded in my fighter.

When I wandered down a path between the rice fields with a towel, the insects in the area made loud noises. I was surrounded by croaking of frogs, and memories of childhood sprang up. The lotus flowers floating in the moonlight were truly beautiful. It was just like early summer in Kawasaki, and it brought back found memories as I strolled by houses together. When I returned to the room, since there were no electric lights, oil that had been poured into empty pineapple cans was being burned. The flames cast dancing shadows of each person on the walls. It was truly a peaceful evening.

April 24

I washed up in a nearby stream.

The enemy task force has not been seen yet. We were on stand-by from 11 o'clock for two hours. We did things like plotting our course on a map and studying codes, and we prepared to be able to make a sortie at any time. However, there was a casual feeling as we only waited for the order.

In the next room there was a person who was playing the song "Someone Not Thinking of His Hometown" on the organ. It was the atmosphere of a peaceful southern land. While being bored with nothing to do, I went out to pick some lotus flowers, but now there was nobody who was offering them. I recalled a few times when I wrapped them with Japanese pear flowers. I went to the bath in the twilight.

They were noisy in the next room drinking sake, and that was fine. I want to have a peaceful feeling until I die. A person should continue to be committed until dying. This is even more so for the Special Attack Corps members who represent Yamato [3] spirit. I want until the end to maintain actions that will not be shameful to that name. As for my own life, I believe that I walked one of the paths most beautiful that a human could walk. Living beautifully until the end with the spirit and body received from my Father and Mother was because of great love from God and beautiful love of people who surrounded me. I feel great pride and joy that now I can offer my honest life for the country with its boundless beauty. I heard that Ensign Fujimori of the Tsukuba Air Group was not assigned to a special attack squadron.

April 25

At dawn it was raining. Rain was coming down through the damaged ceiling. There were clouds at dawn. Time after time there was the roar of reconnaissance aircraft that were taking off to search for the enemy fleet. When I thought that based on what they found in their reconnaissance would decide our mobilization, I instinctively wanted to pray for their success. It became clear, but as always there were low clouds.

From today will be the 4th Kikusui Operation.

This operation is to destroy completely enemy ships around Okinawa. I pray that it will be like this. There are also duties for persons who remain behind. There is no need to hurry death.

It is planned that four men including Ensign Kaneko will return tomorrow to Yatabe. Our sortie is planned for around the day after tomorrow. After we arrived, it has been fortunate to have no air attacks. In the evening we watched a movie while there was a light rain. Its name was "Until Victory Day."

Without agreeing to the return to the air group of four men, Lieutenant Junior Grade Marushige and Ensigns Kitahara, Sadakata, and Kaneko, finally it has been decided that they would receive four Type 51 [4] aircraft of the 721st Air Group. They were delighted.

April 26

Last night rain continued to fall. A light rain blew onto my face while I was sleeping. The bamboo beds also are fragile. It truly feels like a deserted building.

The holes from the bombs are good for viewing the moon, but they make you cry when it rains. However, if I can endure even this for another day or two, since afterward it will be luxurious in Paradise, I can tell a good story from my travels to the heavenly maidens, and we will have a hearty laugh. Since going to hell more than going to heaven is appropriate for a person such as I, will I really go like the story?

Four men departed for Tomitaka [5]. At a time when they will not come again to this place, we gave them a final farewell as we already had included them in the number of dead. From 1600, there was an air attack. We immediately took cover in an air-raid shelter. At 1105, there was the all-clear. Since we took shelter without eating breakfast, I felt hungry. There was no damage.

Today is a full moon. How about the moon at Kijō Park?

April 27

Tomorrow it is planned that we will carry out an attack on the anchorage at Nakagusuku (Buckner) Bay. I will take all possible care.

April 28

The task force including carriers has appeared. There was a line-up at 1230.

Father and Mother, I truly thank you for my 25 years. The long-awaited task force has appeared, and the good day will be tomorrow. At noon I will make a hisshi hissatsu (certain-death, sure-kill) attack. I certainly must die to break an enemy ship into tiny pieces. Since until the end I will follow Father's teaching to "accomplish what you set out to do," please rest assured. I am filled with a feeling to pray for prosperity for the country that I will not set foot on alive again. Please forgive me for not being able to show filial piety. I will crash dive with photos in my inside pocket of Father, Mother, my brothers and sisters, Nakamura's family, Ichise, Sakano, and Shinozaki who died in an explosion.

Please pray for my success.

1400 on April 28 at Kanoya sortie

To Midori

Follow the path that a woman should as a good wife, good mother, and good child.

To Chizuko

Do your best to render filial piety to our parents for my part. Assist your brothers and sisters, and keep to the path that a woman should follow. When you get married, follow these family traditions, and live with a feeling of renouncing yourself.

To Sumiko

Although you are little, since you are getting bigger, think carefully and do your things. Do them so that you will be loved more and more by everyone. Always live cheerfully and obediently.

To Haruo

After Older Brother passed away, your responsibilities have become more and more important. Earnestly go straight forward on the path that you believe is good. Show filial piety to our parents with all of your strength. (Please forgive me for not doing anything at all for everyone like an older brother. I always am praying for everyone's happiness.)

Mansaku Nakamura

Thank you for what you did for me for a long time. Now I will make a hisshi hissatsu (certain-death, sure-kill) attack, and I will do my best with all of my power to meet your expectations. In the future I ask that you be friends forever with my family. It is keeping a selfish request.

Yoshiko

Now I depart. Please pray for my success. I pray for your happiness.

Michiko

I will make a hissatsu (certain-death) assault with your mascot doll as a companion. I will take also half of the Japanese pear flowers.

Thank you for everything including the fond memories that I cannot forget. My feelings before the sortie are calm like a mirror. I have no regrets.

Mizuno-sensei

Thank you for everything that you have done for me for a long time. I was able to have a beautiful youth because of you. Now I will make a sortie to follow these aspirations. Give my regards to older brothers Miyamura, Yoshizumi, Okina, and Mōri.

Older Brothers Ichise and Sakano

As school friends, you are unforgettable close friends. I cannot tell about my school life except for you. I will crash dive holding your photos.

Cherry blossoms are falling
Remaining blossoms also
Are going to fall

With the plan for a 3 o'clock sortie, I put on a hachimaki (headband) with a red circle on front and plotted our course on a chart. Even though I am truly just waiting for my life, the enemy task force fears our special attacks and will make an escape soon to outside the attack area. In the end they will cancel the sortie.

From 0730 to 1030, we went to air-raid shelters because of B-29 attacks. There was a night sortie of the Ōka special attack unit. I wish them success.

April 29

The good day of today is the good day when the Emperor was born. When I left Yatabe, I did not think even in my dreams that I would survive until today. Yesterday I did not make a sortie and remained as before, and now there is not one. Truly when I think of life, it is a strange thing.

From 0630 to 1015, there was an air attack with solely B-29s. Recently small-size planes are not attacking at all.

The enemy task force including carriers came to about the same position as the prior day. A miracle truly has arrived. We will destroy them in a single blow and will ignite an offensive.

1215 - There was a line-up of crewmen. The attack will be from 1300 to about 1330.

There is not one small cloud in the skies. The ears of barley are green.

My end will be from 1530 to 1630 on April 29.


Diary entries translated by Bill Gordon
November 2018

The diary entries come from Kaigun Hikō Yobi Gakusei Dai 14 Ki Kai (1966, 115-25). The biographical information in the first paragraph comes from Kaigun Hikō Yobi Gakusei Dai 14 Ki Kai (1966, 13) and Osuo (2005, 204).

Notes

1. On April 14, 1945, Ensign Shunji Shinozaki tried to take off from Kanoya Air Base as pilot of a Zero fighter carrying a 250-kg bomb. He died during takeoff when the bomb dropped from his fighter, and the explosion also damaged the runway.

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 25 whereas the current way of counting age based on his birth date in Kaigun Hikō Yobi Gakusei Dai 14 Ki Kai (1966, 13) indicates that his age was 23 at time of death.

3. Yamato is an ancient name for Japan.

4. There was no Type 51 Zero fighter. The advanced Zero fighter in operation was a Type 52.

5. Tomitaka was the location of a Navy air base in Miyazaki Prefecture.

Sources Cited

Kaigun Hikō Yobi Gakusei Dai 14 Ki Kai (Navy Flight Reserve Students 14th Class Association), ed. 1966. Ā dōki no sakura: Kaerazaru seishun no shuki (Ah, cherry blossoms of same class: Writings of youth that would not return). Tōkyō: Mainichi Shinbunsha.

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