Last Letters of Ensign Shinichi Ishimaru to His Parents and Older Brother
At 0655 on May 11, 1945, Ensign Shinichi Ishimaru took off
from Kanoya Air Base as pilot in a Zero fighter carrying a 500-kg bomb and died in a
special (suicide) attack off Okinawa at the age of 22. He was a member
of the Kamikaze Special Attack Corps 5th Tsukuba Squadron. He was from Saga
Prefecture, attended Nihon University in evening classes, and was a member of the 14th
Class of the Navy's Flight Reserve Students (Hikō Yobi Gakusei).
His life is depicted in the 1995 film
Ningen no Tsubasa (Wings of a
Man). Shinichi Ishimaru was an ace pitcher for the Nagoya Team (now known as
Chūnichi Dragons) in Japan's professional baseball league from 1941 to 1943. On
October 12, 1943, he pitched a no-hit, no-run game, and he finished the season
with a 1.15 ERA and a record of 20 wins and 12 losses.
Shinichi Ishimaru first met Keiko Sakurai when she moved to Saga City from
Tōkyō when he was in high school. Keiko returned to Tōkyō with her family, and
she found out that Shinichi was at a nearby air base after writing to his mother
to find out where he was stationed. She went to visit him at the air base, and
they renewed their relationship. After the bombing of Tōkyō on March 10, 1945,
he visited her home where they continued their loving relationship. However, on April 13,
Keiko died when her neighborhood in Tōkyō was firebombed by American B-29s.
On April 30, 1945, Ishimaru's squadron received an order to make a sortie
from Kanoya on the morning of the next day . The
following two letters, one to his parents and another to his brother, were
written at this time.
Cherry blossoms have fallen, and young leaves that are fresh and green
are beginning to grow thick as they signal good luck for us.
I trust that you have been getting along fine. At this time of crisis for
the country, this is an opportunity for me to be able to do some service
through my death. Finally tomorrow will be the opportunity for me to make a
taiatari (body-crashing) attack on an enemy ship. Now there is
nothing to say.
Today when the war situation at last has become tense, I know as an
officer in the Imperial Navy that there is no greater honor than this.
Regarding the matter of the Ishimaru Family, I follow the right path by
leaving it entirely to Older Brother Tachio who is the core person of us
siblings. I pray that you will be a harmonious family where each person
finds happiness in the midst of hardship so the Ishimaru Family will be
Preliminaries omitted. I trust that you have been getting along fine.
This evening there was suddenly an order for a sortie to Okinawa. I think
that I cannot calmly express in writing all of my thoughts, but I would like
that you let me list them out as they come to mind.
First are my remaining articles. As for cash, please give all of it to
Father. Out of that I ask that a small amount be used for marriage expenses
of Older Brother Taneo. Last month I sent 500 yen, and I think that you have
Please give the clock inside the trunk to Older Sister Kuniko, and you
can have the wallet.
Finally I also will make a sortie. When I look back on my life through
today, it truly was a happy life. Even though a young cherry blossom of 24
years old  will fall, there are no regrets.
Since elementary school I have been taught the word chūkō (loyalty
and filial piety) any number of times by any number of my teachers and
seniors. I realized that now undoubtedly this idea has begun to grow
stronger. While I did not know this concept since I could not understand
what I had been taught, I by myself knew to follow the path of loyalty and
filial piety. When I tried to do it, my life of 24 years seems to have been
the mastering of the word chūkō (loyalty and filial piety). My only
regret is to die before our parents. This also is due to the war situation.
You, who are an educator, please tell them of this point so they realize it.
I have been forced to think much concerning the matter of death, but
ultimately it is the life that I had and to which I was born. I think that
the grief of parents is greater with this than when there is death by an
illness when the person wastes away. I think that I must ride on the waves
of the times until the end.
Regarding my other remaining articles, since I leave them completely to
you, I ask you to handle them. When Taneo marries, I suppose that he soon
will have a hard time with clothing, so I request you to take care of this
Give my regards to Aoshima and all of the relatives.
Please make our parents happy who in the near future will be old. I pray
for prosperity of the Ishimaru Family.
When it becomes dawn, I will write my final letter.
Take care of yourself.
Excuse me for going before you.
Rain delayed Ishimaru's planned sortie on May 1, and there were several days
of rain after that delayed the sortie until May 11 .
On the day before his sortie, Ishimaru wrote the following last letter.
Evening of May 10
My sortie was postponed until today.
Finally I will make a sortie tomorrow morning.
Having survived until today is indeed a wonder.
I certainly will sink instantly an enemy aircraft carrier.
Give my best regards to Older Brother Tōkichi when he returns home.
Please send photos to the Tsuruta Family in Karatsu.
Urabōzu, Karatsu City
Now there is nothing to write.
Shinichi Ishimaru, pitcher for Nagoya Team
(now known as Chūnichi Dragons) in Japan's
professional baseball league from 1941 to 1943
Letters translated by Bill Gordon
The letters come from Ushijima (1994, 274-7, 288). The biographical information in the first
three paragraphs comes from Eiga "Ningen no Tsubasa" o Tsukuru Kai (1996, 2-3,
8), Osuo (2005, 198), and Ushijima (1994, 31-4, 210-5, 225-35).
1. Ushijima 1994, 273.
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 24 whereas the current way of counting based on his birth
date of July 24, 1922 (Eiga "Ningen no Tsubasa" o Tsukuru Kai, 8), makes his age 22 at time of death.
3. Ushijima 1994, 279.
Eiga "Ningen no Tsubasa" o Tsukuru Kai (Committee to
Make Wings of a Man), ed. 1996. Ningen no Tsubasa: Saigo no kyacchibōru
(Wings of a Man: Playing Catch for Last Time). Eiga "Ningen no Tsubasa" o Tsukuru Kai (Committee to
Make Wings of a Man).
Osuo, Kazuhiko. 2005. Tokubetsu kōgekitai no kiroku (kaigun
hen) (Record of special attack corps (Navy)). Tōkyō: Kōjinsha.
Ushijima, Hidehiko. 1994. Kieta haru - Tokkō ni chitta tōshu Ishimaru Shinichi (Lost
spring - pitcher Shinichi Ishimaru who fell
in special attack). Tōkyō: Kawade Bunko.