Deep Blue: From Chiran
Special Attack Air Base (1996)
Last Letter of Second Lieutenant Nobuo Itō to His Younger Sister
On April 3, 1945, Second Lieutenant Nobuo Itō took
off from Chiran Air Base and died in a special (suicide) attack west of
Tokunoshima at the age of 23. He was a member of the 22nd Shinbu Special
Attack Squadron and piloted an Army Hayabusa Type 1 Fighter (Allied
code name of Oscar). After his death in a special attack, he received a promotion to
Prefecture, attended Meiji University in Tōkyō, and was a member of the 1st
Class of the Army Special Cadet Officer Pilot Training (Tokubetsu Sōjū Minarai
He wrote the following final letter dated March 17, 1945, to his younger
Since based on what Father told me you are doing daily public duty in
high spirits, I am so extremely happy that it seems like greed. I have a
feeling of regret that I was not able to see you. However, in this time of
one hundred million special attacks , citizens
one by one have work that is their duty. Your work also is a duty for the
country. I thought that it should not be permitted for you to neglect the
duty for your personal matters. I think that for you this feeling has not
Even in normal times the story of elementary school teacher Matsumoto's
giving up his own life in order to rescue one child is extremely famous.
Still more, in this situation where you have given your great treasure, your
duty to offer up yourself is extreme. However, now it is a difficult thing
that you are the Itō Family heir. Certainly you must continue
and run Father's business. Those two things are not compatible at the same
time. Possibly you maybe will do it, but I do not prefer this. Anyway if you
do the latter, please do not apologize for that transition opportunity, and
do not ever forget your mental preparation according to Father's teachings.
I am not accustomed to writing this in an ordinary letter, so maybe what I
have written is difficult to understand, but please try to consider it
The other day I viewed a movie about the Army Special Attack Corps, and I
saw the faces of former training officers and comrades who appeared on the
screen. When I saw before my eyes their final sorties, I remembered like now
when at the time they left homeland bases they joined hands at departure and
said "I hope we will succeed together" and "Next time we meet will be
in the forest at Yasukuni ." When I heard about
their battle results, with impatience it made me keenly aware of the importance of my
With the recent state of affairs, we also do not know when we will make a
sortie where we will not return. As my life's inspiration there is nothing
that surpasses bearing the important responsibility of protecting the Empire
until the end. Not repaying even a ten-thousandth of the kindness shown by
Father during my lifetime, I instead only caused him worries. I think that
my being able to do the greatest public service as a young Japanese man will
make Father happy. Emiko, please show filial piety for the part that I was
not able to perform. After I returned from Tōkyō, it could not be helped
that I was thinking only about this. While desiring a mental state at death
where I can say that I did everything that should have been done, I want to
feel assured that I can rely on you for this filial piety that cannot be
I also wanted to talk about various things with Older Sister Miyoko, but
now I cannot think of anything. Please give her my warmest regards.
With my hasty messy writing maybe somehow you did not understand well,
but please interpret what I wrote.
Finally, take constant good care of yourself so that you may do your best
until the end. Realizing that it will be a portion for two persons, I ask
you once again that you show filial piety to Father.
From Older Brother
Letter translated by Bill Gordon
The letter comes from Chiran Kōjo Nadeshiko Kai (1996, 43-5). The biographical information in
the first paragraph comes from Chiran Kōjo Nadeshiko Kai (1996, 43), Chiran Tokkō Irei Kenshō Kai (2005,
170), and Osuo (2005, 195). The photograph at bottom comes from
Osuo (2005, 57).
1. The "one hundred million" refers to the entire
population of Japan. Near the war's end, government propaganda stressed that all
citizens needed to be prepared to give their lives in a special (suicide)
2. Yasukuni Shrine in Tōkyō is the place of
enshrinement for spirits of Japan's war dead.
Chiran Kōjo Nadeshiko Kai (Chiran Girls High School Nadeshiko
Association), ed. 1996. Gunjō: Chiran tokkō kichi yori
(Deep blue: From Chiran special attack air base). Originally
published in 1979. Kagoshima City: Takishobō.
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.
Osuo, Kazuhiko. 2005. Tokubetsu kōgekitai no kiroku (rikugun hen)
(Record of special attack corps (Army)). Tōkyō: Kōjinsha.
22nd Shinbu Special Attack Squadron.
Second Lieutenant Nobuo Itō sitting on far right in front row.