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Deep Blue: From Chiran
Special Attack Air Base
(1996)

 
Last Letter of Corporal Ryōkichi Kanai to His Family

On June 10, 1945, Corporal Ryōkichi Kanai took off from Chiran Air Base and died in a special (suicide) attack west of Okinawa at the age of 21. He was a member of the 214th Shinbu Special Attack Squadron and piloted an Army Type 97 Fighter (Allied nickname of Nate). After his death in a special attack, he received a promotion to Second Lieutenant. He was from Gunma Prefecture and was a member of the 14th Class of the Yonago Pilot Training School.

He wrote the following final letter, which arrived at his home in Takasaki City on June 17, 1945. It was sent by one of the maintenance workers for his fighter.

Dear Parents and everyone in family,

At this moment when the country's existence is threatened, I trust that everyone in the family is in very good health. Since I also am in high spirits, please rest assured.

I know that this sudden letter is surprising, but I think that you already have guessed its main point. Finally I also have received an Imperial command. The time has come for me to go towards the place of the decisive battle, which I have looked forward to for a long time.

There is nothing that surpasses this as the long-cherished desire of a young man. Looking forward only to this time, I only desire to accomplish my own mission. I certainly will complete it for the family.

When I look back on my life of 22 years [1], I do not know what to say to apologize for going without showing any filial piety to you. With Father's kindness higher than the mountains and Mother's kindness deeper than the seas, as I do not know what words to say, I with a poor spirit was full of only self-centeredness. As I move my pen, the faces of kind, kind Father and Mother come floating like apparitions. I am really in tears, in tears. As my last request, please forgive my lack of filial piety until now.

Father, Mother, thank you for what you have done for me for a long time. I deeply, deeply thank you.

Older Brother, Older Sister, and Younger Sister [2], thank you for what you did for me.

The doll in a package that you all sent to me the other day will be together in my plane when I make a taiatari (body-crashing) attack. Of course it will be together with the rising-sun flag and the waist cord that was a keepsake from Mother.

Please give my regards also to Older Brother, my younger brother Shirō, and others.

Finally, I pray for everyone's eternal happiness.

Everyone, please imagine my figure as I with gladness bravely depart in high spirits with a hachimaki (headband) that says hitchin (sure sinking). Please pray only for my success in battle. Farewell.

From Ryōkichi


Letter translated by Bill Gordon
July 2018

The letter comes from Chiran Kōjo Nadeshiko Kai (1996, 113-5). The biographical information in the first paragraph comes from Chiran Kōjo Nadeshiko Kai (1996, 113), Chiran Tokkō Irei Kenshō Kai (2005, 166), and Osuo (2005, 206).

Note

1. 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 22 whereas the current way of counting age indicates that his age was 21 (Chiran Tokkō Irei Kenshō Kai 2005, 166) at time of death.

2. The number of brothers and sisters is not specified in the letter. He may have had one or more older brothers, one or more older sisters, and one or more younger sisters.

Sources Cited

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.