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Last Letters from Sergeant Shunji Katō

On June 11, 1945, Army Sergeant Shunji Katō took off from Bansei Air Base as a member of the 64th Shinbu Special Attack Squadron (also known as Kokka Squadron) and died in battle west of Okinawa at the age of 20. He piloted a Type 99 Assault Plane (Allied code name of Sonia). After his death in a special (suicide) attack, he received a three-rank promotion to Second Lieutenant. He was from Mie Prefecture and was a member of the 11th Class of Koga Pilot Training School in Ibaraki Prefecture.

Kishida wrote the following last letter. The addressee is not stated, but it appears to be a family who lived in Haranomachi in Fukushima Prefecture, where an Army air base was located during the Pacific War:

Thank you for the letter that brought back memories. In faraway Kyūshū, I received it from Saitō. Both Inoue and I have the smell of Haranomachi, so we are very happy. We all are in very high spirits. The plane of Yokota was in bad condition, and he is in Ōsaka, but he will probably come today.

Yesterday Uomoto in my group took off in high spirits from this place to the south. We also will do so probably today or tomorrow.

My requested aircraft is in extremely fine condition, and I have not had either a headache or stomachache even one time. Please rest assured. We have had an onslaught of comfort shown to us, and I am staggered by this. It is absolutely overwhelming that eight squadrons came in one day. When evening came and fireflies were flying about at the edge of the river, I felt a little homesick.

Idle talk killing time

From when I visited for the first time until my sortie, I received your exceedingly kind love. I deeply appreciate what you did for me. Thank you very much for your kind invitations, and I sincerely apologize that I asked various big favors from you.

Thank you for the rice crackers. They were delicious as I ate them on the flight. I did not eat all of them, since I am keeping just one so that I can smell the scent of Haranomachi.

If I die in battle, without returning to Ise I will visit Haranomachi first where there are many memories.

June 5

Seibu 18934 Unit Kitsuke Special Attack Squadron
Shinbu Unit Kōka Squadron
Army Sergeant Shunji Katō

Katō also wrote the following final letter to his mother:

Now I will go to the place of the decisive battle. It was unfortunate that I was not able to see you. With the comfort given by persons on the home front, I remember you Mother, and I hear of the current situation where each and every citizen truly has a feeling like my own. I will go with concern about the Empire's prospects.

When I leave you Mother and go to the skies, there will be blood of a Yamato [1] spirit inside me.

I will live for an eternal cause.


Letters translated by Bill Gordon
September 2019

The letters come from Naemura (1993, 189-90). The biographical information in the first paragraph comes from Chiran Tokkō Irei Kenshō Kai (2005, 189), Naemura (1993, 189), and Osuo (2005, 200).

Note

1. Yamato is a poetic name for Japan.

Sources Cited

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.

Naemura, Hichirō. 1993. Rikugun saigo no tokkō kichi: Bansei tokkōtaiin no isho to isatsu (Army's last special attack base: Last letters and photographs of Bansei special attack corps members). Ōsaka: Tōhō Shuppan.

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