Last Letter of Second Lieutenant Masashi Katsura to His Parents
On May 11, 1945, Second Lieutenant Masashi Katsura
took off from Chiran Air Base and died in a special (suicide) attack
west of Okinawa at the age of 21. He was the 65th Shinbu Squadron Leader. He piloted an Army Type 97
Fighter (Allied code name of Nate). After his death in a special
attack, he received a two-rank promotion to Captain. He grew up in Ishikawa
Prefecture and graduated from the Imperial Japanese Army Air Academy in the 57th Class.
He wrote the following final letter to his parents:
Finally the day to be useful has come. As commander of an honorable
special attack squadron together with my squadron members, I cheerfully
depart to die, believing in the Empire's eternity.
I am sorry that I was not able to show any filial piety to you in 22
years . I live for great filial piety.
Please let both Tetsuo and Hideki follow after me.
Satsuko and Shizue, be exemplary Japanese women.
Long live the Emperor. Long live the Empire of Japan.
Mother, Father, farewell. I will be waiting for you in the other world.
When I die, please give praise that I did well.
Katsura also wrote the following tanka (31-syllable poem with
a syllable pattern of 5-7-5-7-7):
Death poem, while looking at cherry blossoms
Both in the coming year
And again the next year
Praying they will bloom
I also will bloom
Not sparing my life for a worthy cause
Squadron Commander Katsura, Second Lieutenant
Letter and poem translated by Bill Gordon
The letter and biographical information on this page come from Chiran Tokkō Irei Kenshō
Kai (2005, 126, 179) and Osuo (2005, 200).
This photo below shows from right to left: Masashi Katsura, 65th Shinbu
Squadron Commander; Second Lieutenant Haruo Araki, 51st Shinbu Special Attack
Squadron Commander; and Second Lieutenant Kunio Kuroki, 55th Shinbu Squadron
Commander (Makino 1979, 219). Katsura, Araki, and Kuroki graduated together from
the Imperial Japanese Army Academy in the 57th Class, and they each led a
special attack squadron from Chiran Air Base on May 11, 1945.
Haruo Araki wrote a last letter to his wife Shigeko.
Masashi Katsura (at right) in photo at
Chiran Air Base (taken by Toshirō Takagi
10, 1945, the day before Katsura's sortie)
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 most likely explains why
the letter indicates his age as 22 whereas the background information in Chiran
Tokkō Irei Kenshō Kai (2005, 126) indicates his age as 21.
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.
Makino, Kikuo, ed. 1979. Ichioku nin no shōwa shi (Nihon
no senshi 4): Tokubetsu kōgekitai (Shōwa history of 100 million
people (Japan's war history, Volume 4): Special Attack Corps). Tōkyō:
Osuo, Kazuhiko. 2005. Tokubetsu kōgekitai no kiroku (rikugun hen)
(Record of special attack corps (Army)). Tōkyō: Kōjinsha.