Captain Masanobu Kuno
Final Letter in Katakana
Among those who made sorties toward Okinawa from Army air bases in Kyūshū, there were few fathers who volunteered
to make special (suicide) attacks. Captain Kuno was one of these men. On May 23, 1945, the
eve of his sortie, he wrote his final letter all in katakana 
to his 5-year-old son Masanori and his 2-year-old daughter Kiyoko who he was leaving behind. A
child learns katakana in the lower grades of elementary school.
Dear Masanori and Kiyoko,
Even though you cannot see me, I will always be watching you. Obey Mother, and do not trouble her. When you grow up,
follow a path you like and grow to be fine Japanese persons. Do not envy
the father of others, since I will become a spirit and closely watch
over you two.
Both of you, study hard and help out Mother with work. I cannot be your
horse to ride, but you two be good friends. I am an energetic person who flew a
large bomber and finished off all the enemy. Please be persons who rise above me and
so avenge my death.
His wife Chiyoko received this letter and soon gave birth to
their second daughter Masae on October 18, 1945. He did not know that she
was pregnant with their third child.
During the period of confusion after the end of the war,
Chiyoko worked as an elementary school janitor in order to support her three
children. When Masae become six, her mother told her three children for the first time
the story of their father dying during the war and showed them his final letter.
She said, "Your father left this for you." Masanori, who at the time
was a sixth grader in elementary school, looked at the letter in katakana and
laughed as he said, "It looks just like a telegram."
Chiyoko brought up her three children all by herself, and they
now each have families of their own. Masanori (age 49) 
works at the NTT Nagoya
Branch Office, and Chiyoko lives with his family. The oldest daughter Kiyoko
(46) lives in Fujisawa City, Kanagawa Prefecture, and the youngest daughter
Masae (43) is in Nagoya. Sometimes when their families get together, they talk
about their father. Chiyoko says, "Even if he had not gone as a special
pilot, there were many things he could have done to serve his country, and he
was a great husband."
In September 1985, Masanori for the first time visited Chiran,
where his father spent his final night. He saw his father's photo displayed at
the Chiran Peace Museum for Kamikaze Pilots. Tadamasa Itatsu (resident now of
Inuyama City, Aichi Prefecture), museum director at the time and a surviving
kamikaze pilot, saw Masanori, the living image of the photo. Itatsu said to
Masanori, "You must be his son."
In the early evening of May 24, 1945, Captain Masanobu Kuno took off from
Kengun Airfield in Kumamoto Prefecture and died in a special (suicide) attack at
the age of 29. He was a member of the 3rd Dokuritsu Hikōtai (Independent Air
Squadron), which carried commandos of the Giretsu Airborne Unit in twelve Type 97 Heavy Bombers (Allied code name of Sally). Eight
aircraft headed toward Okinawa's Yomitan (Yontan) Airfield, and the destination
for four aircraft was Kadena Airfield. The entire operation included 136
commandos of the Giretsu Airborne Unit and 32 pilots and other aircraft crewmen from the 3rd Dokuritsu Hikōtai (Independent Air Squadron). Four
of twelve aircraft had to return and make forced
landings due to engine trouble or other reasons. Only five of the remaining
planes reached Yomitan, and only one of these successfully landed with the
others crashing. The commandos in this one plane destroyed American planes and
supplies at Yomitan Airfield until they were killed. After Kuno's death in a
special attack, he received a promotion to Lieutenant Colonel. He was from Aichi
Prefecture and was in the 22nd Class of the Army's Second Lieutenant Cadets.
Final letter in katakana
written by Captain Kuno
Story and letter translated by Bill Gordon
The story and letter are a translation of Asahi Shimbun (1990, 97-8). The
biographical information in the last paragraph come from Chiran Tokkō Irei
Kenshō Kai (2005, 131, 187).
1. Katakana is one of two kinds of scripts used
for Japanese syllabary writing (i.e., each character represents one
syllable). Katakana is primarily used to write words that were originally
foreign but now have been incorporated into Japanese. Also, as mentioned in the
story, telegrams used to be written in katakana. Japanese children learn
katakana at a young age.
2. Ages are those when this article was originally
published in the Asahi Shimbun in late 1988.
Asahi Shimbun Seibu Honsha. 1990. Sora no kanata ni
(To distant skies). Fukuoka: Ashishobō.
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.