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Continuation • Ah, Cherry
Blossoms of Same Class
(1995)

 
Last Letter of Ensign Hiroshi Nishikawa to His Parents

Sometime between 1130 and 1150 on April 12, 1945, Ensign Hiroshi Nishikawa took off from Kokubu No. 1 Air Base as pilot in a Type 99 Carrier Dive Bomber (Allied code name of Val) carrying a 250-kg bomb and died in a special (suicide) attack off Okinawa at the age of 23. He was a member of the Kamikaze Special Attack Corps 2nd Hachiman Gokō [1] Squadron from Usa Air Group. He was from Shiga Prefecture, attended Waseda University in Tōkyō to study law, and was a member of the 14th Class of the Navy's Flight Reserve Students (Hikō Yobi Gakusei).

He wrote the following final letter:

Dear Parents,

It has become a balmy spring.

The cherry blossoms are blooming splendidly in full glory. Tomorrow on April 6 is my birthday. When I think back, until now for my 24 years [2] from when I was born in the country of Japan, I received four kinds of blessings, and I lived without any inconveniences. I am only extremely grateful. Tomorrow on the 6th I will make a sortie from Usa Air Base at 9:30 a.m., and on the same day between 4 and 6 p.m. I will become a spirit to protect the country. It is my greatest honor. Please be glad. I will attack the landing fleet of the detestable enemy heading for the mainland of Shinshū [3]. I will carry out a taiatari (body-crashing) attack in the sea off Okinawa and strike terror into the enemy's heart.

I will fall splendidly as a member of the Special Attack Corps Hachiman Gokō Unit. I intend to keep protecting admirably the Nishikawa Family honor. With the time right on my birthday, it will be a fine day to be able to repay my life of 24 years to the Emperor. I believe that I certainly will succeed. Thus, even though I am given honor, I think that it is only due to you Father and Mother and everybody. At the same time as I appreciate this, I apologize from my heart that up to now I was not able to repay your kindness at all and I showed you only lack of filial piety. According to Akiko's letter, Tomisaburō, Yoshinosuke, and all my brothers and sisters have returned home, so I am extremely happy. Since Yoshinosuke made a joyous engagement, it is good farewell present for me. While I received a letter from Older Sister Kuniko, I am sorry that I was not able to send her a response. Since I will avenge Older Brother, with that please forgive me. Please tell everyone to raise my nephews excellently.

Right now it is 12:30 a.m. With special permission I went out. I am writing this letter in a room at the Navy Club called Unryūsō. Ensign Matsuba is sleeping next to me. He also will go as my number 1 plane. I am the number 2 plane. This evening I will sleep in a fondly-remembered futon. Father and Mother, take care. I will go in high spirits. Thank you for what you have done for me for a long time.

Finally, I end writing with the belief in the indestructibility of Shinshū.

April 5, 1945

Hiroshi

Tomorrow I also with god will fall
I offer myself hoping for Empire's prosperity
Praying earnestly for permanence of Shinshū
I will go to sea off Okinawa


Letter translated by Bill Gordon
August 2019

The letters come from Kaigun Hikō Yobi Gakusei Dai 14 Ki Kai (1995, 71-3). The biographical information in the first paragraph comes from Kaigun Hikō Yobi Gakusei Dai 14 Ki Kai (1995, 71) and Osuo (2005, 217).

Notes

1. Hachiman is the Japanese god of military power. Usa City in Ōita Prefecture has the first Hachiman Shrine, which was established in the early 8th century. Gokō means "protecting the Emperor" in Japanese.

2. 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 24 whereas the current way of counting age based on his birth date in Kaigun Hikō Yobi Gakusei Dai 14 Ki Kai (1995, 71) indicates that his age was 22 on the date when the letter was written.

3. Shinshū refers to Japan and literally means "divine land."

Sources Cited

Kaigun Hikō Yobi Gakusei Dai 14 Ki Kai (Navy Flight Reserve Students 14th Class Association), ed. 1995. Zoku Ā dōki no sakura (Continuation Ah, cherry blossoms of same class). Tōkyō: Kōjinsha.

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