Last Letter from Ensign Kiyoshi Ogawa to His Parents
Ensign Kiyoshi Ogawa died at 22 years of age in a kamikaze attack against the
aircraft carrier Bunker Hill (CV-17) on May 11, 1945. The following is an
English translation of his last letter :
Father and Mother,
It has been decided that I also will make a sortie as a proud Special
Attack Corps member. Looking back, when I think of your raising me in your
arms for more than twenty years, I am filled with a sense of gratitude. I
truly believe that no one else has lived a happier life than me, and I am
resolved to repay the Emperor and my father for your kindness.
Beyond those boundless white clouds, I will make my attack with a calm
feeling. Not even thoughts of life and death will come to mind. A person
dies once. It will be an honorable day to live for the eternal cause.
Father and Mother, please be glad for me.
Above all, Mother, please take care of your health, and I wish for
everyone's prosperity. As I will be at Yasukuni Shrine, Father and Mother, I
always and forever will be living near you and will be praying for your
I will go smiling, both on the day of my sortie and forever.
Ogawa's life story is told in detail in Danger's Hour: The Story of the
USS Bunker Hill and the Kamikaze Pilot Who Crippled Her (2008) by Maxwell
Taylor Kennedy. Ogawa was from Gunma Prefecture and attended Waseda University
in Tokyo. In the fall of 1943, he was drafted along with other liberal arts
students from top universities. He entered the 14th Class of Naval Flight
Reserve Students and received basic training at Takeyama Base near Yokosuka and
flight training at air bases at Tsuchiura and Yatabe in Ibaraki Prefecture. He became part of the Kamikaze Special Attack Corps 7th Shōwa Squadron
that sortied from Kanoya Air Base in southern Kyūshū on May 11, 1945. Ogawa
piloted the second bomb-carrying Zero fighter that crashed into Bunker Hill.
This kamikaze attack killed 393 and wounded 264, more casualties than those
inflicted by any other Japanese suicide attack.
The identity of Kiyoshi Ogawa as the pilot of the second Zero fighter to hit
Bunker Hill was determined from items taken from his remains by Robert Schock, a
Bunker Hill crewman. Schock took the following items: name tag with the Japanese
characters "kawa shōi" (Ensign ----kawa) visible, two pieces of letter paper
filled with Japanese characters, broken aviator watch, and two photographs . When
Schock passed away, his grandson, Dax Berg, found Ogawa's possessions stored
away in a box. The name tag, along with the date and time of the kamikaze attack
on Bunker Hill, turned out to be the key to identification of Ogawa
as the pilot. In March 2001, Ogawa's grandniece and her mother visited San
Francisco to receive his items from Berg.
Letter translated by Bill Gordon
1. The original Japanese letter was published
in Yasukuni Jinja 1999, 105-6.
2. Susaki 2004,
Susaki, Katsuya. 2004. Kamikaze no shinjitsu: Tokkōtai wa tero dewa nai (Kamikaze
truth: Special attack corps is not terror). Tōkyō: Kōjinsha.
Yasukuni Jinja, ed. 1999. Eirei
no koto no ha (5) (Words of the spirits of war heroes, Volume 5), pp. 105-6.
Tōkyō: Yasukuni Jinja Shamusho.