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Kiyoshi Ogawa

 
Last Letter to Parents
from Ensign Kiyoshi Ogawa

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 [1]:

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 happiness.

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 grew up in 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 Showa Squadron that sortied from Kanoya Air Base in southern Kyushu 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 shoi" (Ensign ----kawa) visible, two pieces of letter paper filled with Japanese characters, broken aviator watch, and two photographs [2]. 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
June 2010

Notes

1. The original Japanese letter was published in Yasukuni Jinja 1999, 105-6.

2. Susaki 2004, 164.

Sources Cited

Susaki, Katsuya. 2004. Kamikaze no shinjitsu: Tokkoutai wa tero dewa nai (Kamikaze truth: Special attack corps is not terror). Tokyo: Kojinsha.

Yasukuni Jinja, ed. 1999. Eirei no koto no ha (5) (Words of the spirits of war heroes, Volume 5), pp. 105-6. Tokyo: Yasukuni Jinja Shamusho.