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Last Letter of Second Lieutenant Isamu Okamoto to His Parents

On April 28, 1945, Second Lieutenant Isamu Okamoto took off from Miyakonojō East Airfield as the 61st Shinbu Special Attack Squadron Leader and died in a special (suicide) attack west of Okinawa at the age of 20. He piloted an Army Hayate Type 4 Fighter (Allied code name of Frank). After his death in a special attack, he received a promotion to Captain. He was from Wakayama City and graduated from the Imperial Japanese Army Air Academy in the 57th Class.

He wrote the following final letter with the death poem of Yoshida Shōin (1830-1859) in tanka form (31-syllable poem with a syllable pattern of 5-7-5-7-7) at the end. Yoshida strongly advocated the Emperor's restoration to power, which challenged the ruling shogunate.

Dear Father and Mother,

I will fall in the southern seas as the 61st Flying Squadron Leader of the honored Special Attack Corps. When I think about it, for more than twenty years you raised me strongly with your warm affection. Now I sadly apologize for not being able to do anything during that time. Even though I courageously fall in the southern seas, my spirit forevermore will fly through the Empire's skies, and I am praying for the Empire's timeless existence. Even though I die bravely, please definitely do not mourn. Please be glad, be glad.

Now we are confronting a time of crisis for the Empire. There is nothing done by dying once bravely, but certainly I will carry through with the spirit of Dai-Nankō (Kusunoki Masashige) [1] with seven lives to serve the country. With regards to family matters, I do not have anything to say to you, but only please communicate my regards to persons in the families of the men who died under my command. I pray that you stay healthy and have a long life. I am sorry for my sloppy writing. Please forgive me.

Take care. Farewell, farewell.

Isamu

April 2

Parents' heart surpasses children's heart for parents
How will they hear the news of today?


Letter and poem translated by Bill Gordon
August 2018

The letter and poem come from Terai (1977, 19-20). The biographical information in the first paragraph comes from Chiran Tokkō Irei Kenshō Kai (2005, 197), Osuo (2005, 200), and Terai (1977, 19).

Note

1. Kusunoki Masashige was a 14th-century samurai warrior who symbolized courage and devotion to the Emperor. Dai-Nankō (or Nankō) is the honorary title given to Kusunoki Masashige.

Sources Cited

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.

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

Terai, Shunichi, ed. 1977. Kōkū Kichi Miyakonojō Hayate Tokkō Shinbutai (Miyakonojō Air Base Hayate Special Attack Shinbu Unit). Tōkyō: Genshobō.