Last letters of youth: Writings
of "Yokaren" war dead (1968)
Last Letter of Flight Petty Officer 1st Class Yukio Saitō to His
At 0505 on May 11, 1945, Flight Petty Officer 1st Class Yukio Saitō took off
from Kanoya Air Base as pilot in a Zero fighter carrying a 500-kg bomb
and died in a special (suicide) attack off Okinawa at the age of 18. He was a member
of the Kamikaze Special Attack Corps 6th Shinken Squadron from Ōmura Naval
Air Group. He was from Miyagi Prefecture and was a member of the 18th Otsu Class
of the Navy's Yokaren (Preparatory Flight Training Program).
Saitō wrote the following final letter:
At the occasion of the general attack, I present this letter.
In my life of 21 years , finally it has
come about that I can participate in going to a fine place.
Please be glad.
I will go to die bravely for a great cause in the eternal 3,000-year
I certainly will do it.
Wearing a hachimaki (headband) with a red circle on front, please
imagine my figure as I go to fall in a taiatari (body-crashing)
attack on an enemy ship wrapped in flames like a counter-squall.
I have no regrets.
There only will be banzai cheers.
Please enjoy good health forever and ever.
Mother, certainly please come to Yasukuni Shrine 
when the cherry trees are blooming.
Letter translated by Bill Gordon
May and November 2018
The letter comes from Unabarakai Henshū Iinkai (2006, 39). Mainichi Shinbunsha
(1968, 137) has an abridged version of the letter that contains only about a
quarter of the contents with no mention that it has been shortened. The biographical information in the first paragraph comes from
(1968, 137) and Osuo (2005, 166).
1. 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. Between the traditional and
modern way of counting age, there can be at most a two year difference, so it is
not known why the letter gives his age as 21 years whereas Mainichi Shinbunsha
(1968, 77) and Unabarakai Henshū Iinkai (2006, 39) give his age as 18. Perhaps
the age at death indicated by the two sources is incorrect.
2. Yasukuni Shrine in Tōkyō is the place of
enshrinement for spirits of Japan's war dead.
Mainichi Shinbunsha, ed. 1968. Seishun no isho: "Yokaren"
senbotsusha no shuki (Last letters of youth: Writings of "Yokaren" war
dead). Tōkyō: Mainichi Shinbunsha.
Osuo, Kazuhiko. 2005. Tokubetsu kōgekitai no kiroku (kaigun
hen) (Record of special attack corps (Navy)). Tōkyō: Kōjinsha.
Unabarakai Henshū Iinkai (Unabarakai Editing
Committee). 2006. Kaigun hikō yoka renshūsei
isho • iei • ikōshū (2) (Last letters, poems,
and writings of Navy Preparatory Flight Trainees (2)). Tōkyō: