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Last letters of youth: Writings
of "Yokaren" war dead
(1968)

 
Last Letter of Flight Petty Officer 1st Class Yukio Saitō to His Mother

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:

Dear Mother,

At the occasion of the general attack, I present this letter.

In my life of 21 years [1], 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 history.

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 [2] when the cherry trees are blooming.

Farewell.

Yukio


Letter translated by Bill Gordon
May and November 2018

The letter comes from Unabarakai Henshū Iinkai (2006, 39). Mainichi Shinbunsha (1968, 77-8) 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 Mainichi Shinbunsha (1968, 77) and Osuo (2005, 166).

Note

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.

Sources Cited

Mainichi Shinbunsha, ed. 1968. Seishun on 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: Unabarakai.