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Continuation • Ah, Cherry
Blossoms of Same Class
(1995)

 
Last Letter of Ensign Kenji Satō to His Parents

At 0600 on May 4, 1945, Ensign Kenji Satō took off from Ibusuki Air Base as pilot in a Type 94 Reconnaissance Seaplane (Allied code name of Alf) carrying a 500-kg bomb. He was a member of the Kamikaze Special Attack Corps 1st Sakigake Squadron from Kitaura Naval Air Group in Ibaraki Prefecture. He died in a special (suicide) attack off Okinawa at the age of 21. He was from Miyagi Prefecture, attended Tōkyō University of Agriculture, and was a member of the 14th Class of the Navy's Flight Reserve Students (Hikō Yobi Gakusei).

He wrote the following final letter to his parents with a death poem at the end:

I know that it is the duty of a military man to offer himself once as a defending warrior for the country and for the Emperor, but I want to put down a few words before my sortie.

Now the Empire directly faces an unprecedented national crisis. Regarding the opportunity to carry out my commitment as a military man, I choose to do the most honorable deed even with my young life, and today I devote myself, body and soul, to become a shield for the Emperor and to live for an eternal cause.

Father and Mother, you raised me for many years with kind affection, and I was guided well until today by lessons of various teachers and those older than me. In the more than a year and a half since I entered the military in September 1943, I have considered it best to return alive at the time of an ambitious mission, but everything is fate even when there is only a one in ten thousand chance of living.

Encountering good fortune, now I have the opportunity for a sortie. My duty is heavy, and my body is light. Whether I can or cannot carry out my mission depends on nothing other than divine protection. I pray that the enemy ship and I together will have the same fate.

I pray for prosperity for the Empire and long life for the Emperor.

When going forth as a humble shield, a sea eagle not sparing his life
Ah, a heart that vows to serve the Emperor, a young cherry blossom
My name of one who fell honorably will be remembered at Yasukuni [1]

Written before sortie
At OO [2] Air Base
Kenji


Letter translated by Bill Gordon
May 2018

The letter comes from Kaigun Hikō Yobi Gakusei (1995, 53-4). The biographical information in the first paragraph comes from Kaigun Hikō Yobi Gakusei (1995, 53) and Osuo (2005, 238).

Notes

1. Yasukuni Shrine in Tōkyō is the place of enshrinement for spirits of Japan's war dead.

2. The OO indicates that the information could not be provided in correspondence to civilians, since it was considered a military secret.

Sources Cited

Kaigun Hikō Yobi Gakusei Dai 14 Ki Kai (Navy Flight Reserve Students 14th Class Association), ed. 1995. Zoku Ā dōki no sakura (Continuation Ah, cherry blossoms of same class). Tōkyō: Kōjinsha.

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