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Last Letter of Captain Kenichi Shibuya to His Children

On June 11, 1945, Captain Kenichi Shibuya took off from Bansei Air Base as leader of the 64th Shinbu Special Attack Squadron (also known as Kokka Squadron) and died in battle west of Okinawa at the age of 30. He piloted a Type 99 Assault Plane (Allied code name of Sonia). After his death in a special (suicide) attack, he received a two-rank promotion to Lieutenant Colonel. He was from Yamagata Prefecture and was in the 22nd Class of the Army's Second Lieutenant Cadets.

He wrote the following final letter to his daughter Noriko and to his child who was not yet born:

To my beloved children
To Noriko and my dear child to be born

Now truly is a crisis for the Empire. As for the country's fate, it will be decided by only one aerial victory or defeat. The mainland will be in danger if our wings are broken. The Yamato people with their 3,000-year history may vanish forever from the Earth.

Following the great achievements of my seniors, I absolutely must provide protection for my beloved descendants. In this way it has been settled for the Empire that the entire air force, especially all crewmen, certainly may die in 1945 during this season of cherry blossoms.

Father has been selected as a squadron commander. I will take the lead in the decisive battle together with 11 squadron members who are young cherry blossoms not even 20 years old.

Thinking that there is a way to win a war without dying is the shallow idea of ordinary men. With it settled that we certainly will die, we will participate in a general attack of the entire military against the enemy, and only the gods know whether we will win or lose in the current war situation. It truly is an extreme national  crisis.

Even though Father dies, it is not dying. I will live for an eternal cause.

1 - You should not become lonely children. You do not know if Mother will be there. When Father was young, I lost my parents to illness, but I grew up without losing my cheerfulness at all. Still more, when you hear that I went to battle and died heroically, you should be glad as a child of Japan.

When you miss me, look at the sky. I, who will be riding on the white clouds floating in the sky, always will greet you with a smile.

2 - Grow up obediently.

Even though we fight and win, the national crisis will not go away. Until peace appears in the world and happiness is enjoyed by all people in the land, it is important for you to study hard.

You two be friends, and together with Mother worship Father's ancestors. Living cheerfully will be the greatest act of filial piety to me.

As a flight officer, Father is glad in his heart about his honorable mission. I will be a kamikaze (divine wind) that will bring about a true spring in Shinshū [1].

Always be grateful for the Emperor's grace. As the world changes, do not ever forget your spirit of loyalty and filial piety.

3 - While Father was in this world, your Mother was truly good. Even though there are many wives of flight officers, there are few persons compared to her who are as determined as a Japanese woman. Father always has appreciation for her. My one regret is that there truly were few chances to make Mother happy when I have been so busy during the war. When you have grown, you should show filial piety to Mother for my part. This is Father's request.

Now there is no limit to the number of boys and girls who have lost their fathers and mothers when their houses were burned in large cities due to enemy aircraft bombings. When I think about that, I am extremely heartbroken. You are cherished by Mother, Grandfather, and Grandmother, and you should not forget to grow up truly happy. Although there are many things that I have written, when you grow older, I desire that you listen well to Mother, understand her hardships, and definitely do not be disobedient.

Shibuya also wrote the following final letter with a death poem near the end. Enclosed within the letter were the collected wages from all of the 64th Shinbu Squadron members.

To students and schoolchildren in my home prefecture of Yamagata,

Everyone, we are members of the Army Special Attack Corps Shinbu Unit. Realizing our desire that we had for a long time, at last it has come about that we will make a sortie. There is no greater honor as military men than to be able to serve for the Emperor and for the Empire of Japan.

Everyone, you realize very well that this war is a long fight.

Also, you understand well that standing up to bear on your shoulders the future Japan is your concern. We can go to fall gladly on behalf of the country as the Special Attack Corps, since we firmly believe that many of you all will follow after us. As for you now, you certainly can do it. There have not been young citizens as strong as you in Japanese history. Please train always your healthy bodies and become persons with a splendid Japanese spirit.

Up to now we often have received kind items of comfort from everyone's friends. At each of those times all unit members were happy with tears. We were more and more firmly determined saying, "Good certainly will continue." We young cherry blossoms who have bloomed in the Empire's storm will fall splendidly in the southern seas as we are smiling. The things that we strongly feel until this end are thankfulness for the Emperor's grace and those kind faces of our fathers and mothers. The idea of loyalty and filial piety joined together in one is only in our Japan. Everyone, work hard at your daily studies to become fine Japanese persons. It is loyalty and filial piety to the Emperor and your parents.

When I go to skies, a corpse that colors clouds
Reflecting on dying for the Emperor

Falling as a shield for the Emperor is truly enjoyable. We truly saw the strength of Japan in the figures and faces of the mothers who sent off the young unit members.


Letters translated by Bill Gordon
January 2019

The letters come from Naemura (1993, 182-4). The biographical information in the first paragraph comes from Chiran Tokkō Irei Kenshō Kai (2005, 160), Naemura (1993, 182), and Osuo (2005, 200).

Note

1. Shinshū refers to Japan and literally means "divine land."

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.

Naemura, Hichirō. 1993. Rikugun saigo no tokkō kichi: Bansei tokkōtaiin no isho to isatsu (Army's last special attack base: Last letters and photographs of Bansei special attack corps members). Ōsaka: Tōhō Shuppan.

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