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Last Letter of Second Lieutenant Hiroharu Ueshima to His Parents and Older Brother

On May 25, 1945, Second Lieutenant Hiroharu [1] Ueshima took off from Bansei Air Base and died in a special (suicide) attack west of Okinawa at the age of 22. He was a member of the 433rd Shinbu Special Attack Squadron. He piloted a Type 2 Advanced Trainer in his special attack mission. After his death in a special attack, he received a two-rank promotion to Captain.

He grew up in Ōsaka Prefecture and was a student in the Law Department at Chūō University in Tōkyō Prefecture. In December 1943 as part of the student mobilization, he entered the Army's 128th Butai (Unit), an aviation communications training unit. In February 1944, he joined the 2nd Class of the Army's Special Cadet Pilots (Tokubetsu Sōjū Minarai Shikan or shortened to Tokusō) at Kumagaya Army Flying School Sagami Kyōikutai (Flying Training Wing). In July 1944, he transferred to Butai 16615 at Hakujōshi Airfield in Manchuria. In December 1944, he transferred to Butai 15354 of the 4th Rensei Hikōtai in Manchuria. In February 1945, he was appointed as Second Lieutenant.

He wrote the following final letter to his parents and his older brother who died in battle in central China on June 22, 1940. His letter includes a poem near the end.

Dear Father, Mother, and Older Brother (deceased),

Receiving life as a Japanese man, now henceforth there is no greater joy. There is no bigger moment as a man than diving into an enemy ship with a plane that I received. I am truly so very, very happy.

Whether men or women and even elderly and children, it is the time to fight a bloody battle as Special Attack Corps members. I alone will take on one or two thousand people. Please be watching. My departed Older Brother, it can be said that I will be a cheerful fellow. Soon I will meet you again at Yasukuni Shrine [2].

Father and Mother, I wanted to meet you once more but could not. I am looking at your photo. Also, will carry out a certain sinking holding your photo to my heart.

For 23 years [3] I have received great kindness from you. Excuse me for being only self-centered in many ways. However, please forgive me as I certainly will sink an enemy ship at once. Please arrange my affairs after my death.

Putting on a long sword to sink a barbarian ship
The time now has come to wield it

Please take care of Toshimi and Yoshimasa. I pray for your health.

May 19
Hiroharu

He also wrote the following death poem in tanka form (31-syllable poem with structure of 5-7-5-7-7 syllables) for his mother:

Following teachings of my mother
I go to skies of Okinawa

Hiroharu


Letter and poems translated by Bill Gordon
March 2018

The letter, poems, and biographical information on this page come from Naemura (1993, 169-70, 474).

Notes

1. The pronunciation of his given name could be Hiroji, but Hiroharu is the most common reading for the two kanji characters in his given name. The correct reading for his given name could not be confirmed.

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

3. 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. This most likely explains why the letter indicates his age as 23 whereas the background information in Naemura (1993, 169) gives his age as 22 at time of death.

Source Cited

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.