Last Letters of Corporal Yōji Umemura to His Parents
On April 16, 1945, Corporal Yōji Umemura took off from Bansei Air Base as a
member of the 75th Shinbu Special Attack Squadron and died in a special
(suicide) attack at the age of 20. He piloted a Type 99 Assault Plane (Allied
code name of Sonia). After his death in a special attack, he received a
promotion to Second Lieutenant.
Umemura was from Tōkyō Prefecture. In September 1943, he left the Army Artillery School and joined the 14th Class of the Inba
Flight Training School, where he graduated in March 1944. He then went to the Sendai Flight Training School
and finished there in July 1944.
On April 7, 1945, four members including the commander of the 75th Shinbu Special Attack Squadron
died in a special attack after taking off from Bansei Air Base. On April 12,
another four members of the 75th Shinbu Squadron died in a special attack. On
April 13, another squadron member died in a special attack. On April 16, Umemura
took off in a single plane from his squadron and died in a special attack.
He wrote the following final letter:
Excuse me for writing hastily.
On the morning of April 6, I took off in my plane with my unit from this
place in Kagoshima. I flew up, said farewell to the mainland, and reached OO
 Island. Since the weather was bad (poor
visibility), I swallowed my tears and returned. Also on the 7th, 8th, 9th,
10th, and 11th, weather was bad as it was raining, and the departure was
postponed to the 12th. During this time the woman who is the innkeeper at
Shōwakan Inn  at this address provided us with
superlative care. She is a thin and kind person like you Mother, and she
looked after us in many ways. Father and Mother, please send her a letter of
Today we took a photo . This being a photo
of my last sortie, it is a figure that already has passed far beyond
consideration of life and death. Living, I could not meet with you. In
death, I surely will come to where you are, Father, Mother, Machiko, and
Seishi. Take good care of yourselves.
I will make a splendid taiatari (body-crashing) attack on an enemy ship
with the photo of you Father and Mother, Yotchan, Seishi, Machiko, and Older
As soon as this photo is developed, the innkeeper will send it to you.
Evening of April 11, 1945
Photograph taken of 75th Shinbu Squadron members and
Izumi Nanbu, son of Shōwakan Inn innkeeper (April 11,1945).
Left to right front row: Sakai, Nanbu, Onoda, Shimamura.
Left to right back row: Shimabukuro, Umemura, Iwata.
He wrote the following letter on the day before his final sortie:
Again it is painful to write such a letter. Pardon my messy writing. The
reason is that I survived after the last letter. Two of us remained behind
due to the poor condition of the planes at the time of the sortie. My
comrades already made taiatari (body-crashing) attacks. Full of
disappointment, I envy the gods of heaven. I talk together with my friend
Watanabe , as we console each other, as to why we
could not die together with our squadron commander and other comrades.
Tomorrow when the time comes I will be full of joy.
This home  has provided me much care while
alive. The mother here has looked after me in place of you Mother. The father and
everyone else also in one way or the other provide exceptional care.
During my period of living, I could not meet with you Father, Mother,
Machiko, and Seishi, but when I came to this house I have been full of joy
as it makes me feel like I am at home. The reason why I want to write this
letter on the day before my death is so that I can ask that you Mother
please send a letter of thanks.
The farming people in this house are devoted to kindness. I intensely
remember my hometown as I recall you Father, Mother, Machiko, and Seishi,
which gives me solace. I am satisfied and certainly will accomplish my
mission. Finally, Machiko, there will be responsibility on your shoulders. I
will rely on you.
April 15, 1945
Umemura wrote the following farewell poem:
In white wooden box
I will go
Special Attack Corps member
A white wooden box was how the Japanese military usually delivered the
remains of war dead to their families. In the case of kamikaze pilots, the
remains such as fingernails or hairs from the head would often be prepared in
advance. There are also cases where the white box would arrive at the family's
home with no remains. Umemura describes the box with only cotton inside. Kudan
Hill is the location in Tōkyō of Yasukuni Jinja, Japan's national shrine to
honor the spirits of soldiers killed in battle.
Letters and poem translated by Bill Gordon
The letters, poem, and other information on this page come from Naemura
(1993, 127-9, 474) and Osuo (2005, 202).
1. Certain information such as details of place
names would not be included or would be censored in correspondence to civilians.
2. Shōwakan Inn was the home of Masu Nanbu in
3. The photograph of six 75th Shinbu Squadron
members together with the son of the innkeeper Masu Nanbu was taken on April 11,
1945, at Sakashita Photography Studio in front of Kaseda Train Station.
4. Iwao Watanabe survived the war and become the
head of Kushiro Airport in the postwar period.
5. This refers to Shōwakan Inn, which Umemura
described in his prior letter dated April 11, 1945.
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
Osuo, Kazuhiko. 2005. Tokubetsu kōgekitai no kiroku (rikugun hen)
(Record of special attack corps (Army)). Tōkyō: Kōjinsha.