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Last Letters of Second Lieutenant Satao Watanabe to His Parents

On April 12, 1945, Second Lieutenant Satao Watanabe took off from Bansei Air Base as a member of the 104th Shinbu Special Attack Squadron and died in a special (suicide) attack at the age of 23. He piloted an Army Type 99 Assault Plane (Allied nickname of Sonia). After his death in a special attack, he received a two-rank promotion to Captain. He was from Niigata Prefecture, attended Takaoka Commercial College [1], and was a member of the 1st Class of the Army Special Cadet Pilot Training Program.

He wrote the following final letter:

Dear Parents and Everyone,

I trust that you have been doing well.

Now I have been selected to become a member of the Special Attack Corps. I am joyful since nothing surpasses this as a long-cherished desire of a young man.

In my more than 20 years I truly have done little for you. I believe that you will praise my sortie as my last filial piety. I have absolutely nothing to ask for myself.

I will pray for the health of you, Yoshirō, Mutsuo, and Naruko.

Day that I stepped foot on mainland for sortie
April 7, 1945
Satao

Watanabe wrote the following death poem in tanka form (31-syllable poem with lines of 5-7-5-7-7 syllables):

My life
Today with honor
Tomorrow a ship
Will be sunk in the deep
For the Emperor in His place

April 11, 1945
Satao

He wrote the following letter dated in January 1945, three months before the 104th Shinbu Special Attack Squadron was formed in early April 1945 [2].

Dear Parents,

- You cannot be sad about my death. Please believe that I went to my death gladly in the midst of great honor.

- Although it is painful and heart-breaking, happily bear it through in good spirits as you were brought up. As letters sent to me sometimes by Mother, for more than 20 years until the end I was a person full of life with enthusiasm.

- After I am gone, there is not one thing of mine to worry about with regards to such things as money and women.

- Mother and Father, I pray after you have lost my older brother and me that you will live in good health.

January 1945
In Jinzhou, Manchuria
Satao

He also wrote the following statement:

My Self

- I will be in a needed place.
- I will live as a needed person.
- I will die as a needed person.

In Jinzhou, Manchuria
Satao Watanabe


Letters and poem translated by Bill Gordon
March 2018

The letters, poem, and other information on this page come from Naemura (1993, 139-40, 474).

Notes

1. Chiran Tokkō Irei Kenshō Kai 2005, 177.

2. Osuo 2005, 203.

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.