Last Letter of Ensign Tetsuo Yamada to His Family
At 1345 on April 6, 1945, Ensign Tetsuo Yamada took off
from Kushira Air Base as pilot in a Type 97 Carrier Attack Bomber (Allied code name of
Kate) carrying an 800-kg bomb. He was a member of
the Kamikaze Special Attack Corps 1st Goō Hakuro  Squadron
from Himeji Naval Air Group. He died in
a special (suicide) attack off Okinawa at the age of 25. He was from Tōkyō
Prefecture, attended Rikkyō University in Tōkyō, and was a member of the 13th
Class of the Navy's Flight Reserve Students.
He wrote the following final letter on the day of his sortie from Kushira Air
Dear Father, Mother, Mariko, Emiko, and Toshiko,
Thank you for your great kindness up to my 27 years of age .
I will fall with the cherry blossoms.
Letter translated by Bill Gordon
The letter comes from Hakuō Izokukai
(1995, 121). The biographical information in the first paragraph comes from
(1995, 121) and Osuo (2005, 221).
1. The word Goō means "protecting the Emperor."
Hakuro (白鷺), also pronounced as shirasagi, means white egret. Himeji Castle, which dates back to the 14th
century, has the name of Shirasagi Castle or Hakuro Castle. The squadron's
pronunciation of Hakuro comes from several Japanese sources including the
following article from Sankei News dated May 23, 2017: "Hakuro-tai no tokkō
ni shiryō de semaru: Himeji-shi heiwa shiryōkan de ihin nado 200-ten tenji"
(Approaching the special attacks of Hakuro Squadrons through source material:
200 objects displayed at Himeji City Peace Museum) <https://www.sankei.com/region/news/170523/rgn1705230024-n1.html>
(January 13, 2020).
2. 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 explains why the letter
indicates his age as 27 whereas the current way of counting age in Hakuō
Izokukai (1995, 121) indicates that his age was 25 at time of death.
Hakuō Izokukai (Hakuō Bereaved Families Association),
ed. 1995. Kumo nagaruru hate ni: Senbotsu kaigun hikō yobi gakusei no shuki
(To the end of the flowing clouds: Writings of Navy reserve students who
died in war). Expanded edition. Tōkyō: Kawade Shinbō Shinsha.
Osuo, Kazuhiko. 2005. Tokubetsu kōgekitai no kiroku (kaigun
hen) (Record of special attack corps (Navy)). Tōkyō: Kōjinsha.