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Continuation • Ah, Cherry
Blossoms of Same Class
(1995)

 
Last Letter of Ensign Etsuzō Yamaga to Family of Ensign Yoshikage Hatabu

Sometime between 0515 and 0550 on May 4, 1945, Ensign Etsuzō Yamaga took off from Kushira Air Base as navigator/observer in a Type 97 Carrier Attack Bomber (Allied code name of Kate) carrying an 800-kg bomb and died in a special (suicide) attack off Okinawa at the age of 22. He was a member of the Kamikaze Special Attack Corps the Hachiman Shinbu [1] Squadron from Usa Air Group. He was from Kyōto Prefecture, attended Tōkyō Imperial University in the Faculty of Law, and was a member of the 14th Class of the Navy's Flight Reserve Students (Hikō Yobi Gakusei).

He wrote the following letter after death in battle by special attack of Ensign Yoshikage Hatabu:

To Family of Ensign Hatabu,

With regards to Ensign Hatabu's work where in a decisive battle to meet the haughty enemy near the homeland in this national crisis he personally achieved an excellent battle result and died splendidly in battle, I as the person who lived together with him ever since Tokushima until the base here want to console everyone by daring to write you an unskillful letter.

It was April 27 when the long-awaited sortie order was received by him. Expecting for some time that there would be this day, he calmly received the order and silently arranged his personal belongings. I remember at the farewell party this night he was saying "drink, drink," and he poured from a one-shō (1.8-liter) bottle and filled a large cup to the brim for me.

On the following day on the 28th, at last the sortie time came. He received instructions from the commander, raised up a cup of sake, and got into his plane as calm as always. With smiles we kept to ourselves the tears about to flow, and we said that we definitely were counting on him. Speaking to him with our eyes, we gave him a send-off. Saying only that he would be fine, he went away smiling.

Since these are aircraft that do not return after departure, battle results cannot be reported later. While personally reporting his battle results in his own plane with telegraph, he made a crash dive. What we received while we were listening intently to this was a telegraphic message from his plane where he said that he was making a taiatari (body-crashing) attack on a battleship. At about 6:58 p.m. on the 28th, he was transformed into a marvelous spirit to protect the country.

Ah, the joy of destroying a large ship with one plane. As a man in the Empire and as a crewman, it was his long-cherished desire. We also shouted heartily "well done" and "congratulations."

His and others' success gave great self-confidence to us who remain behind. Even we who not have actual battle experience certainly will be able to do it and can have confidence that we surely will succeed. Getting ready for our turn that soon must come, we are making preparations spiritually and physically. At the time of our sortie, we are determined to strike the enemy just as well as he did.

Your family probably was thinking already that he died in battle. When once I wanted to pray at his mortuary tablet, he was laughing and talking. Now as a spirit to protect the country, he will be watching over the homeland's prosperity.

I felt the urge that I must relate to you his splendid end with my poor writing. I pray for everyone's health as I end writing.

Ensign Yamaga


Letter translated by Bill Gordon
January 2019

The letter comes from Kaigun Hikō Yobi Gakusei Dai 14 Ki Kai (1995, 120-2). The biographical information in the first paragraph comes from Kaigun Hikō Yobi Gakusei Dai 14 Ki Kai (1995, 120) and Osuo (2005, 219).

Note

1. Hachiman is the Japanese god of military power. Usa City in Ōita Prefecture has the first Hachiman Shrine, which was established in the early 8th century. Shinbu means "military might" in Japanese.

Sources Cited

Kaigun Hikō Yobi Gakusei Dai 14 Ki Kai (Navy Flight Reserve Students 14th Class Association), ed. 1995. Zoku Ā dōki no sakura (Continuation Ah, cherry blossoms of same class). Tōkyō: Kōjinsha.

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