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Although my life comes to
end in sky: Collection of
last writings of Hisao Yamashita
in Kamikaze Special Attack
Corps 2nd Seitō Squadron

(2006)

 
Last Writings of Ensign Hisao Yamashita

At 1534 on April 28, 1945, Ensign Hisao Yamashita took off from Kokubu No. 2 Air Base and died in a special (suicide) attack near Okinawa at the age of 22. He was a member of the Kamikaze Special Attack Corps 2nd Seitō Squadron from Hyakurihara Naval Air Group. He flew as radioman/gunner in a Type 99 Carrier Dive Bomber (Allied code name of Val) carrying a 250-kg bomb. He was from Hyōgo Prefecture, attended Kwansai Gijuku University in Hyōgo Prefecture to study law, and was a member of the 14th Class of the Navy's Flight Reserve Students (Hikō Yobi Gakusei).

The 2nd Seitō Squadron was formed on April 11, 1945, and Yamashita wrote the following two diary entries after this date:

April 12, 1945

It is the second day since assignment as a Special Attack Cops member to a flight unit that will make a sortie. I wrote a letter to both Father and Mother. I am ending this short diary also.

Today I attended a farewell party held by the Commanding Officer and Flight Commander, and the Commanding Officer himself poured sake into my cup. This morning after looking at the flight lunch box, I did not have hardly any appetite. It is not without reason that a person who is facing death loses his desires.

Today my friends wished me the best with men's tears.

Ensign Tanaka took a photo of me in my last flight suit. Moreover, my parents also surely will be glad to see it.

The other day I was allowed a final leave, and I went to Ishioka by car. I returned from Ishioka after about two hours, and I arranged my luggage and wrote a letter to Father and Mother. I excused myself for not having free time to write something that I should write to my relatives. I earnestly requested that they do it for me after I die.

Today the plane that I will fly and crash in was decided, and my pair also was decided. I am observer in the 3rd Shōtai (Section) Commander's plane of the 1st Chūtai (Squadron). The pilot is Lieutenant Junior Grade Gotō. Today I did a test flight with the person who will die together with me. It was the first flight of my life in a carrier dive bomber. Will today be the last day?

Among those of us in the Flight Preparatory class who joined in December of the year before last, I and one other person will lead the carrier dive bomber sorties. Is it because in navigation I have been able to do well in this period, and also is my radio communication excellent? After joining the Navy, since I worked diligently, I have been a person with a good record.

My plane will make a sortie tomorrow.

April 13, 1945

As my friends are weeping in their hearts, I now will go.

I am wearing the fundoshi (loincloth) that Mother knit and sent to me at Ōi, and I also put on new underwear. I will wear my best Type 1 naval uniform. I have also Shōichi's photos.

I am only praying for the health of everyone in our hometown.

At 12:00 today I will go and advance. Will I make a crash attack tonight or tomorrow?

I read the last letter from Older Sister many times.

Thank you. I sincerely appreciate you forever. Going without seeing news that the baggage had been received from the family troubled me a little, but it is not a big thing.

Since I heard that we will try to fly from early this morning, I already have changed into my flight suit. Now it is 0412 in the morning. My clothing includes flight boots with a new flight suit. I will go with the senninbari (thousand-stitch belt) from Aunt Sakamoto and the muffler that Mother sent to me.

Toshiko, I received your silk muffler. In its place, since I am enclosing another one that is a little dirty and that I received from my unit, please use it for something. This has not been worn except for four or five times.

From early in the morning there were roars that seemed to be from test flights.

Well, now I will go aboard a Type 99 Carrier Bomber.

Everybody, I earnestly pray for your great happiness.

Here I will stop my writing. Farewell.

Being first
Enemy ship
When struck
Mind thinking
Be calm

Father and Mother, do not cry for me. Thank you for the many things you did for me.

Brothers and Sisters, farewell. I am going.

He wrote the following final letter to his father that is referred to in his diary entry above dated April 12, 1945:

Dear Father,

I am about to go while praying for your great happiness and long life.

Please forgive me for my usual lack of filial piety.

You raised me and went through a lot with my ill health from my early childhood. I sincerely appreciate the fruits of your labor that allowed me to be able to attend middle school and university though not from a rich family. I can remember that when I was young you gave me rides on your shoulders and you went through the fields on the paths. I did not do anything at all to give you comfort, and I was not able to take care of you in your peaceful later years. I am sorry.

As your son, I am about to die in the sea to the southwest for His Majesty while chanting homage to Amida Buddha. Father, after I die, I believe that Toshiyoshi will take over after me and demonstrate filial piety.

From Kudan [1] I will be praying that Toshiyoshi and Toshiko have a long life. I will do it with sincerity. According to your words I was selected to the Special Attack Corps. I go praying for your great happiness.

Father, please pray for my glorious departure to the battle front. I certainly will destroy completely the stubborn enemy.

I will go while I earnestly hope for great happiness for the Yamashita Family.

Now I will bid farewell.

Hisao

He wrote the following final letter to his mother that is referred to in his diary entry above dated April 12, 1945:

Dear Mother,

Since you have been in very good health, I am very happy in my heart.

I have not been able to see you since we met last year, but I have been selected and will depart for the front. Mother, this is the last letter to you.

From the time when I was very young, it was inexcusable that I pushed you too hard.

I always caused you worries. Now I simply apologize to you in the midst of tears.

When I die in battle, I will go with the muffler that I received from you, the prayer beads that I received at Honganji Temple, Grandmother's prayer beads, the senninbari (thousand-stitch belt) given to me by Sakamoto, and Shōichi's photograph. After I am not here, do not overwork yourself, and also tell father to pay attention sufficiently to his health. Please live a peaceful old age.

Knowing about your excessive work and the sacrifices that everyone made for my school expenses, there are not even any words for me to say.

Since I think that Shōichi now is gone and has become a spirit, I pray and believe by God that you will receive filial piety from Toshiyoshi and Toshiko. My current mental state is such that there are no cares at all and no uneasiness. From that attitude I will not stop praying for great happiness for you and Father.

As you taught me, I am expressing my homage to Amida Buddha that is our family's tradition from our ancestors.

Toshiko sent to me a cherry blossom from Inatomi, and I will bloom like that flower.

I will always be with you to assist you while chanting the name of Buddha.

Mother, I will stop writing here. Please pay attention to your health. Please welcome filial piety that you receive from Toshiyoshi. I will hit an enemy ship while believing that Toshiyoshi certainly will carry out my wishes in his own manner as your son.

Mother, here I will stop writing, and please take care of your health.

Mother, I say farewell while calling Amida Buddha.

Mother, I who went to my death thinking of you ask that you please chant a prayer to Buddha when you think of me.

Give my regards to everyone. Homage to Amida Buddha.

Hisao

At Hyakurihara Air Base, he wrote the following last letter to his father on April 14, 1945:

I trust that you have been getting along without any changes. Please rest assured since I also am working hard every day in very good health as I enjoy the spring atmosphere. In the newspapers it is said that it appears the barley is not doing very well, but how is yours doing? I imagine that cherry trees below the shrine area are blooming and that you can view the beautiful trees at Mukaiyama. Thinking that Toshiyoshi already started school and has started to walk to school in high spirits, I pray that he will be healthy.

Here it has become the season of buds that truly are trying to bloom, and it seems I can catch sight of flowers that have opened among them.

Has there not been any letters at all afterwards from Shōichi? At this time I am living while thinking of how he is doing. When I look at his photograph, I really feel sorry for him. It would have been good to go often when I asked him to go with me to the beach on a spring day. However, I remember that the times that we went together were few. I only pray that he is working hard in good health.

Has the baggage been delivered that was sent a while ago by a person named Kanaya? He sent it to our home last month on the 16th.  Inside are some clothes, and some things of Ensign Hayashi are also inside. If it is not there yet, please go to Aboshi Station and inquire about it. Since it is very late, I am worried. Since it concerns me that I have a friend's things inside, please try all possible means and search for it. Also, I request that you handle the matter of the money.

Toshiyoshi also had been writing to me, but the Great Teacher has drawn near. Please strive to pay attention sufficiently to your health. Please take care especially of your eyes and give my regards to Mother. Anyway, this is the news.

On April 15, 1945, he wrote the following letter at Hyakurihara Air Base to his family:

I trust that you have been getting along well lately without changes. I also am going in good health, so please rest assured.

I am going as I earnestly pray for great happiness for my parents. Mother, take care. Father, especially please watch out carefully. Toshiyoshi and the others also are doing well, making friends, and getting older in a splendid way. The last letters that I received were one a few days ago from Toshiko and one from Older Sister Sakamoto.

Since Toshiyoshi started junior high school and is doing increasingly well, I am happy in my heart. The day when I will dive into the enemy is getting near, and surely I pledge firmly to pulverize the enemy. I have not sent letters to our relatives. Please do so for me.

Anyway, this is the news. I will go praying for your great happiness. Parents, Brothers, and Sisters, farewell.


Ensign Hisao Yamashita

Yamashita wrote the following postcard dated April 24, 1945, at Kokubu No. 2 Air Base:

Dear Mother,

I was selected and came to this base. The day is approaching when I will strike an enemy ship. I pray only for your great happiness. The Empire's crisis now is not unexpected. I put on the prayer beads and muffler from you, and gladly I intend to attack praying for great happiness for everybody. Since Toshiyoshi also is doing well and started junior high school, I can go feeling comfortable. I pray that you will have a long life by taking sufficient care of yourself. I end my farewell note as I am moved to tears at your great kindness.

From Hisao

In April 1945 at Kokubu No. 2 Air Base, he wrote the following undated letter to his father. The letter includes three poems in tanka form (31-syllable poem with lines of 5-7-5-7-7 syllables).

I was able to write again today and am praying only for great happiness for you and everyone. You know about the receipt of baggage that was sent by Kanaya during the morning of the 16th of last month, and please search for it if not yet received. Please search for it thinking that it is me. Also, it is expected that Ensign Tanaka or Ensign Iijima will send a bag from Hyakurihara. With the enemy nearby, I am waiting for the order and hope only to make a hissatsu (certain-death) fierce attack. We all who are about to go to lead the vanguard only desire success and security for the Empire. Thank you for what you have done for me. Give my warmest regards to all of our relatives.

When I pass over the mountain range of Izu
Maybe a spirit or maybe a mountain, Fuji is approaching

What of this friend from long ago I could meet miraculously
Today my life will come to an end

In garden today also windmill palm flowers bloom
Mother, please think of me, I can think of you

Father and Mother, please enjoy good health. I am about to go happily. I am fighting hard while I am wearing the string of prayer beads and the senninbari (thousand-stitch belt) that reflect your hearts.

Toshiko and Toshiyoshi, please be well and attend to our parents. I am happy to be able to write this letter. It seems like one day is a long time. Yoshinori too, work hard. Now I give you my farewell. I am praying for everyone's great happiness. There is no need to reply.

On April 27, 1945, he wrote several poems that were sent to his family including the following one:

In special attack
My body will be broken
Like huge blaze
Coloring the sea

At Kokubu No. 2 Air Base on the day of Hisao Yamashita's sortie on April 28, 1945, he wrote the following postcard to his family. The postcard included a tanka poem.

The awaited day, which I have been thinking about for a long time, has come. Now I will make a sortie. I go while earnestly praying for great happiness for Father and Mother.

While gazing at my last full moon, I thought of my hometown and prayed for everyone's great happiness. I who will fall in the sea around the Nansei Islands will go with tears for the persons who devotedly showed me great kindness. Please tell the villagers and close relatives that I went with appreciation for their great kindness during my lifetime.

With Mother's hand-made muffler wrapped around me
Child who is about to fall is happy

I was happy. Everyone, please be well. I am going.


Writings translated by Bill Gordon
August 2019

The writings come from Yamashita (2006, 82-94, 141-5, 246-7). The biographical information in the first paragraph comes from Kaigun Hikō Yobi Gakusei Dai 14 Ki Kai (1966, 185) and Osuo (2005, 223).


Kamikaze Special Attack Corps 2nd Seitō Squadron
with Ensign Hisao Yamashita on second row at far right

Note

1. Kudan is a hill in Tōkyō where Yasukuni Jinja (Shrine) is located. Yasukuni Jinja is Japan's national shrine to honor spirits of soldiers killed in battle.

Sources Cited

Kaigun Hikō Yobi Gakusei Dai 14 Ki Kai (Navy Flight Reserve Students 14th Class Association), ed. 1966. Ā dōki no sakura: Kaerazaru seishun no shuki (Ah, cherry blossoms of same class: Writings of youth that would not return). Tōkyō: Mainichi Shinbunsha.

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

Yamashita, Naoaki. 2006. Waga inochi sora ni hatsuru tomo: Kamikaze tokubetsu kōgekitai daini Seitō tai Yamashita Hisao ikōshū (Although my life comes to end in sky: Collection of last writings of Hisao Yamashita in Kamikaze Special Attack Corps 2nd Seitō Squadron). Tōkyō: Bungeisha.