Last Letters of Navy
Special Attack Corps (1971)
Last Letters of Lieutenant Kiyoshi Satō to His Wife
At 1245 on April 6, 1945, Lieutenant Kiyoshi Satō took off from Kushira
Air Base as pilot in a three-man Type 97 Carrier Attack Bomber (Allied code name
of Kate) carrying an 800-kg bomb. He was leader of the Kamikaze Special Attack
Corps 1st Goō Hakuro  Squadron from Himeji
Naval Air Group. The 1st Goō Hakuro Squadron had 39 men in 13 aircraft who
died in special attacks off Okinawa. Satō was from Ōita Prefecture and was
a member of the 15th Class of Pilot Trainees (Sōjū Renshūsei) who completed
training in April 1930 . He died at the age of 38.
He wrote the following two final letters to his wife:
I read with deep emotion the letter addressed to Himeji Air Group that I
received at the base on April 1.
Now there are some things to say. I earnestly believe in the permanence
 as eternal as heaven and earth. Vowing to make a
hisshi hitchū (certain-death, sure-hit) attack, I will repay the Emperor's
grace and respond to the country's kindness. I desire to further the family
name. I only will crash my plane to destroy the haughty enemy. Regarding
affairs after my death, I absolutely believe in you, and there are no words
that I must say to you.
I wrote down names below that I thought up for the baby. How do they
If a boy, Katsutoshi Satō
If a girl, Seiko Satō
Masashi and Yūko, be well. Please bring them up to be fine and gentle
I am praying for everyone's long life and prosperity. Farewell.
Preliminaries omitted. Since you always are prepared, there is nothing to
deliver to you, and there is not even anything to tell you now. The thing that I think about is that I have caused you many
troubles. There is just no excuse. Also, now I will die with you alone who
will shoulder responsibilities
based on my wishes and with my entrusting to you the children's future.
Furthermore, even though for some time I was thinking that I must write
letters to Older Brother in Hita , Watari,
Tōgenji Temple, and the families of relatives to ask them for their care in
the future, while my laziness in writing continued I went out without giving
any greetings or making any requests with my lack of correspondence just as
it was. I truly regret it, and there is no excuse for it. I will make a
sortie as I shout to the skies my apology from the bottom of my heart. I ask
that you please communicate to them my wishes.
Masashi, Yūko, and the child in the belly not yet seen, I will sacrifice
myself for the great cause of protecting the country as a man of Shinshū. I
certainly must destroy the arrogant enemy. You please focus on Mother and as
brothers and sisters get along with each other, help each other, and show
the way to each other. Have spirits with your father's aspirations, and
surely become a fine Japanese man or Japanese woman so you will not be
laughed at by others. Please grow up to be strong, proper, and cheerful
persons. Even while writing this letter, I saw an attack by enemy planes. I
am strongly indignant. I am supremely inspired that they will not win. My
blood seems to be boiling. The men who report to me and who will crash dive together with me are in
very high spirits, and they already are preparing everything. They are a
group of exceptional young men in high spirits. I, who will be at the head
of these excellent young divine hawks, am deeply moved to be able to be on
the firing line in the enemy destruction. You, Masashi, and Yūko, please
Also, my wife and children, certainly please rise up as a fine bereaved
family. I pray before the gods that Father who is the Chief Priest and
Mother will both take care of their health and live long to die a natural
death. I ask that you give my warm regards to Hatsue and her children.
Please summarize this letter for Mother in Hita, Older Brother, Older
Sister-in-law, and everyone. Please take care of your health and handle
affairs after my death. I stop writing now.
Farewell everyone, please be in high spirits. Goodbye.
Letters translated by Bill Gordon
The letters come from Matsugi
(1971, 175-7). The biographical information in the first paragraph comes from Matsugi
(1971, 175) and Osuo (2005, 220).
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 15th Class of Pilot Trainees (Sōjū
Renshūsei) had training from June 1929 to April 1930 (Hata and Izawa (1989,
3. Shinshū refers to Japan and literally means
4. Hita is a city in Ōita Prefecture.
Hata, Ikuhiko, and Yasuho Izawa. 1989. Japanese Naval Aces
and Fighter Units in World War II. Translated by Don Cyril Gorham. Originally published
in 1970 by Kantosha in Japanese. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press.
Matsugi, Fujio, ed. 1971. Kaigun tokubetsu kōgekitai no isho (Last letters of Navy Special Attack Corps).
Tōkyō: KK Bestsellers.
Osuo, Kazuhiko. 2005. Tokubetsu kōgekitai no kiroku (kaigun
hen) (Record of special attack corps (Navy)). Tōkyō: Kōjinsha.