His Spirit Returns to His Mother

His Spirit Returns to His Mother

During the early dawn on March 18, 1945, Mrs. Misato Nishiyama had a dream that she clung to her son Norio and then in an instant he disappeared. Perhaps on his journey to death he became a spirit and returned to his hometown to embrace his mother.

They say that on July 30, 1943, the night before Norio Nishiyama left for Kagoshima to enter the Naval Flight Training Program, he said, "Mom, I want to sleep next to you." He quietly took her hands as he said, "Mom, I hope you'll be fine." His mother Misato says that the warmth of those soft hands still remain even now after more than fifty years have passed.

I was the youngest of six children, so I was spoiled as a child. I remember sleeping together with my mother until I entered elementary school. From Norio's position as the oldest son, he had to be patient as each day his sister and brothers born after him received affection from his mother. Then at his final parting, he probably wanted to be hugged by his mother and receive all of her affection. What dreams may the mother and son have had that night?

Dear All, I hope everyone is doing well.

Dear Grandfather,

I hope you have been doing well. Thank you for everything you did for me during my visit home. I am doing well everyday. The day is coming soon when I can engage in combat with the enemy. I will work to bring honor to our family. Please take care.

Dear Father,

Thank you for everything the other day. You must have returned home safely. I am working with high spirits. Father, I am trying hard to follow what you taught me. Please take care of Yukio's school admission and the matters of my other brothers and sister. Also, please handle their childhood schooling.  Please make sure that they do not just do all the bad things I did in middle school, so later they are not ashamed. After our parting I have not been lonely at all.

Dear Mother,

During my leave the other day, I was quite relieved to find out about everyone and to see you all are well. I did not have the least bit of sadness and worry as I could play happily with my brothers and sister. I am also glad that a mother's heart brightens Japan. Soon I will be able really to engage in combat. I enjoy just the thought of it. Also, eight people have come here from Tamana, including Mr. Yamaguchi and Mr. Makishima, so there is no need for worry. Here I stay really busy. Please think that I will be truly useful as a soldier and will bring honor to our house just like my grandfather, a soldier in the Russo-Japanese War, and my father, also a soldier. I hope that you stay well.

Dear Yukio,

Now you're on your way with your future ahead of you. Break through any large barriers. To begin with, make a charge on your school. The most important thing is your body. You will be of no use without your body. First, in place of me be good to mother and father. Second, be good friends to your sister and younger brothers. Never make Hiromitsu and Norimitsu cry. Third, study without neglecting your body. But you must be the best. Fourth, help around the house.

Dear Masako,

Please study hard. Listen carefully to what mom says, do your best in studying, and get along with Hiromitsu and Norimitsu as you play with them. Help out so Mom does not worry.

Dear Hiromitsu,

As you count five fingers, you're now in first grade, aren't you? You must be studying and listening to what Dad and Mom tell you. Play nicely with Norimitsu. Please become the class leader and make Mom happy. Take care, goodbye.

Dear Norimitsu,

You tossed me when you did sumo wrestling with me. Don't cry and be friends with your older brothers, OK? Let's do sumo wrestling again when I return. Next time I'll bring you back an American plane. Don't cause trouble for Mom.

PS - I am resolved to face difficulties with calmness until the end and to never neglect my body, so please feel at ease. As for a military sword, a short sword is fine. The other day several trainees were selected from the XXXXXXXXXX Unit of Prince Asaakira, Rear Admiral and Commander. We had the honor to be examined before him. Mother, please be happy. This moving experience encouraged me anew to keep striving to do my best. I hope everyone is doing well. Please do not worry at all about me.


(Author's note - XXXX indicates place where military censor deleted words.)

Visit by Commander Asaakira, Rear Admiral
(Background - Zero Transport Model
The inspection by Prince Asaakira Kuni is recorded as happening between March 9 and 14. After the inspection was completed, the students in the Naval Flight Training Program graduated. Norio wrote to his family while remembering the faces of each one when he left his family after his last visit. This letter was delivered on March 27, 1944, to his home in Yokoshima Village in Tamana-gun, Kumamoto Prefecture. His father says that perhaps his son wrote it on the evening of his sixteenth birthday on March 24.

Next, a postcard from Shanghai was delivered on April 16, 1944, via the Sasebo Post Office. There was also a postcard delivered on November 26 from Toyohashi Naval Air Base in Aichi Prefecture where he had been posted after completing the flight-training program. This postcard said that he was working hard in training together again with Mr. Hiroo and Mr. Yamaguchi, classmates of his at Tamana Middle School.

On March 9, 1945, a brief post card arrived from Toyohashi Air Base that said, "Since I am going to Miyazaki, I will stop by home on the way. I do not need a short sword but rather a muffler." Other than this, nothing like a last letter ever was delivered. Probably there was no time to write a last letter because a special attack unit was formed suddenly based on reports that the enemy task force was approaching Kyushu.

Our class that entered the Navy in August did not receive New Year's vacation, but we were granted a special one-week vacation at the end of February before graduating from the Flight Training Program. After this, almost nobody received formal permission for a break to return home. There were some who returned home briefly on the way from one assignment to another, but these were special cases.

New Ginga Bomber
On March 18, 1945, a Kamikaze Special Attack Corps Kikusui Ginga Unit was formed from the 262nd Air Attack Corps of the 762nd Air Group. This unit carried out body-crashing attacks with certain death on the enemy task force that had attacked on the sea southeast of Kyushu. Norio Nishiyama was selected as the crew member responsible for telegraphic communications for the plane of Lieutenant Teruo Matsunaga, commander of the Ginga Unit. At 8:07 a.m. Petty Officer Second Class Nishiyama sent the following message, "All planes attack." After this message, communications ceased.

Not being able to celebrate even his seventeenth birthday, this attack put an end to his short life. It has been recorded that these body-crashing attacks damaged the enemy aircraft carriers Enterprise and Yorktown.

         Kikusui Ginga Unit - Crew Members  
Pilot - Lieutenant Teruo Matsunaga (Yamaguchi Prefecture, 52nd Class, Navy Mechanical School)
Observer - Ensign Tetsu Katayama (Ehime Prefecture, 13th Class, Naval Reserve Training Program, Matsuyama Higher Commercial School)
Radio - Petty Officer 2nd Class Norio Nishiyama (Kumamoto Prefecture, 12th Class, Ko Flight Training Program)
1L-2  Pilot - Petty Officer 1st Class Haruo Watanabe (Ehime Prefecture, 11th Class, Hei Flight Training Program)
Observer - Chief Petty Officer Shinji Ohbayashi (Aichi Prefecture, 14th Class, Otsu Flight Training Program)
Radio - Petty Officer 2nd Class Sueichi Yanagawa (Shizuoka Prefecture, 18th Class, Otsu Flight Training Program)
2L-1  Pilot - Ensign Noboru Ogawa (Tokyo, 13th Class, Naval Reserve Training Program, Rikkyo University)
Observer - Chief Petty Officer Katsumi Hayashida (Nara Prefecture, 10th Class, Ko Flight Training Program)
Radio - Petty Officer 2nd Class Tadanao Obinata (Fukuoka Prefecture, 12th Class, Ko Flight Training Program) 
2L-2  Pilot - Petty Officer 1st Class Yutaka Aikawa (Chiba Prefecture, 10th Class, Hei Flight Training Program)
Observer - Chief Petty Officer Terushige Suemitsu (Kagoshima Prefecture, 10th Class, Ko Flight Training Program)
Radio - Petty Officer 2nd Class Kazutoshi Daigo (Kagoshima Prefecture, 12th Class, Ko Flight Training Program)
3L-1  Pilot - Lieutenant Junior Grade Akira Sakaguchi (Hyogo Prefecture, 13th Class, Naval Reserve Training Program, Kobe Higher Technical School)
Observer - Petty Officer 1st Class Takao Motokariya (Kagoshima Prefecture, 17th Class, Otsu Flight Training Program)
Radio - Warrant Officer Toshiyuki Terakado (Ibaraki Prefecture, 66th Class, Communications Training School)

On August 1, 1983, Norio's parents put up a "Monument for Devoted Service to Country" in memory of the life of their oldest son. They placed the monument in the yard where he used to play as a child. On that day fifty years earlier Norio entered the Kagoshima Naval Air Group and took one step toward the sky. The following accomplishments are engraved in the plate monument.


Born on March 24, 1928. During time as 4th-year student at Tamana Middle School, entered Kagoshima Naval Air Group on August 1, 1943, as trainee in Navy's 12th Ko Flight Training Program. At 6:28 a.m. on March 18, 1945, took off from Tsuiki Air Base in Fukuoka Prefecture in Ginga bomber with four accompanying planes as crewmember in the commander's plane to destroy large enemy fleet to east of Kyushu. At 8:07 a.m., sent last message that all planes attack, and died in suicide bombing as all planes plunged into enemy ships. For this outstanding military accomplishment, on same day granted special promotion of two grades to Naval Ensign.

      Father, Tatsumi Nishiyama, Selection of Accomplishments
      Brother-in-law, Takafumi Tokunaga, Author

Photo of Norio Nishiyama

His parents and his brothers and sisters all enjoy good health. They all, along with grandchildren, gather together on New Year's Day and the Bon Festival to pay their respects to the spirit of Norio. In exchange for his short life, he must in secret be watching over the long lives of his parents, brothers, and sister.

I sincerely hope that his parents and other members of his family will live long lives in continuing good health.

Monument for Devoted Service to Country

Translated by Bill Gordon
May 30, 2004