The Lost Pilot: A Memoir

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Penguin Books, 2013 - Fathers and sons - 319 pages
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On 6 April 1945, a Japanese kamikaze pilot breaks cloud at 3,000 feet, near the island of Ishigaki. He plunges his Suisei divebomber into a fatal dive at the Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious. On the signals deck, Chief Petty Officer W. T. Holman sees him coming - he has just seconds to live. Intense and accurate fire from the ship blows the plane off course; it crashes into the sea. Its 1,000-pound bomb explodes beside the great ship in the nearest of near-misses.
Later in life, Jeffrey Paparoa Holman begins to ask questions: Why did his father live and that pilot die? Who was the pilot and did he have any family who survived him? What was the meaning of such an odds-against moment of war?
The answers lead Jeffrey into the heart of a troubled relationship with his father, combat veteran, alcoholic and problem gambler; into his past and his wartime marriage; to the names and faces of the six kamikaze who died that day in 1945; and, in 2011, to miraculous and deeply moving meetings with Japanese brothers of those aircrew, old men who welcome him into their homes like a long-lost family member.
A unique and beautifully written book - part memoir, part history, part travelogue - The Lost Pilot charts a gripping journey of discovery and reconciliation. It stands as testimony to the power of memory and the persistence of grief in the wake of war's faceless cruelties.
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