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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. Please click here to ask a question
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  • Seller location: Waitakere, Auckland, NZ

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