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For more than six decades, Kazuo Odachi had a secret: At the age of 17, he became a kamikaze pilot, one of thousands of young Japanese men tasked to give their lives in last-ditch suicide missions near the end of World War II.

As he built a family and a career as a Tokyo police officer, he kept his secret from virtually everyone, even his wife, who knew only that he had served as a Japanese Navy pilot. The experience, he felt, would be too hard to explain to a society that mostly viewed the kamikaze as maniacal zealots who volunteered for an unthinkable sacrifice.

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