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In April 1934 Ichiro Hirata, the son of a poor farmer, enters the Naval Academy at Etajima. Annoyed by the petty rules of the Academy, Hirata concentrates instead on his studies. When the attempted coup d'état of 26 February 1936 takes place, Hirata sympathizes with the young officers who want to change the government, because he himself once wanted to be a reform politician. Hirata's mother falls ill just as the Sino-Japanese War breaks out, but he refuses to leave the Academy in a time of national emergency. Eventually he graduates at the top of his class and goes home for the first time--to visit his mother's grave. Hirata becomes a Navy pilot, participating in many battles during the Pacific war. However, in the spring of 1943, after the tide has turned against the Japanese, Hirata is assigned to escort the bomber in which Admiral Yamamoto, the Commander-in-chief of the Japanese Combined Fleet, is riding. Both planes are shot down by the Allies.