Delayed Legacy: A Son's Amazing Search for the Full Story of His Father's Death After D-Day

When the infant Conrad Netting received his late father's Air Medal in a military ceremony in February 1945, it seemed to close the book on yet another tragedy of World War II. But what appeared to be closure was only a pause. Katherine Netting became part of the silent generation, speaking little of the deep anguish left by her husband's death when his fighter plane crashed in Normandy four days after D-Day. Married the year before, Lt. Conrad John Netting III had so hoped the baby due in a month would be a boy that he had Conjon IV painted near the nose of his P-51. After Katherine Netting died in 1993, a footlocker turned up, carefully packed with wartime records and mementos that provided her son with almost as many questions as answers.

He had pieced much of the story together by the time a large envelope arrived from France. The sender hoped that Conrad might be related to a Lieutenant Netting who was credited with saving the writer's village. A memorial was planned, but villagers knew little of the pilot. An exchange of phone calls and e-mails quickly followed. The letter writer's father was the son of the village carpenter, who had pulled the pilot's body from the plane and built his coffin against the strict orders of the German Army. The parish priest conducted a secret funeral. There was more. Assured a French newspaper covering the subsequent dedication of a monument: "This is not a fable, but a true story." This book is a compelling real-life reminder that the human story is not over when a war ends.