George Hinkins was serving in the British navy in 1945, manning a gun aboard an aircraft carrier, when a kamikaze pilot flew right into him. Both Hinkins and the pilot were killed.
"He was the only person that died, but in doing so he saved the lives of his gun crew," said his grandson Mark Hinkins who lives in Walnut Creek.
It meant Hinkins, whose father was just four months old at the time, would never meet his grandfather.
"So I missed having a grandfather, my father missed having a father," Hinkins said.
September 2 marks 70 years since the end of WWII. Last month, Japanese media covered the Hinkins story as part of their coverage of the anniversary, but also found the brother of that kamikaze pilot who is still alive today.
A reporter put the two families in touch and last week, Hinkins traveled to Japan for the meeting.
"Regardless of which side of the war they were on those two men, they sacrificed their lives to defend their countries," he said about the emotional day.
Hinkins says they came together and shared stories, photos, and the pain they both felt for generations.
"Just the ability to reach out your hand and shake the hand of the brother of the pilot — it connected me to my grandfather," Hinkins said. "The 70 years just vanished and I felt for a moment I connected to that time he existed."