The Last Flight of Lieutnant Estill
Author: Kay Siering
Arlington Cemetery, October 2006. A pilot’s coffin is lowered into a grave. His tearful daughter watches. It is the end of a love story and a mystery that began in the final months of World War Two.
In April 1945, a mother in Iowa writes to her husband about their new baby girl. Lt. Shannon Estill is stationed in Europe as a fighter pilot, attacking Nazi targets in the last months of the war. Despite being just 22, he is a skilled pilot and well respected by his comrades. During the next weeks his wife Mary sends letters every day about their new born baby. She’s certain that he’s coming back.
Tragically, she’s wrong. On April 13th, 1945, a German 88-mm projectile tears through the fuselage of Estill’s P38 Lightning. The plane crashes to the ground, the pilot dies. Mary will never touch her beloved husband again.
But her daughter will. In 2005 Sharon Taylor-Estill travels to Germany to solve the mystery of her father’s disappearance. She is determined to find his plane and his remains. Her search began forty years ago. When she turned 21 she was given the letters her father wrote to her mother during the war. They are a touching collection of love letters. Through the letters she meets her father when he was her age. Sharon vows that she will find her father and do what her mother could not – she will bring him home.
The Last Flight of Lieutenant Estill is a story about the power of love and finding closure. We follow Sharon as she starts the search for her father’s remains in Germany. From US Army documents she learns that her father’s P38 was shot down over East Germany, off limits to Americans at that time. In 1989, when the Berlin Wall falls, Sharon travels to Germany. With the help of a German archeologist, specialized in locating lost WWII planes, she finds the exact location where her father’s plane was shot down.
Sharon’s discovery sets the machinery of the US military in motion. From Hawaii, a recovery team of the “Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command” (JPAC) embarks on a journey to East Germany. This taskforce is in action around the globe, and its job is to “bring the boys home”. After six days the excavation unit makes its first find: small, rounded pieces of bone, clearly of human origin. But are they really the remains of Lt. Shannon Estill?
To match the DNA the remains are taken to Hawaii – home of the world’s largest forensic laboratory. Using state of the art technology, the scientists manage to clearly identify the remains of Lieutenant Estill. The bones are his. Sharon has found her father and can finally lay him to rest at Arlington Cemetery. Dad has finally come home.
year of production: 2007