Undoubtedly, the most famous Japanese
aircraft of all time, the Mitsubishi Zero was considered
the best fighter in the Pacific Theatre until mid-1943.
It participated in the attack on Pearl Harbor on
December 7, 1941, which brought the United States into
World War II. The
aircraft was very maneuverable and had a range of over
1000 miles when first produced.
As the war progressed, the aircraft began to suffer
because of its lack of self-sealing fuel tanks and armor
protection for its pilots. Japanese aircraft suffered
terrible losses at the battles of midway and the Coral
Sea. Particularly devastating for the Japanese was at Rabaul in
the New Britain island chain in November of 1943, where
the U.S. Navy destroyed 123 Zeros out of 175 in a two-week
were losses, in both aircrews and aircraft, from which
the Japanese would never recover.
Despite its drawbacks, the Zero soldiered on as
the mainline defensive fighter for Japan.
As the situation became more desperate for Japan,
the Zero became the most numerous of the Kamikaze aircraft
that were used for suicide missions against allied shipping.
This particular aircraft was recovered
by the Australian War Memorial Museum in the early 1970’s.
Along with several other Zeros it was found near
Rabaul in the South Pacific.
The markings suggest that it was in service after
June 1943 and further investigation suggests that it has
cockpit features conducive to the Nakashima built model
52b. If this
is correct, it is most likely one of the 123 aircraft
lost by the Japanese during the assault of Rabaul.
After the Australian Museum restored 1 of the recovered
Zeros, the balance of the aircraft and parts were traded
off to Robert Greinert from Sydney. Kermit purchased the aircraft from him in the late 1980’s where
it was eventually made up for display in Fightertown as
a crashed aircraft.
Much of the aircraft is usable for patterns and
some of its parts can be restored to one day make this
a basis for a flyable aircraft.
There is only 1 true original Zero flying
in the world today and is displayed and flown at the Planes
of Fame Museum in Chino, California.
Several rebuilds have been almost scratch built,
from aircraft similar to this one, and are flying today
with American-built engines.
Original Japanese engines are almost impossible
to find in a condition to be overhauled.
Most recovered aircraft have significant corrosion
because of the salty South Pacific environment.
Little of the original metal is usable in aircraft
that are to be restored to flying condition.
Most of the Zero's seen in movies, such as “Tora,
Tora, Tora” and “Pearl Harbor” are dolled up American
AT-6 trainers. Real
Zeros would fly much faster than the ones seen in Hollywood
Up until the
1960’s, there were many Japanese, as well as American,
aircraft scattered throughout the South Pacific in restorable
a time, when no one cared about recovering or collecting
World War II aircraft, the Japanese went back to the old
airfields with salvage ships.
They chopped up and melted hundreds of aircraft
down for scrap.
Today, Japan finds itself with very few of their