|Pilot PO1c Shigenori Nishikaichi (POW / suicide)
Force Landed December 7, 1941
Built by Mitsubishi, estimated date of assembly July 1941. Delivered to the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) as A6M2 Model 21 Zero manufacture number 2266. Assigned to the Hiryū. Tail code BII-120.
On December 7, 1941 took off from Hiryū piloted by PO1c Shigenori Nishikaichi as one of six Zeros over Pearl Harbor and Oahu. Over the target, strafed Bellows Field to the east of Pearl Harbor. Afterwards, this Zero was running low on fuel and in accordance with instructions force landed on Niihau
Island (Niʻihau) to await the arrival of an I-class submarine assigned
to rescue duty.
Fate of the Pilot
After force landing, pilot Nishikaichi met residents of the island who were unaware of the attack on Oahu. The downed pilot's pistol was taken, and he was treated
to a luau and befriended a nisei, Yoshio Harada, to whom he confessed about the state of
war. During the evening of December 7, 1941 when news of the attack reached the island by radio, Nishikaichi was again questioned.
Nishikaichi played on the
loyalties of Japanese-Americans, and convinced Harada to steal back his
pistol and a shotgun. Together, they took control of the village, captured two prisoners and salvaged the machine guns from his crashed
zero. They fired their weapons wildly and demanded residents to surrender, and managed to control the island for several days.
During the night of December 12th, Hawaiian Kanahele finally cornered and fought them both. In the melee, Kanahele
was wounded. Harada took his own life with the shotgun. Nishikaichi was killed by Kanahele, ending the incident.
After a US Army rescue party arrived, Kanahele
was later awarded two Presidential Citations: the Purple Heart and
Medal of Merit.
The conduct of Yoshio Harada helped to fuel the anti-Japanese
sentiments that lead to the decision by President Roosevelt to have Japanese
immigrants and Japanese-Americans detained in the United States.
After the crash, Nishikaichi and
Harada removed the machine guns from the Zero and towed them on a wagon. Together, they attempted to destroy the Zero by setting fire to the wreckage, but the flames only burned from the firewall to behind the fuselage Hinomaru. The wings, tail and engine remained intact.
On December 17, 1941 photographs of the crash site were taken by by Reverend Denise.
During the war, the wreckage was further salvaged by American personnel cutting off small pieces as souvenirs. Someone tried to cut the fuselage stencil off with a hatchet or ax.
Until August 2006, the wreckage of this Zero remained in situ at the crash site.
During August 2006, Syd Jones and his wife KT Buddle-Jones negotiated with the land owners for permission to document the crash site and salvage the wreckage from Niihau
Island to the Pacific Aviation Museum (Ford Island Museum).
The salvaged wreckage is displayed at the Pacific Aviation Museum (Ford Island Museum) and displayed in a diorama depicting the crash site in 2006. Displayed nearby is A6M2 Zero 5356 painted in the markings of this Zero with tail code Tail BII-120.
Jim Lansdale adds:
"Todd Pederson and I have the lion's share of the less than 100 photos of over four-hundred taken by Reverend Denise of the of the Nishikaichi Zero [A6M2 Zero 2266] when he went to Niʻihau acting on behalf of the USA. From these photos, Todd spotted the serial number applied in stencil form to one of the starboard wing cannon cover. I helped out Mike Wilson via Ryan Toews and gave Ryan all the information for the restoration."
The propeller and hub from this aircraft is displayed at the Quiet Birdmen at Hickam AFB. The tail light is on displayed at the Kaua’i Museum. Four small pieces of aluminum from the wreckage are displayed at the Kissimmee Air Museum.
Other sources state it was damaged by ground fire, causing it to leak fuel, which is incorrect.
Production figures of the Mitsubishi/Nakajima A6M Zero by Jim Long
The Niihau Incident covers the history of this crash & pilot
Flypast Magazine, March 2007 pages 55-57
Air & Space Magazine July 2007 "The Niihau Zero" by Nick D'Alto
J-Aircraft "Pearl Harbor Zero & Other Photos"
J-Aircraft "NI’IHAU Zero Propeller" by Mike Wilson and Jim Lansdale
J-Aircraft "The Nishikaichi / Ni'ihau Zero, part 1 The missing machine gun mystery"
Thanks to Jim Lansdale and Jim Long for additional information.
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March 1, 2020