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  A6M2 Model 21 Zero Manufacture Number 31870 Tail 53-122
IJN
105th Naval Base Unit

Former Assignment
253 Kōkūtai

Click For Enlargement
Click For Enlargement
Ray Fairfield 1972

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Rod Mountford 2005
Pilot  PO Kentaro Miyagoshi (survived)
Observer  ? (survived)
Ditched  January 18, 1945


Aircraft History
Built by Nakajima, estimated date of assembly October 1943. Delivered to the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) as Type 0 Carrier Fighter / A6M2 Model 21 Zero manufacture number 31870.

Wartime History
Assigned to 253 Kōkūtai (253 Air Group) based at Rabaul. Tail code 53-122. In late February 1944, this Zero was one of about thirty aircraft damaged or grounded that remained at Rabaul after all servicable aircraft were flown northward to Truk. Assigned to the 105th Naval Base Unit and repaired to flying condition by ground personnel.

During October 1944, this Zero was field modified into a two seat configuration conceived by Commander Tomoyoshi Hori. A rear facing seat for an observer was installed behind the pilot with a telegraph for transmitting long range communications on reconnaissance missions.

Mission History
On January 18, 1945 took off from Rabaul piloted by P.O. Kentaro Miyagoshi with an unknown observer on a reconnaissance mission over Turub in West New Britain. Returning, this Zero ran low on fuel and ditched off Cape Lambert.

Fates of the Crew
Both crew survived and trekked through the jungle for two days before returning to Rabaul on January 20, 1945.

Wreckage
Until August 1972, this Zero remained underwater at a depth of 43' / 13m off Cape Lambert.

Salvage
During August 1972, this Zero was salvaged by Bob Scott. The previous year he had salvaged A6M5 Zero 4323. At the time of recovery, the 20mm cannons still had their bluing, the cockpit instruments were intact, even the remains of a parachute and binoculars were found inside the cockpit.

This Zero was briefly displayed atop empty fuel drums adjacent to a shed at Rabaul. Afterwards, exported to Melbourne for display and restoration with parts from several wrecked Zeros from the Rabaul area. A legal battle occurred over this aircraft after it was offered for sale to the Australian War Memorial (AWM). The Zero was seized by police until the lawsuit was settled.  Later, sold to the National Museum of Nature and Science (Tokyo Science Museum).

Display
Afterwards, this Zero was on display at the Tokyo Science Museum. Around 2000, the Zero was moved to Tsukuba where it was stored, or underwent additional preservation then was returned to the museum and put back on public display. The engine cowl is missing because the original was corroded.

References
Production figures of the Mitsubishi/Nakajima A6M Zero by Jim Long
The Siege of Rabaul pages 62-63 (photo), 70 (photo)
Hostages to Freedom pages 442-443
Pacific Aircraft Wrecks page 30 - 31, 54 (lower)

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Last Updated
January 17, 2020

 

Tech Info
Zero

SCUBA
43' / 13m
Former Depth

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