|Pilot ? (see below)
Crashed ? (August - November 1942)
Built by Mitsubishi on March
3, 1942. Painted
in a overall gray color with a black cowl. Assigned to the Tainan Kokutai. Tail number V-103 was hand painted on the tail in black. On the sides of the fuselage, a 15cm red diagonal stripe was painted behind the Hinomaru, indicating the aircraft of a shotai leader. Also, a 10cm white stripe was painted on the tail above the tail number.
Katsuhito Takahashi confirms:
"The marking of the V-103 Zero indicated that the pilot who flew
the Zero was the leader of a Shoutai. There were only two chief pilots of
Shoutai in Tainan Koukutai [WO Toraichi Takatsuka and LS Yoshifusa Iwasaka] were killed in the Guadalcanal mission during August
7 to October 25."
Took off from from Lakunai Airfield near Rabaul. This aircraft was flown by Saburo Sakai prior to August 7, 1942 when he was wounded piloting another aircraft.
Took off from Lakunai Airfield on a mission against Guadalcanal. Crashed into a swamp area five miles east of Henderson Field. The pilot went down with the aircraft and remained in the cockpit when it impacted into the swamp. The precise identity of the pilot or date of loss is unknown, but include:
PO3C Kenichi Kumagai (KIA August 26, 1942)
PO3C Takeichi Kokubu (KIA September 2, 1942)
WO Toraichi Takatsuka (KIA September 13, 1942)
PO3C Noboru Sato (KIA September 13, 1942)
LS Yoshifusa Iwasaka (KIA October 15, 1942)
Yozou Sugawara (KIA October 18, 1942)
Isao Ito (KIA November 12, 19423)
During 1993 the remains of this A6M2 Zero were found in a water filled crater with
the remains of the pilot in the cockpit. The fuselage was largely destroyed
in the crash.
Guadalcanal resident John Chotu and American Charles Hagen
examined the remains, reporting the color scheme as: "Overall scheme was
a severely weathered flat, pale gray. Pieces, which were protected by
overlying coats of paint or overlapping pieces of metal, were dirty light
olive or gray-green"
During 1994, American Patrick M. Murphy excavated the crash site with a Japanese
television crew from NHK. They recovered the remains of the pilot including bone fragments and a femur bone. The wreckage recovered including the tail section
and rudder with "V-103" painted in black paint. Also, the cockpit main dataplate with "3647".
The wreckage was transported to Henderson Field and laid out near a container rented by Patrick Murphy where they were videotaped and stored. Murphy kept the main dataplate, pilot's pistol and control stick.
Patrick M. Murphy adds:
"This aircraft was was left at Henderson Field along with a container full of my personal possessions when I left the Solomon Islands temporarily in 1996. On my return to the Solomon Islands some years later after the new airport was built, I discovered that these aircraft parts had been bulldozed into a crushed pile at the site I had used at the airport and left to rot."
Recovery of Remains
After the recovery of remains from the crash site, the bones were examined by Dr. Minoru Kawamoto. Measuring the length of the
femur bone recovered,
there are seven possible Tainan Kōkūtai pilots of who might have
been piloting the plane when it was lost. When NHK Documentary "A6M2 Zero 3647" aired in 1994, Dr. Kawamoto was attempting to
contact several families
from the list of possible pilots to conduct comparative DNA tests.
NHK Documentary "A6M2 Zero 3647" (1994)
"Zero Fighter" by Saburo
“Here is a piece of Zero Fighter brought to me, and I am safe
keeping it. It was a part of the wreckage of Zero fighter discovered
in Guadalcanal in 1994. Surprisingly, the tail number of V-103 was my Zero
fighter. After getting injury and my evacuation, my comrade flew it and
was killed on this plane. His bones were discovered around the cockpit.”
Winged Samurai "Tainan Kōkūtai Pilot Casualties" page 88
Thanks to Katsuhito Takahashi for
the translation and Jim Lansdale for additional information
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February 14, 2020