|Pilot Lt(jg) Nobuhiro Iwasaki
Crashed March 14, 1942
Built by Mitsubishi in in late November 1941 or early December 1941. This aircraft was the 443rd Mitsubishi-built Zero, the 441st A6M2 assembled by Mitsubishi. Delivered to the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) as A6M2 Model 21 Zero manufacture number 4443. Assigned to the 4th Kōkūtai with tail number F-14? (0-9).
On March 14, 1942 took off from Lae Airfield pilot Lt(jg) Nobuhiro Iwasaki on mission to escort G4M1 Betty bombers from the 4th Kōkūtai on a bombing mission against Horn Island at 11:25am.
Over the target, this Zero was leading the second squadron as a part of the first group of Zeros in a three plane formation, along with Lt(jg) Hiroyoshi Nishizawa and PO1c Ichirobei Yamazaki.
Over the target, attacked by a P-40 piloted by Captain Morrissey opened fire from from 200 yards, causing damage. The pilot observed that his gunfire resulting in the 'shooting off his left wing'. Damaged, this Zero crashed on Hammond Island.
On March 30, 1942 the crash site was visited by Allied Technical Intelligence Unit (ATIU) on Hammond Island. During their visit, the team removed data plates and small pieces of wreckage for study.
A year later, soldiers from the Australian Army 49th Garrison Battalion from Thursday Island located the remains of pilot Iwasaki were located in the mangroves. His identification tags were turned over to authorities.
Jim Long adds:
"Judging by the known dates of other aircraft close around the plane, No. 4443 should have been completed on or after 30 November 1941. According to records, A6M2 Zero 4438 was 30 November 1941, and if work on the assembly line had progressed more or less in a proper sequence, No. 4443 should have been completed on 30 November or in early December. This was one of those early inspection by the ATIU, and they were not too good at finding the date of manufacture in those early days. They may have taken the date of 20 November 1941 from a component nameplate that they took from the crashed plane, instead of getting the real date from the fuselage stencil or from the main maker's nameplate in the cockpit."
Horn Island, page 16, 19, 21
AWM "Capturing Japanese aviation history" by Shane Casey Feb 26, 2018 (photos of 4443 stencil and database)
Thanks to Jim Long for manufacture details and additional information
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August 10, 2019