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  A6M2 Model 21 Zero Manufacture Number 4443 Tail F-14?
IJN
4th Kōkūtai
2nd Chutai
1st Shotai

Pilot  Lt(jg) Nobuhiro Iwasaki
Crashed  March 14, 1942


Aircraft History
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. At the factory painted overall gray with a black cowling and Hinomaru markings on the wings and fuselage. Delivered to the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) as A6M2 Model 21 Zero manufacture number 4443.

Wartime History
Likely, this Zero was loaded aboard aboard Shōhō at Truk and ferried to Lakunai Airfield near Rabaul in the middle of February 1942 or early March 1942. Assigned to the 4th Kōkūtai at Lakunai Airfield near Rabaul. Tail number F-14? last digit unknown (0-9). During March 1942, flown to Lae Airfield at Lae.

Mission History
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 over Horn Island. This Zero was leading the 2nd Chutai, 1st Shotai in a three plane formation with Lt(jg) Hiroyoshi Nishizawa and PO1c Ichirobei Yamazaki

Over the target at 11:25am, intercepted by a P-40 Warhawk piloted by Captain Morrissey opened fire from from 200 yards, causing damage. The pilot observed that his gunfire resulted in the "shooting off his left wing". Damaged, this Zero crashed on Hammond Island.

Wreckage
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."

References
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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Last Updated
February 28, 2020

 

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