Built by Nakajima estimated date of assembly October 1942. It is unclear if 5356 was this aircraft's actual manufacture number, or if it was noted on a component dataplate and therefore, may not have been the manufacture number of the entire aircraft.
Delivered to the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) as A6M2 Model 21 Zero. Assigned to an unknown Kōkūtai (Air Group). No known markings or tail code. This Zero operated from Ballale
Airfield on Ballale Island and was abandoned.
The wreckage of this Zero remained in situ until 1968.
During late 1968, this Zero was salvaged by Robert
Diemert. During the recovery, this Zero was cut into several pieces and loaded onto a barge along with A6M2 Zero 5451, A6M2
Zero 5450 and a D3A2 Val 3178, plus
other Zero parts.
Afterwards, the salvaged Japanese aircraft wreckage was transported to Port
Moresby. In December 1968 stored outdoors at Jackson Airport. In January 1969 loaded aboard a Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) C-130 Hercules and flown to Canada then transported to Robert
Diemert and his private airport, Friendship Airfield.
This was the second Zero Robert
Diemert restored. After the 1973 crash of A6M2 Zero 4461, he began restoring this Zero between 1973–1985 at Friendship Airfield using parts and components of many different Zeros he recovered with a Pratt & Whitney R-1830 radial engine.
In 1985, this restored Zero was
sold to the Confederate Air Force (CAF). On
12, 1985 this Zero made its first flight in Midland, Texas.
Registered in the United States as Mitsubishi model A6M2-21 serial number 807 with registration N58245. Painted overall gray, black cowling, tail code EII-102 with a white stripe above the tail code and two white bands on the rear fuselage.
During 1985–2002, the Zero was flown in air show by the Confederate Air Force / Commemorative Air Force (CAF) and based at Midland, Texas.
In 2002, the Zero was grounded for additional restoration work and transferred
to Commemorative Air Force Camarillo (CAF Camarillo). The re-restoration process revealed this Zero was actually restored from major components of at least two Zeros.
Alan Gaynor adds:
"The c/n's that Diemert applied to both
his restored Zeros are wrong. He got these numbers by reading the data plates from
the same component from different aircraft. The problem with this was that the same coding procedure
was used by the part manufacturers as was used by Nakajima and Mitsubishi.
reckons that the front section of our Zero came from A6M2
5451 recovered at the same time. By a system of deduction, we reason that the rear section came from A6M2
Houkoku 1045, with
the wings and both horizontal and vertical stabilizers being built up
from other suitable parts recovered at that same time. The covers for
the 7.7mm guns are from A6M2
7830 and A6M2 2985,
The stencils on these parts in the original paint are visible
to this day.
During late 2005, the CAF sold this aircraft to the Pacific Aviation Museum (Ford Island Museum), and was transported to Hawaii. The aircraft was repainted to represent A6M2 Zero 2266 Tail BII-120 piloted by PO1 Shigenori Nishikaichi that operated from Hiryū and participated in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and Oahu on December 7, 1941 and returning from the mission force landed on Niihau Island (Niʻihau).
In 2007 this Zero was placed on display at the Pacific Aviation Museum (Ford Island Museum) indoors on a replica flight deck. On February 22, 2017, the FAA registration was canceled but the N-Number remains on hold.
Production figures of the Mitsubishi/Nakajima A6M Zero by Jim Long
The Defender (1988) shows Diemert's initial restoration of this airplane and unveiling
flight with the CAF
FAA Registry N58245 Mitsubishi A6M2-21 serial number 807 (registration cancel date 02/22/2017)
The Dispatch (Volume 18, No 2) Summer 1993 "Zero Recovery & Restoration"
pages 14 - 22 by Jeff Ethell
Aeroplane March 2006 Issue, page 7 (Sale to Ford Island Museum)
Flypast Magazine March 2007 pages 40-42, 55
Thanks to Jim Lansdale, Jim Long, Alan Gaynor,
Ryan Toews for additional information
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October 23, 2019