For the purposes of this profile, the component dataplate number 5450 is used to describe this aircraft, but the true manufacture number of this Zero is unknown as it was restored using parts from several Zero wrecks.
Built by Nakajima during November 1942.
Delivered to the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) as as A6M2 Model 21 Zero manufacture number unknown. This Zero had a component dataplate serial number 5450. The fuselage section used to restore this aircraft had Houkoku Number 1045 (patriotic presentation number 1045).
Diemert claimed this plane was assigned to the Zuikaku from the time of Pearl Harbor, but this is untrue from the date of construction of all parts used in the restoration, which were manufactured
in October 1942 or later.
It is unclear what is the origin of the tail code. None of the marked tail fins Diemert recovered had any markings associated with Zuikaku. Tail code EII-140 was the Zuikaku markings between December 1941 until November 1942, but would have two white fuselage bands instead of the one yellow band.
This Zero operated from Ballale
Airfield, where it was abandoned, likely after sustaining damage in combat or on the ground during a bombing raid.
This Zero remained in situ. In 1968,
recovered by Robert
Diemert with A6M2 Zero 5356, A6M2
Zero 5451 and a D3A2 Val 3178, in addition
to other Zero parts. These relics were cut into pieces and transported
Moresby where they were stored for a month.
In January 1969 before being flown by the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF)
to Canada. Restored by Robert
Diemert at Friendship Airfield. , and A6M2 Zero 5356 sold to the Confederate Air Force (CAF).
This Zero was the second Zero restored by Robert
Diemert at Friendship Airfield. The first was A6M2 Zero 4461 that crashed in 1973 during a flight test. Between 1973–1977 this Zero was restored to static condition using
portions of several wrecks, including parts of A6M2 Zero 5459. According to Robert
Diemert, the restoration took 7,000 hours of labor to static condition. Afterwards, he restored A6M2 Zero 5356 that was sold in flying condition to the Confederate Air Force (CAF).
In the middle of 1977, this Zero was sold to the U. S. Marine Corps Museum (USMC Museum) and disassembled into components and transported from Carman cross country to the USMC Museum and reassembled. The Zero was painted in an overall green paint scheme with tail code 136 with two fuselage stripes.
Later transported to the National
Museum of Naval Aviation (NMNA). In 1991, this Zero was loaned
to Mid-America Air Museum (Liberal Air Museum). The paint scheme was bogus, green with white and yellow strips and tail 136.
Derek / Buffies Best adds:
"To actually see and touch
a Sakae 12 was mind bending. I ended up taking over 240 photos and imagined
for a moment what it was like to fly this wonderful airplane. As you can see
the plane was mostly intact, all the skin panels were pop-riveted to the
plane, the cockpit was about 40% complete,
the oil cooler scoop was mocked up, the folding wing tips had been skinned
over, the interesting paint scheme."
Returned to National
Museum of Naval Aviation (NMNA) additional restoration work was completed it to make it more presentable. The pop rivets were replaced
by flush rivets in the fuselage (but not in the wings) and the
plane was repainted in overall gray scheme with tail code EII-140. Displayed on the museum floor on its landing gear, with cockpit open.
This Zero was restored by the museum again, including making a fiberglass mold of the original aircraft in January 2006.
Justin Taylan adds:
"When I visited the museum in January 2006, this Zero was not on display, a fiberglass model was being made from the original aircraft."
Completed in 2008, the Zero is now painted in dark green paint scheme, consistent with a later built Nakajima A6M2 again with tail EII-140.
Control Column Vol 11 No 5 (July 1977) "Mitsubishi Move"
Gakken No. 33 claims that this aircraft carried Houkoku Number 1045, this is incorrect.
Thanks to Jim Landsdale and Ryan Toews for additional info
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October 23, 2019