Built by Mitsubishi at Nagoya, estimated date of assembly May 1942.
At the factory, painted in overall gray with a black cowl. Delivered to the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) as Type 0 Carrier Fighter / A6M2 Model 21 Zero manufacture number 5784.
During June 1942 assigned to the Tainan Kōkūtai at Rabaul. Tail code V-173. The fuselage had a blue diagonal stripe indicating the aircraft was assigned to a shotai leader. Between June 1942 until July 1942, one of the aircraft flown by Saburo Sakai. Afterwards, possibly assigned to the 204 Kokutai (204 Air Group). During the middle of 1942 or later, this Zero was disabled at Gasmata Airfield and abandoned.
Until 1974, this Zero remained in situ near the side of the runway at Gasmata Airfield. By 1967, the canopy was bent backwards but present and the fuselage Hinomaru markings were still clearly visible.
Ray Fairfield adds:
"The original photos show it on the other side of the strip, only yards back from the strip, although fairly overgrown. Had the prop blades and instruments removed, otherwise as left after bomb damage. In fact, there was an unexploded bomb, maybe a 50lb lying under it. The photos you saw were after the local Kiap took it to the other side of the strip, recovered the rudder, and wither straightened out the canopy frame or found a better one. There was quite a bit of what I only registered as "junk" along the north side of the strip - where the Zero was originally."
A group of salvagers removed the wreck in early 1973, shipping the wreckage from Gasmata by
landing craft; that went next to Buna, to recover two tanks and artillery
from Buna Battlefield. All items were then taken aboard the HMAS Melbourne, and shipped back to Port
Pacific Aircraft Wrecks by Charles Darby page 58:
"...these photos were taken in December 1972. A few months later a group of people dismantled the aircraft with gas torches and carried it away for restoration, much to the indignation of the local islanders who had salvaged the fighter in the first place but apparently without settling the ownership question before doing so! Confusion regarding salvage right generally, plus the administrative difficulties involved, were largely responsible for the total clamp down on the export of war relics imposed by the Papua New Guinea Government in 1974, all such material now being classed as 'national cultural property'... the wreck was eventually taken to the RAAF Museum at Point Cook, Vic in 1977 with the hope of rebuilding it with parts of other Zekes."
Douglas Hubbard, Jr. then worked for Nimitz Museum instead states:
acquired title to this aircraft from the PNG government in the middle
supervised the legal title transfer
to the RAAF. It
was formally deeded to the Australian people as a gesture of goodwill
and appreciation for the assistance provided in recovery of the D3A2
Val 3105 I recommended that the Zero
be donated to AWM, and was instructed to effect the transfer, which
I did via the senior RAAF officer at
Murray Barracks. He elected not to take the Zero out at the
time when shipped the Val, preferring he said, Their air frame fitters
disassembled the plane and flew it out of Gasmata via RAAF Caribou.”
were contested by the local people of Gasmata, who claimed the wrecks
were stolen from them. The Zero was denied export, and languished at Jackson Airport. The wreckage languishing at the airport in a pile from 1974 - 1977.
Finally exported to the RAAF
Museum at Point Cook for storage. Next, taken to RAAF
Waga Waga for restoration. The restoration
contains parts from two other Zeros: A6M2
3618 and A6M5
4043. The restoration was competed in 1988. Also, another three Zeros
wrecks they recovered components off from other wrecks in the Rabaul area. The pilot tube was donated by Brian Bennett.
This Zero is displayed at Australian
War Memorial (AWM) in the Aircraft Hall suspended from the ceiling with the landing gear raised.
Pacific Aircraft Wrecks page 58 (upper, middle) page 71 (upper, middle photos)
Are you a relative or associated with any person mentioned?
Do you have photos or additional information to add?
September 8, 2020