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  A6M2 Model 21 Zero Manufacture Number ???? Tail A1-1-1??
2nd Chūtai
4th Shōtai

Pilot  PO Soji Chiba (MIA / KIA)
Crashed  February 1, 1943

Aircraft History
Built by Mitsubishi or Nakajima. At the factory, painted overall gray at the with a black cowling and yellow identification stripe on the leading edge of the wings.

Delivered to the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) as A6M2 Model 21 Zero manufacture number unknown (four digits). Assigned to Zuikaku. Tail code A1-1-1?? (last two digits unknown) painted in red on both sides of the tail. Likely, this Zero had the Zuikaku identifier of a white fuselage stripe with red edges applied to rear fuselage.

Wartime History
On January 29, 1943 took off from Zuikaku as one of thirty-six Zeros led by Lt. Kenjiro Notomi and flown south to Rabaul then to Kahilli Airfield (Buin) on Bougainville to support "Operation Ke" the Japanese evacuation from Cape Esperance on Guadalcanal. Operating from Kahilli Airfield (Buin) Zuikaku Zeros participated in three aerial cover sorties over western Guadalcanal. During the operation, two Zuikaku pilots were lost on February 4, 1943.

Mission History
On February 1, 1943 took off from Kahilli Airfield (Buin) on Bougainville piloted by PO Soji Chiba in a formation of nineteen Zuikaku Zeros was led by Lt. Kenjiro Notomi. This Zero was flying in the 2nd Chūtai, 4th Shōtai as the number 1 aircraft with a single wingman. They joined another twenty-one A6M Zeros from the 582 Kokutai led by Lt. Saburo Shindo on a mission to escort eighteen D3A Vals from the 582 Kokutai attacking US Navy warships off Cape Esperance that might interfere with "Operation KE" the Japanese evacuation from Guadalcanal.

Over the target area, the D3A Vals bombed and sank DD-469 De Haven. Roughly three miles west of Savo Island, intercepted by F4F Wildcats from VMF-112 and a dogfight unfolded as the Japanese withdrew to the northwest. During the air combat, this Zero was shot down by one of the Wildcats. When this Zero failed to return it was officially listed as Missing In Action (MIA). Also lost was A6M2 Zero 6544 piloted by PO2c Sakuji Tanaka (MIA).

PO Soji Chiba completed his flight training during February 1938 and was an experienced pilot.
Kodochosho, Zuikaku, February 1, 1943
Kodochosho, 582 Kokutai, February 1, 1943
Production figures of the Mitsubishi/Nakajima A6M Zero by Jim Long
Japanese Naval Air Force Fighter Units and Their Aces, 1932-1945 pages 48 (February 1, 1943)
Operation KE pages pages 184, 186, 188-190 (Zuikaku Zeros February 1, 1943), 240-241 (Zuikaku Zeros February 4, 1943), 368 (index Shigemi)
A Brief History of the Blayd Zero and Its Markings by Ryan Toews June 15, 2014 pages 3-6
Fargo Air Museum - Legends of Aviation Historic Aircraft - Mitsubishi A6M2 Reisen Type Zero Carrier-Based Fighter Model 21 via Wayback Machine July 5, 2007
J-Aircraft "The Lockheed Aircraft Corporation Zero Restoration Project: Part 1 - How Uncle Paul Got A Zero!" by Jim Lansdale August 2, 2008 (photo)
Thanks to Ryan Toews and Jim Lansdale for additional information

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Last Updated
February 14, 2020


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