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Built by Mitsubishi, estimated date of assembly July 1943. Assigned to an unknown Kokutai (Air Group) with tail code 2-152. Disassembled and loaded as cargo aboard a transport and shipped to Rabaul and reassembled.
Assigned to an unknown Kōkūtai (Air Group) with tail code 2-152. Possibly, this Zero was assigned to the 201 Kōkūtai (201 Air Group). This Zero was flown from Rabaul via Buka Airfield to Kara Airfield (Toripoil) on southern Bougainville. During 1943 damaged or abandoned as unserviceable and Kara Airfield (Toripoil).
During 1945, as a morale boosting exercise for roughly sixty to seventy Japanese Navy maintenance personnel at Kara Airfield, this Zero was repaired to flying condition. The mechanics used parts from several other Zeros abandoned at Kara Airfield, including the section from this aircraft. At least three other Zeros were utilized for repairs or replacement parts including including A6M3 Zero 3616 plus A6M3 Model 32 Zero 3278 and A6M3 Model 32 Zero 3217. The finished Zero retained the identity of A6M3 Zero 3844 including the manufacture number stencil on the rear fuselage.
By July 1945, the repaired Zero was restored to flyable condition and was reported by radio to headquarters at Rabaul. Soon afterwards, E-13A Jake floatplane with Zero pilot Petty Officer Sekizen Shibayama aboard as a passenger landed in the sea off Kahili (Buin). Safely ashore, he was taken to Kara Airfield and planned to test fly the Zero then fly it back to Rabaul, but the Pacific War ended before this was accomplished.
Phil Bradley adds:
"The story goes that it was assigned to fly a bombing / kamikaze mission but the ground crew delayed the work so the war ended before the mission was flown. When they restored the plane they found a poem written inside the gun compartment. I have pictures of various other bits and pieces on display next to the aircraft pilot's gear etc."
On September 8, 1945 after the official surrender of Japanese forces on Bougainville, rumors came to the attention of Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) intelligence officers about an intact Japanese Zero. On September 14, 1945 a photographer departed Piva Yoke Airfield aboard RAAF Auster A11-3 and landed at Kara Airfield. Japanese personnel started the engine and performed a run up to verify the Zero was operative.
After the official surrender of Japan this Zero was hand painted in surrender markings stipulated by the Allies overall white with a black upper engine cowling and nose to the forward canopy with green cross atop the fuselage and wings. After being painting, the original Hinomaru (Rising Sun) showed through the white paint slightly and some of the green below the layer of white paint.
On September 15, 1945 Wing Commander William "Bill" R. Kofoed, NZ404380 and Engineer Officer C. D. Kingsford took off from Piva Yoke Airfield flying a RAAF Wirraway from No. 5 Squadron to Kara Airfield. On the ground, Kofoed was briefed by Japanese personnel how to operate the Zero as it was fueled. Next, Wing Commander Bill Kofoed took off from Kara Airfield on a 32 minute flight to Piva Yoke Airfield and during the flight kept the landing gear expended.
On the ground at Piva, the Zero was a curiosity to the Allies, and heavily photographed. Personally inspected by RNZAF Air Commodore G. N. Roberts. At Piva, the engine was run-up several times but the Zero was never flown again.
During October 1945, the Zero was partially disassembled and loaded as cargo aboard TSS Wahine at Torokina that departed October 15, 1945 and five days later arrived at Auckland Harbor. Next, transported aboard a barge to Hobsonville Airfield. In New Zealand, assigned Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) serial number NZ6000.
During December 1945 took off piloted by Wing Commander Willis, commanding officer of Hobsonville Airfield on a ten minute flight. After the flight he reported: "the aircraft was quite pleasant to fly, being rather like a Harvard. It appeared to have no unusual traits in the ten minutes I was flying." This was the last time this Zero was ever flown.
Afterwards, the RNZAF planned to perform further flight tests or donate it to an aviation school for use as a training aid, but both plans never materialized. In May 1946 grounded and assigned serial number INST.113 (airframe) and INST.BI72 (engine). On February 28, 1947 transferred to Technical Training School at Hobsonville Airfield but was never used.
In September 1947 offered to Auckland War Memorial Museum but remained in RNZAF possession until a display space was available. The Zero remained in storage and was only occasionally displayed thought the 1950's, and parked outdoors with other historic and surplus aircraft. During 1954 and 1957, display at Hobsonville Airfield for an Easter Show at Hobsonville Airfield. Afterwards, the Zero was partially disassembled and transported to Ardmore Airfield and stored in Hanger No. 8.
In 1958, the RNZAF attempted to reassemble the Zero and repainted it for display at events celebrating the 21st anniversary of establishment of the RNZAF. Afterwards, placed into storage at Ohakea Airfield. On November 30, 1959 moved to Whenuapai Airfield where it remained prior to donation to Auckland War Memorial Museum.
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