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105th Naval Base Air Unit
Built by Mitsubishi, estimated date of assembly September 1943. A the factory, painted with dark green upper surfaces and gray lower surfaces with a black cowling. Delivered to the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) as Type 0 / A6M5 Model 52 Zero manufacture number 4043. This aircraft was disassembled and shipped or flown to Rabaul.
At Rabaul, assigned to an unknown Kōkūtai (Air Group). No known tail code. In late February 1944, the remaining Japanese aircraft in flying condition were withdrawn to Truk. This Zero remained at Rabaul, possibly due to damage or mechanical issues.
Assigned to the 105th Naval Base Air Unit and repaired to flying status and became the reborn "Rabaul Air Force" that remained operational at Rabaul until the end of the Pacific War. After Japan surrendered on September 2, 1945 hand painted in white surrender markings with green crosses.
After Japan surrendered on August 15, 1945, painted overall white with green crosses, the surrender markings designated by the terms of surrender. The white paint covered the tail number.
On September 6, 1945 the Japanese at Rabaul surrendered all remaining forces to Allies. As Allied forces occupied Rabaul, the Japanese requested permission to surrender their flyable aircraft to an Allied Air Force unit. Their request was granted and the planes including this Zero were readied for the flight to Jacquinot Bay Airfield.
On September 18, 1945 took off from Vunakanau Airfield as one of three Zeros including A6M5 Zero 4444, A6M5 Zero 4379 and this aircraft on a surrender flight to Jacquinot Bay Airfield. The three Zeros were piloted by P.O. Gensaku Aoki, P. O. Yoshio Otsuki and P. O. Yasushi Shimbo (which specific aircraft each flew is unknown). The formation also included Ki-46-II Dinah 2783. Due to mechanical problems, B5N2 Kate Tail 302 remained behind. The Japanese aircraft were escorted by sixteen Allied fighters to Jacquinot Bay Airfield. After landing, the pilots saluted, made a report then boarded a RNZAF Catalina and were flown back to Rabaul where they returned to captivity as Prisoners Of War (POWs).
The wreckage remained in situ at Jacquinot Bay Airfield until the late 1970s. The tail fin had evidence of battle damage and repairs.
In the late 1970s, this Zero was recovered and exported to Australia. Afterwards, placed into storage at the Australian War Memorial (AWM) and portions of this airframe were used in the restoration of A6M2 Zero 5784.
During the 1980s, the rest of this Zero was sold / traded to Robert Greinert who then sold them to Kermit Weeks / Fantasy Of Flight in exchange for a MiG-15 and a Beaufort. This Zero was transported to the United States.
This Zero was displayed at Fantasy of Flight at Tamiami Airport, painted green with Hinomaru with a white outline on the wings and fuselage. After 1992, transported to the museum's Polk City location and stored off site across from Fantasy of Flight.
The tail cone only of this aircraft with the manufacture number 4043 stencil is displayed at Hamamatsu-Minami AFB. It is unclear how this tail portion only ended up in Japan, likely it was recovered from the wreckage before it was salvaged or this part was donated by after their Zero restoration by Australian War Memorial (AWM).
Production figures of the Mitsubishi/Nakajima A6M Zero by Jim Long
The Siege of Rabaul page 87 - 89
Arawasi Issue 8, 1-3 2008 "Relic Rarities" by Shima Chiaki p44 - 45
Fantasy of Flight - Zero Page "current value: $250,000" via Wayback Machine May 3, 2008
"After the Australian Museum restored one of the recovered Zeros [A6M2 5784], the balance of the aircraft and parts were traded off to Robert Greinert from Sydney. Kermit purchased the aircraft from him in the late 1980’s where it was eventually made up for display in Fightertown [Weeks Air Museum] as a crashed aircraft. Much of the aircraft is usable for patterns and some of its parts can be restored to one day make this a basis for a flyable aircraft."
J-Aircraft "The Dismembered Zero: A Mystery of Missing Body Parts From Reisen 4043" by Jim Lansdale
Thanks to Jim Lansdale and Jim Long for additional information
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