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  A6M5 Model 52 Zero Manufacture Number 4323  
253rd Kōkūtai

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Pilot  Sekizen Shibayama (survived)
Ditched  November 11, 1943

Pilot History
Shibayama was an ace with the 253rd Kōkūtai, with 13 victories.

Aircraft History
Built by Mitsubishi, estimated date of assembly December 1943. Note, this manufacture date conflicts with the claimed mission history of this Zero. Either the manufacture number is incorrect, or the mission details.

Mission History
Took off on a ferry flight from Rabaul to Truk.  The plane developed engine trouble encountered a formation of eight F6F Hellcats of VF-9 (USS Essex). Damaged in combat with bullet holes in the cockpit and engine, Shibayama was wounded in the knee by USN Lt. A. B. Smith, who claimed two victories that day.  Ditched in 50' of water, in Simpson Harbor off Matupi Island and Shibayama escaped.

The Zero ditched perfectly intact with the cockpit canopy undamaged, and bullet holes in the engine and fuselage. Remained in situ until 1971.

The American Fighter Ace Association (specifically the work of members Eugene Valencia, Marshall Beebe and Jim French) were interested to acquire a Zero for their San Diego based collection. They put in requests to the Australian Historical Aviation Association in 1967. 

Salvager Bob Scott heard about their request and offered this Zero, that he had discovered while searching for a ship propeller in Simpson Harbor. The Zero was salvaged with a large cradle in 1971 by Bob Scott. It was given a freshwater bath at Rabaul, and marine growth removed.

Transported to Tokyo and then flown by a Hercules to Kern County Airport in Bakersfield, California, then was delivered to the San Diego Aerospace Museum.

The machine guns were reportedly restored to firing condition with only hours of work by US Navy personnel. Mitsubishi managed to locate the former pilot, Shibayama who was living in Kyoto and was invited to visit his Zero.

On February 22, 1978, this Zero and the museum were destroyed in an arson fire.

Pacific Aircraft Wrecks, page 23
Winged Samurai page ?
Imperial Japanese Navy Aces page ?
Hostages To Freedom page 441
Rabaul's Forgotten Fleet, page 129
Thanks to Alan Renga, San Diego Aerospace Museum for additional information.

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Last Updated
February 14, 2020


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