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105th Naval Base Air Unit
Built by Mitsubishi, estimated date of assembly middle December 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 4379. 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 In late February 1944, the remaining Japanese aircraft in flying condition were withdrawn to Truk.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.
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 4043 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).
Sometime later in 1945, this Zero took of on a test flight flown by a Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) pilot and force landed or ditched. Ultimate fate unknown.
Production figures of the Mitsubishi/Nakajima A6M Zero by Jim Long
Note, Australian War Memorial (AWM) photo captions incorrectly transpose the first two digits of the manufacture number of this aircraft as 3479 [sic] that would be associated with A6M3 Model 22 Zero 3479 an actual number but an aircraft of a different model and unknown service history. In fact, it A6M5 Model 52 Zero manufacture number 4379.
Ryan Toews adds:
"[Regarding the photo captions that cite this aircraft as 3479] Problem: 3479 is the manufacture number of A6M3 Model 22 Zero 3469. The photos of the three Zeros surrendered are all A6M5 Zeros. However, 4379 would be A6M5 Model 52 Zero manufactured during December 1943. Was the manufacture number transposed when the photo caption at AWM were recorded?"
The Siege of Rabaul page 87 - 89
Arawasi Issue 8, 1-3 2008 "Relic Rarities" by Shima Chiaki p44-45
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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