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Built by Mitsubishi, estimated date of assembly late 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 4444. 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 In late February 1944, the remaining Japanese aircraft in flying condition were withdrawn to Truk.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 4379, 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).
The center section of this Zero remained in situ at Jacquinot Bay Airfield until the late 1970s.
During the the late 1970s, this Zero along with A6M5 Zero 4043 was salvaged by an unknown person and exported to Australia.
Imported into Japan by Light Aviation Co., Ltd, Japan. Auctioned at Ryugasaki during 1978 along with A6M5 Zero 4240 and a Sakai engine serial number 211486. Purchased by Tsucasa Kai and stored at his residence.
Production figures of the Mitsubishi/Nakajima A6M Zero by Jim Long
Thanks to Ryan Toews for additional information
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