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253 Kōkūtai (253 Air Group)
Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN)

Background
The Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) 253 Kōkūtai (253 Air Group) operated the A6M Zero fighter in the South Pacific.

During 1943 operated from Tobera Airfield south of Rabaul. Also, operated from Kavieng Airfield on New Ireland.

On May 7, 1943 six A6M2 Zeros scrambled from Kavieng Airfield to intercept B-17F "The Reckless Mountain Boys" 41-24518 on a solo photographic reconnaissance mission over Kavieng. The Zeros made firing passes that hit the no. 2 engine setting it on fire, knocked off the ball turret door and badly wounded the gunner. The B-17 dove down to sea level to avoid being attacked from below and headed southward until the the no. 2 engine failed. Repeated attacks by the Zeros also disabled the no. 1 engine. During the attacks, three crew were hit by gunfire and killed. Three others were severely wounded. Damaged, this B-17 ditched onto a coral reef roughly 50 yards offshore from Komalu on the south coast of New Ireland. Afterwards, the six Zeros strafed the B-17 before departing for Kavieng Airfield.

253 Kokutai Tail Codes
The group used different tail codes at various dates.

Tail code Dates
253-1xx ? - middle September 1943
53-1xx middle September 1943

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