Thursday, July 4, 2013

The Friday Flyby - 05 July

Mitsubishi A6M Zero
Warrant Officer Hiroyoshi Nishizawa
Imperial Japanese Navy
87 Aerial Victories
1920 - 1944

He was the antithesis of what a fighter pilot should be.  Tall, introverted and sickly, he preferred not the company of his peers, but solitary intellectual pursuits such as reading and martial arts.  He kept no written account of his victories, tactics or techniques.  Very little is written about the man, and even less is understood.  In the air, he was singularly focused, not on the art of flying, but on the art of destroying the enemy. Yet he was unequalled at the controls of an aircraft.  It is said he flew as if he was the aircraft.  His closest friend, famed Japanese fighter ace Saburo Sakai, said of him:
"Never have I seen a man with a fighter plane do what (he) would do with his Zero.  His aerobatics were all at once breathtaking, brilliant, totally unpredictable, impossible, and heart-stirring to witness."
He did not revel in his victories, yet loathed ending an engagement without one.  He was sullen, moody and, at times, full of self doubt.  His vision of his own fiery fate impelled him to request transfer to the divine wind, or kamikaze, of the honored special attack squadrons.  The request was denied, but the fate was granted.  He was the highest ranking ace of Imperial Japan.  His name was Warrant Officer Hiroyoshi Nishizawa, but to the allied pilots of the Pacific Theater he was known as The Devil of Rabaul, or simply “The Devil”.

Nishizawa's Zero

LT (jg) Tetsuzo Iwamoto
Imperial Japanese Navy
87 Aerial Victories
1916 - 1955

Iwamoto's Zero

Tetsuzo Iwamoto finished the war credited with approximately 80 planes destroyed in China & WW2. He had almost 8 years of combat under his belt, had flown against a myriad of enemy & downed a large share of them as well. This makes him one of the most experienced fighter pilots of all time.

Like many Japanese veterans, Iwamoto did not adjust well to Japan's defeat. This was not helped by the fact that he was "blacklisted" from most employment opportunities & had turned to alcohol. 

On 20 May 1955, after a series of bad surgeries, he passed away, his wife claiming his last words to be, roughly, "When I get better, I want to fly again."

Warrant Officer Shigeo Fukumoto
Imperial Japanese Navy
72 Aerial Victories
???? - ????
Did not survive the war.

There is very little information available on this pilot. With 72 victories you'd think he'd be remembered better.

Petty Officer Shoichi Sugita
Imperial Japanese Navy
70 Aerial Victories
KIA 1945

Sub-Lieutenant Saburo Sakai
Imperial Japanese Navy
64 Aerial Victories
1916 - 2000

During the air group's first mission of the battle of Guadalcanal, having just shot down Southerland and Adams, Sakai was seriously wounded in a failed ambush near Tulagi of eight SBDs, a mixed flight from Bombing Squadrons Five and Six (VB-5 and VB-6). Mistaking the SBDs for more Wildcat fighters, Sakai approached from below and behind, targeting a VB-6 Dauntless flown by Ens. Robert C. Shaw. The sturdy dive bombers with their rear-mounted twin 7.62 mm (0.3 in) machine guns proved tough adversaries, and a blast fired by one or more of the SBDs' rear gunners, possibly including Shaw's gunner, AO2/c Harold L. Jones, shattered and blew away the canopy of Sakai's Zero.
The description of this aerial battle from Saburō Sakai is different. He spotted eight planes in two flights of four and initially identified them as F4F Wildcat fighters. When he attacked - followed by three other Zero fighters, he discovered that the airplanes were TBF Avengers because he clearly distinguished the top turret and the ventral machine gun. He shot down in flames two of the TBF Avengers and these two victories (61st and 62nd) were verified by the other three Zero pilots but during this day, no TBF Avengers were reported lost. This is an example how even an experienced pilot during the heat of battle, may not identify correctly enemy airplanes or receive verified credit for airplanes not shot down. 
Sakai sustained grievous injuries from the return fire; he was struck in the head by a 7.62 mm (0.3 in) bullet, blinding him in the right eye and paralyzing the left side of his body. The Zero rolled over and headed upside down toward the sea. Unable to see out of his remaining good eye due to blood flowing from the head wound, Sakai's vision started to clear somewhat as tears cleared the blood from his eyes and he was able to pull his plane out of the steep seaward dive. He considered crashing into one of the American warships: "If I must die, at least I could go out as a Samurai. My death would take several of the enemy with me. A ship. I needed a ship." Finally, the cold air blasting into the cockpit revived him enough to check his instruments, and he decided that by using a lean fuel mixture he might be able to make it back to the airfield at Rabaul.
- Wikipedia 
Kawanishi N1K Shiden "George"
Kawasaki Ki-100
Kawasaki Ki-61 Hien "Tony"
Mitsubishi J2M3 Raiden "Jack"
The Zero, A Beautiful and Nimble Aircraft

Until next time, 左様なら!(Sayonara i.e. Goodbye...)


  1. Very well done, yet again.

    Apropos o' not much... I read Saburo Sakai's book as a child and was most impressed.

    1. I read the book too. The dude epitomized the true samurai spirit. Not that militaristic Japanese government crap of the thirties and forties. Most of that lot were most emphatically not samurai!

  2. Interesting...nice job, thx.


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