Eye Witness Account (2)

"Koga's Zero" by Jim Reardon

“Koga’s Zero” by Jim Reardon

The following is a continuation of the condensed version of Jim Reardon’s research ____

[at the time] Ensign Robert Larson, from Monticello, Iowa was the co-pilot in Lt. William Thies’ PBY crew that located the downed Japanese Zero, “We approached cautiously, walking in about a foot of water covered with grass.”   The Japanese pilot, Petty Officer Koga’s body, thoroughly strapped in, was upside down in the plane, his head barely submerged in the water.

Robert Larson

Robert Larson

“We were surprised at the details of the airplane,” Larson continued.  “It was well built, with simple, unique features.  Inspection plates could be opened by pushing on a black dot with a finger.  A latch would open, and one could pull the plate out.  Wingtips folded by unlatching them and pushing them up by hand.  The pilot had a parachute and a raft.”

Koga’s body was buried nearby.  In 1947, it was shifted to a cemetery on nearby Adak Island and later his remains were returned to Japan.  Thies determined that the wrecked plane was nearly a new Zero, which suddenly gave it special meaning, for it was repairable.  Unlike US warplanes that had detachable wings, the Zero’s wings were integral with the fuselage and complicated salvage and shipping.

Larson on Zero 4593

Larson on Zero 4593

Navy crews fought the plane out of the bog and Zero 4593 arrived at North Island Naval Air Station, San Diego.  A 12-foot-high stockade was erected around it inside a hangar.  Marines guarded the priceless aircraft while Navy crews worked around the clock to make it airworthy.

In mid-September, Lt.Cmdr. Eddie R. Sanders later said, “My log shows that I made 24 flights in Zero 4593 from 20 September to 15 October 1942.  These flights covered performance tests such as we do on planes undergoing US Navy tests. The very first flight exposed weakness of the Zero that our pilots could exploit with proper tactics.

Zero 4593

Zero 4593

“The Zero had superior maneuverability only at the lower speeds used in dogfighting, with short turning radius and excellent aileron control at very low speeds.  However, immediately apparent was the fact that the ailerons froze up at speeds above two hundred knots, so that rolling maneuvers at those speeds were slow and required much force on the control stick.  It rolled to the left much easier than to the right.  Also, its engine cut out under negative acceleration [as when nosing into a dive] due to its float-type  carburetor.

Zero 4593 being worked on

Zero 4593 being worked on

“We now had an answer for our pilots who were unable to escape a pursuing Zero.  We told them to go into a vertical power dive using negative acceleration if possible, to open the range quickly and gain speed while the Zero’s engine was stopped.  We waited for an answer and finally it came back, ‘It works!'”

Another eye witness story will follow next from Robert Larson, co-pilot.

Judy at Greatest Generation Lessons had two uncles in Alaska during WWII; give her blog a try for the home front point of view.

Click on images to enlarge.

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Current News – 

To honor a great, well-respected military leader, on 7 February 2015, the USNS Lt.General Lewis B. (Chesty) Puller (T-MLP-3/T-AFSB-1) was christened. General Puller was the only Marine to earn the Navy Cross five times; he put in 37 years to the USMC.

USS Lewis B. Puller" a mobile landing platform vessel

USS Lewis B. Puller” a mobile landing platform vessel

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Military Humor – Bill Mauldin’s view on staying warm

546f8f48477b1.image

“Is this really worth it?”

thumb

“Run it up th’ mountain agin, Joe. It ain’t hot enough.”

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Farewell Salutes – 

Mark Amirault – Digby, CAN; RC Air Force (Ret. 20 years)

James Boyland – Taupo, NZ; RNZ Navy # 2102, WWII & Korea

Missing Man formation

Missing Man formation

Eugene Dunn – Washington, DC; US Army Air Corps, WWII, Sgt.

Dolores Fehmer – Oklahoma City, OK; US Navy, Lt. Commander (Ret.)

Anne Fitch – Jacksonville, FL; US Air Force, Lt. Colonel (Ret. 24 years)

Lucien Guay – Saco, ME; USMC, WWII, PTO, Korea & Vietnam, Gunnery Sgt. (Ret. 21 years)

William Harves – W. Austr; RASC # 6410036, Vietnam

Anthony Lein – Westphalia, MI; US Army, Korea, A/17th/8th Division

Willis Miller – Blooming Prarie, MN; US Navy, WWII, PTO, USS Craven

Ben Piotrowski – Shelton, CT; US Coast Guard, WWII / US Air Force, Korea

Bob Simon – NYC, NY; Correspondent nearly 50 years, Vietnam Bosnia, Iraq, POW

Russell Washburn – Buffalo, NY; US Army Air Corps, WWII & Atomic Energy Commission

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About GP Cox

Everett Smith served with the Headquarters Company, 187th Regiment, 11th A/B Division during WWII. This site is in tribute to my father, "Smitty." GPCox is a member of the 11th Airborne Association. Member # 4511 and extremely proud of that fact!

Posted on February 12, 2015, in First-hand Accounts, WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 53 Comments.

  1. I think this was the aircraft that played a key role in development of the F-6F Hellcat. The book on the Zero I have here talks about one being found in Alaska, returned to flight status, flight tested by Navy pilots before being handed over to the Grumman Corp. F-6F team for evaluation.

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  2. Such an amazing story about a chance crash and a friend who chose not to destroy this advanced technology…would make a great movie.

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    • You’re right, that’s a good point. I wonder why it wasn’t. Maybe because so few knew about this part of the war that they felt it wouldn’t make any money [everything always boils down to money].

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for the fine story about the Koga A5M2. It shed new light on the story of that incident and design. Just when I thought I knew it all. 🙂

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    • Oh, Job, there is always something new to learn. Like my dad, Smitty always said, “The day I stop learning…do me a favor and close the lid.” Glad to see you here and that you enjoyed the post!

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  4. Bringing history to life. Now that’s quite an art. Thanks for sharing. My late husband would have loved your blog; he was part of the design team at Faery Aviation during WWII.

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  5. Excellent reading on the Zero gp, interesting to know that research on the downed plane was instrumental in assisting the allies in later dogfights.
    Checked out a bit on the CA-12 Boomerang you wrote about, yes there are three airworthy still in Australia, this link shows one of them from a museum in New South Wales.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Very interesting story! Not something I had come across before. Reading earlier comments – you can buy an ebook from Amazon and download it to a PC or tablet/iPad. During the buying process you will prompted to download the free reading software. I was unsure also, but managed to do it just last week.

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  7. It’s intriguing how many Zeroes eventually fell into Allied hands – there’s one in the Auckland War Memorial Museum, here in New Zealand, that was captured in 1945. It had been damaged earlier in the war and was repaired for a final one-way mission.

    I should add that the book I wrote in 1997-98 on the RNZAF, including our Pacific WWII adventures, is about to be republished in a few weeks. Part of a series of reissues from my military-historical back-list which will include ‘Pacific War’. I know you’ve asked about that one! All will be available on Kindle. It’s taken a while to organise – but I’m glad to have managed it, because it’s been irking me that the few copies still around from the original issues are hitting gouge-level prices on the second-hand market, effectively denying them to interested readers (I don’t get a cent out of it either… 🙂 ). I’ll be posting details in the next week or two, over on my blog.

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    • Yes, after the Aleutians, the Allies did retrieve more Zeros, but I was not aware one was now in Auckland – thanks for that info.
      It is great news about your books and yes I am very interested in your “Pacific War’ edition. I’m afraid I don’t have a Kindle or Nook pad for the e-books though. I wish you nothing but success in your publishing, Matthew!!

      Liked by 1 person

      • When I last saw it, the Zero had a gallery all to itself in the Auckland museum – nicely restored though not flyable. I’m keen for ‘Kiwi Air Power’ and the rest of the series to be accessible for everybody interested – apparently free Kindle reading software is available for PC’s. I’ll make sure links to it are there when the books are published. It’s new territory in many ways, of course.

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  8. By capturing and inspecting the Zero, our pilots knew how to escape them better. Now that gives real meaning to knowing the enemy.

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  9. Wow, that is so cool to know the performance and the weakness of Zero. I was fascinated by the tales of this planes. It looks like it designed for certain specific engagement and not much more.

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  10. This ‘eye witness’ collection is a great series, GP. Fascinating.

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  11. Glad to read the rest of the story and that is something that they were able to fix it and that it was beneficial to them to learn the weakness. Excellent post.

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  12. I wonder if you will come across in your research info about how this captured Zero affected the Coral Sea US pilot battle tactics , especially if it affected the ‘Thatch weave’ maneuver .
    Also , I wonder what Chesty Puller would think of the choice of vessel named for him . Could have been a more assertive type of ship , I would have thought , to match his personality .

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    • The Zero affected quite a bit of our pilots’ training once it was repaired, but for specific details such as the thatch weaver , you might need someone more prolific in aviation, perhaps Pierre Lagace could be of more assistance. As far as Puller goes, I don’t think he’d mind the type ship, especially since it will be used for special forces missions and he already had the FFG-23 guided missile frigate named for him. I think he’d say something like – ‘Whatever works.’ 😉 I appreciate you coming by and your continued interest, Dan!

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Thank you for the rest of the story… 🙂 It has always fascinated me how one “small” decision on the part of one or two people can make such a huge difference in world history.

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  14. This story reveals the timeless benefits and dangers of utilizing the latest technology against an adversary. If something efficient and effective is captured by the adversary, the technological advantage will soon be lost. Hence the order to destroy Norden bombsights if a USAAF bomber landed in enemy territory.

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  15. Another really interesting blog post. Do we know what happened to the Zero at the end of the war? Is it in a museum somewhere?

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    • Unfortunately, in February 1945, a Helldiver pilot lost control during a training session and his propeller sliced the Zero to pieces. Parts of the Zero now lie at the Smithsonian, the Alaskan Heritage Museum and the National Museum of the Navy. Thank you for for your interest, John.

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  16. Reblogged this on My Forgotten Hobby and commented:
    There’s someone who built a model…

    http://hsfeatures.com/a6m2tb_1.htm

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  17. Hollywood has its own agenda when they make war movies… what we see is what we don’t get…

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  18. Getting the Zero and rebuilding it and flying it. It’s better than Hollywood – It’s real!

    Liked by 1 person

  19. This is a truly wonderful blog. Reminds me of the types of history books Antony Beevor writes – using accounts from ordinary serving personnel rather than generals etc. He wrote an amazing one about Stalingrad.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Stalingrad? Now that must have been quite the story! I’m very happy you’re enjoying the posts, it’s nice to have encouragement now and again. I just feel the facts, figures, dates, logistics, etc don’t tell the story. After I give those things, I let the men speak for themselves. Thanks for reading, David.

      Liked by 2 people

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