Jap Zero to Jap Hero!

Wow, we absolutely love this story!

The A6M carrier-based fighter was built in 1940 by Nakajima and designed by Hirokoshi. Better known as the Jap zero, it was a ferocious leader in the air with not one Allied aircraft that could compete or outmaneuver them until 1943. It reached a maximum speed of 535km/h and it weighed just over 2 tons with a wingspan of 12 meters. Sadly these planes were also used for the famous kamikaze pilots towards the end of WWII.

We recently send a WWII enthusiast out to our Jap Zero fighter.  The Plane was rediscovered after the exact location had been lost many years ago. She lies in shallow waters about 17 meters deep near the island of Kolombangara where the Japanese had a stronghold and airstrip in 1943. It makes for a great dive as you have ample amount of No-Deco time to swim around and explore this magnificent wreck.

Upon descending into the blue both Sunga and Barbara felt a relatively strong current pushing through, but needless to say they kept their mark and low and behold the great Jap Zero appeared… Half of it! This was odd as we remembered the Jap Zero was fully intact. With no hesitation they started exploring and soon realized that the wreck was merely covered in sand possibly due to a constant current passing by over the years. Time to dig!

They started digging near the tail on the port side of the plane and miraculously discovered a fuselage stencil in Japanese writing. This shook all the divers as we could not believe that the stencil could be so well preserved after being in relatively shallow waters for more than 75 years!

No one speaks Japanese!

Finally our guest Jack McKee heard the story and just had to see it to believe it, being another WWII enthusiast and a superb underwater photographer he embarked on a journey to identify and decipher the mysterious Japanese writing.

He discovered the following:

The plane is an A6M2 Model 21 Zero Fighter, with the manufacture number 5455. It was manufactured by Nakajima, likely in November 1942. 

This is the fuselage identification stencil in Japanese:

型式

零式艦上戦闘機二一型

製造番号

中島第 5455 號

製造年月日

 

所属

 

 

This is the English translation:

Model/Type

A6M Zero Fighter Model 21

Manufacturer's serial number

Nakajima Number 5455

Date of Manufacture

Blank

Belonging to/under the control of

Blank

 

Jos