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  A6M2 Model 21 Zero Manufacture Number 51553 Tail 313
IJN
253rd Kōkūtai (?)

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1960s via PNG Museum

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Ray Fairfield 1970

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via Larry Hickey 1970

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via Jim Lansdale

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Click For Enlargement

Mike Fletcher 2004

Aircraft History
Built by Nakajima, estimated date of assembly early September 1943. Tail Number 313, and painted with a green top / amber-gray bottom. This Zero has servo tabs.

Wartime History
Abandoned at Kavieng Airfield.

Wreckage
This airframe was displayed at Kavieng on a concrete pedestal, missing some components, but otherwise intact.

Thomas King (Pacific Islands Monthly, June 1969)
"From what I have been told and have been able to figure out by the condition of the Zero, two model 21 Zero wrecks were found in the jungle around Kavieng airstrip by a DCA employee who assembled one of the the serial number being 51553."

Salvage
During 1967, this Zero was acquired by Australian Thomas King, who wanted to recover a plane from New Guinea before retiring to Australia. He arranged for the donation of Wirraway A20-13 to the PNG Museum, and was allowed to recover this plane, and dismantled it into three major pieces for transport to Australia.

Bogus Number, Markings
Problems erupted with the PNG government over the salvage, prompting the salvager to attempt to hide the plane's identity for export. It was meticulously repainted with bogus stencil 11593, and even a series of bogus victory markings on the side fuselage giving it the bogus identity of A6M2 Zero 11593.

Sale & Storage
Exported to Australia, it was sold to the USAF Museum in the United States. It was stored outside for ten years, before it became a candidate for restoration.

Completed Restoration
Restoration was completed by Century Aviation. The completed aircraft was returned to the USAF Museum and placed on display during September 2004.

Painted in the markings of an early war Zero with amber-gray gray paint overall, with tail number A1-3-102 and manufacture number 5553 stencil, to accurately match its true identity.

References
Production figures of the Mitsubishi/Nakajima A6M Zero by Jim Long
Thanks to Jim Lansdale, Jim Long and Ryan Toews for additional information.

Century Aviation - Restorations - 1943 Mitsubishi Zero

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Last Updated
January 9, 2018

 

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