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  A6M2 Model 21 Zero Manufacture Number 51553 Tail 313
IJN
253 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. At the factory, painted with green upper surfaces and gray lower surfaces. The fuselage Hinomaru markings had a 75mm white outline. This Zero was equipped with servo tabs.

Wartime History
Delivered to the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) as A6M2 Model 21 Zero manufacture number 51553. Assigned to an unknown Kōkūtai, likely the 253 Kokutai with tail code 313 with a single white stripe on the rear fuselage. This Zero was abandoned at Kavieng Airfield on New Ireland.

Wreckage
This Zero was one of two wrecked Zeros abandoned in the vicinity of Kavieng Airfield, one with the manufacture number 51553 visible on the fusealge stencil.

During the 1960s, both Zeros were recovered by a Department Civil Aviation (DCA) employee and assembled into a externally complete Zero that was placed on a concrete pedistal at Kavieng. In the 1960s, the tail rudder fabric was repaired.

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 Papua 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 components for transport to Australia.

Problems erupted with the PNG government over the salvage and Mr. King attempted to hide the plane's identity for export. It was meticulously repainted with bogus manufacutre number 11593, and bogus victory markings on the side fuselage. Exported to Australia with this false identity.

Later, sold to the United States Air Force Museum (USAF Museum). Shipped to the United States, this Zero was stored outside for ten years until it became a candidate for restoration.

Restoration
During the early 2000s, restored by Century Aviation to static condition. Accurately, the Zero's manufacture number 5553 matches the plane's original identity. The Zero was painted in the markings of A6M2 Zero painted overall gray with tail code A1-3-102 indicating assignment to Zuiho after November 1, 1942. By September 2004, placed on display at the USAF Museum.

References

Production figures of the Mitsubishi/Nakajima A6M Zero by Jim Long

Century Aviation - Restorations - 1943 Mitsubishi Zero
Pacific Island Monthly June 1969 "That Zero Wasn't Exactly A Bargin" pages 43 - 43
Thanks to Jim Lansdale, Jim Long and Ryan Toews for additional information.

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Last Updated
December 8, 2018

 

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