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  A6M2 Model 21 Zero Manufacture Number 5349 Tail BII-124
IJN
Hiryu

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RAAF 1942

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1960s

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Stan Gajda 1980s

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Pacific Ghosts 2001

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Daniel Leahy
2001

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Peter Flahavin 2004

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Goh Loon 2008

Pilot  Hajime Toyoshima (survived, POW, died August 5, 1944)
Force landed  February 19, 1942


Aircraft History
Built by Mitsubishi on October 4, 1941. Assigned to the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) as A6M2 Model 21 Zero manufacture number 5349. Assigned to Hiryu. Tail code BII-124.

Mission History
On February 19, 1942 took off from Hiryu piloted by Hajime Toyoshima as one of thirty-six A6M2 Zero fighters along with others from Soryu, including with D3A Vals and 80 B5N Kates from carriers Kaga and Akagi for a strike on Darwin.

Over the target, this Zero was hit by anti-aircraft fire, and force landed on Melville Island. During the crash, pilot Toyoshima suffered injuries to his face from hitting the gun site during the landing. Toyoshima wandered far from his fighter before being captured.

Aboriginal Matthias Ulungura, from the Snake Bay Settlement, fist found Toyoshima and disarmed him of his pistol, then escorted him to the nearest Australian forces on Bathurst Island. He was turned over to Sergeant Leslie J. Powell of the 23rd Field Company, Royal Australian Engineers.

Wreckage
The wings and tail were recovered from the crash site, and brought to Darwin Airfield for technical evaluation.  Their whereabouts today are unknown, possibly destroyed or scrapped during or after the war.

The center section remained where it crashed until the late 1960s, when it was recovered, and later became part of the Australian Aviation Heritage Center near Darwin.

Toyoshima's flag and flight suit are displayed at the RAAF Museum at Point Cook. The bugle used during the Cowra Breakout is displayed at the Australian War Memorial.

Prisoner of War
He was the first Japanese captured on Australian soil. In the hopes that no one would look for his Zero, he used the alias "Tadao Minami" born March 20, 1919 in Kanagawa-ken. Assigned prisoner number (PWJ 910.1 - later number PWJA.110.001 or PWJA.110001).

During initial questioning, he tried to convince his captors that he was a Sergeant who was an aerial gunner from a bomber based at Ambon that bailed out and swam ashore.But, his uniform had the ideograph of "Hiryu" and was not stained with sea salt. Later when his Zero and parachute were found, a blood stain was tested and on April 17 Police matched it to his blood type.

He was taken to Redholme Manson in South Yarra, Victoria for further interogation. On March 23, 1942 taken to Lavcony (?) 14C compound, then on April 4, 1942 arrived at Nayport Setenton (?) Barracks. Next, on April 9, 1942 he was taken to Hay Camp. Hospitalized June 6-15, then returned to Hay Camp.

On January 8, 1943 transferred to Cowra POW Camp. Again hospitalized August 6-11 then returned to the camp, but again hospitalized on August 28 - September 4. Next, placed in detention, pending trial on September 19 - 23 (crime or charge unknown). Then again hospitalized as sick on October 4-11 and returned to camp. Hospitalized again May 13-15, then returned to camp.

Toyoshima signaled the start of "Cowra Breakout" at 2am on August 5, 1944 with a bugle and managed to reach a storm drain ditch, but was shot in the chest when trying to move. Wounded, he lit a cigarette, then cut his own throat and was found dead the next morning.

Memorials
Toyoshima was buried at Cowra Japanese War Cemetery at grave QC 18.

References
Mitsubishi T "0" Navy SSF Maker's No. 5349 Found Crashed on Melville Island 24.2.42
The Hidden Chapters by Robert Piper
Australian Post "Where Japs got the third degree" by David Sissons, July 17, 1986, page 3, 5
Pacific Ghosts CD-ROM photos, history
Dariwn's Air War (Revised Edition) pages 38

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Last Updated
September 7, 2018

 

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