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  A6M2 Model 21 Zero Manufacture Number 6544 Tail AI-I-129
IJN
Zuikaku

Click For Enlargement
ATIU 1943

Pilot  Warrant Officer Katsuma Shigemi (KIA)
Crashed  February 4, 1943


Pilot History
Born in Shimane Prefecture on January 27, 1914, he graduated with the 20th class of the Pilot Trainee Student Course in July 1933. Shigemi served on board Kaga before transferring to the 14th Kōkūtai in China.

Shigemi was assigned to Ryujo, after this ship was refurbished in November 1940. The Ryujo saw limited action in the first few months of the Pacific War. After being re-equipped with Zero fighters in late April 1942, the Ryujo sortied northward as part of the diversionary attack in the Aleutian Islands, the participated in the attacks against Guadalcanal.

On August 24, 1942, Shigemi led six Zeros escorting D3A Val dive bombers. In the ensuing fight over Guadalcanal, the Japanese lost four Vals and three Zeros. The United States Marines of VMF-212 and VMF-223 suffered three aircraft shot down of the 10 that intercepted from Henderson Field. In the meantime, the Ryujo was sunk and the surviving planes were diverted to land at Rabaul.

After Ryujo was sunk, Shigemi was reassigned Zuikaku. During the Battle of Santa Cruz on October 26, 1942, Shigemi commanded the four escorting Zeros of the second wave attack force of 17 Nakajima B5N Kate torpedo bombers that sortied from the Zuikaku against the USS Enterprise.

This attack went badly, eight Kates were shot down by US Navy fighters and anti-aircraft fire. Shigemi's four Zeros survived a scrap with four Wildcats which were also unharmed. In the dogfight, Shigemi was separated and landed at Buin Airfield (Kahilli Airfield).

Credited with three victories flying in combat against the Chinese Air Force. Also, five victories flying against the US Navy in the Pacific.

Aircraft History
Built by Nakajima during the last week of December 1942. Delivered to the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN). Assigned to the Zuikaku as a replacement aircraft after the Battle of Santa Cruz when the carrier was resupplied with replacement aircraft including this Zero in January 1943.

This Zero was painted overall gray. The leading edge of the wing was yellow. The cowling was painted black and the fuselage Hinomaru was outlined in white. Assigned tail code AI-I-129 painted in red on both sides of the tail. As a new replacement aircraft, this Zero never had the Zuikaku identification marking added, a white fuselage strip with red edges.

Wartime History
On January 29, 1943 took off from Zuikaku as one of thirty-six Zeros under the command of Lt. Kenjiro Notomi flew south to Rabaul to support "Operation Ke", the evacuation of the remaining Japanese forces from Cape Esperance on Guadalcanal. Flying from Buin Airfield (Kahilli Airfield), Zuikaku fighters took part in three aerial cover operations before returning to Truk on February 17. Warrant Officer Shigemi was one of two Zuikaku pilots lost in this operation.

Mission History
On February 4, 1943 took off piloted by Warrant Officer Katsuma Shigemi on a mission to support the Japanese evacuation from Cape Esperance on Guadalcanal. This Zero was shot down and crashed in the Russell Islands.

Wreckage
After the crash, the Zero was investigated by Technical Air Intelligence Unit (TAIU). The tail section was intact with the tail number AI-I-129 in black. Ultimate fate unknown, likely scrapped or otherwise disappeared.

An replica aircraft, A6M2 Zero Registration N8280K (Replica) is painted in the markings of this Zero.

References
Thanks to Ryan Toews and Jim Lansdale for additional information

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Last Updated
February 4, 2018

 

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