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  A6M2 Model 21 Zero Tail ?
IJN
Tainan Kōkūtai

Pilot   FPO2c Takurō Yoshi’e (bailed out, fate unknown likely died)
Crashed  April 5, 1942

Pilot History
Yoshi’e began flight training during October 1938 with Kō 3 class and graduated in April 1941. Assigned to Chitose Kū Sentōki-tai in the Marshall Islands flying the A5M4 Claude prior to the start of the Pacific War and was then sent to Truk as part of the Okamoto-tai. On January 2, 1942 he flew several Combat Air Patrol (CAP) missions as a section leader before transferring via Kavieng and made a carrier landing before arriving at Rabaul.

On February 10, 1942 he was assigned to the 4th Kōkūtai and began flying a A6M2 Model 21 Zero. On March 11, 1942 flew to Lae Airfield and flew a combat mission that same day against RAAF Hudson A16-136. On March 13, 1942 he flew as shōtaichō on a fighter sweep over Port Moresby. On March 14, 1942 he flew a fighter sweep over Horn Island as Lt Shirō Kawai's wingman. Afterwards, grounded for two weeks. On April 1, 1942 Yoshi’e was assigned to the Tainan Kōkūtai and began flying Combat Air Patrol (CAP) over Lae.

Aircraft History
Built by Mitsubishi or Nakajima. Assigned to the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN). Assigned to the 4 Kōkūtai then transfered to the Tainan Kōkūtai in early April 1942.

Likely, this Zero was one of the nineteen A6M2 Model 21 Zeros loaded aboard aboard Shōhō at Truk and ferried to Lakunai Airfield near Rabaul arriving on March 9, 1942 and was briefly assigned to the 4th Kōkūtai during March 9 to April 1, 1942, then transfered to the Tainan Kōkūtai.

Painted in overall gray with a black cowling and hinomaru markings. Tail code unknown, possibly had a 4th Kokutai tail code F-??? (three digit number in the range of F-151 to F-169) and had not yet been assigned a Tainan Kokutai tail code of V-??? (three digit number).

Mission History
On April 5, 1942 one of four Zero led by Buntaichō Lt Kawai Shirō that took off from Lae Airfield near Lae and rendezvoused with G4M1 Bettys from the 4th Kokutai to provide escort to them on a bombing 7-Mile Drome near Port Moresby. Over the target, shot down by P-40E Kittyhawk A29-9 piloted by Les Jackson. This was the first Zero shot down by a P-40 Kittyhawk from 75 Squadron over Port Moresby.

Vanished without a trace: The First Tainan Kū Loss in New Guinea, 5 April 1942:
"F/Lt L.D. Jackson made a head-on attack from slightly below observing “tracers hit several bombers in both formations” then he sighted one Type 0 attacking one P-40E which was diving and gave chase: “I dived on a Zero and gave it long burst after which it immediately burst into flames & a number of pieces flew off”. He had probably hit the unprotected wing tanks of the Japanese aircraft. F/O J. Woods upon landing reported he “saw one E/A going down in flames on S.W. side of aerodrome” [this aircraft]."

Damaged, with flaming wing tanks, pilot Yoshi’e managed to bail out and successfully deployed his parachute and landed safely. His damaged Zero impacted the ground into a small creek. The crash was observed by Australian troops stationed in the vicinity, but the precise location was unknown.

This Zero is a notable loss because produced a series of firsts: This Zero was the first Tainan Kokutai combat loss in the South East Area. Pilot Yoshi’e was the first (and only) Tainan Kokutai pilot who parachuted out over enemy territory. This Zero was the first confirmed Zero shot down by a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) fighter in the North Eastern Area. Also, the first Japanese fighter shot down in air combat by 75 Squadron and finally the first confirmed aerial victory "kill" for F/Lt Leslie “Les” Douglas Jackson.

Fate of the Pilot
Yoshi’e survived landing in the jungle near the crash site of his Zero. Possibly, his parachute became stuck or torn near the top of a tree or he attempted to hide it, and discarded his parachute harness at the base of the tree and lit a fire and possibly camped at the same location.

On April 6, 1942 a person, believed to be Yoshi’e was observed by a native in the vicinity of Sapphire Creek Mine and ran away when spotted. Afterwards, he was not spotted again although Australian soldiers were told to look for him. Yoshi’e precise fate is unknown, likely he wandered in the area for several days or weeks before expiring from wounds or exposure or otherwise went Missing In Action (MIA) and died. His remains have never been located.

Wreckage
The wreckage of this Zero remains in a small creek gully and burned on impact.

Later in the day on the day of the crash, an Australian Army 30th Infantry Brigade, 39th Battalion, C Company patrol located the crash site sometime between April 5-11, 1942 and recovered pieces of parachute and eight metal plates from the wreckage. Afterwards, the creek where this Zero crashed was dubbed "'Zero Creek" by Australian troops stationed in the area.

Sometime later, RAAF intelligence visited the crash site and salvaged some additional items including two 20mm cannons with three 20mm rounds, one 7.7mm machine gun, portions of landing gear, engine cylinders, wing and instrument. Also, a drop tank that was from A6M2 Zero piloted by Nagatomo.

Today, only the engine, main landing gear leg and other small pieces of wreckage remain.

John Douglas visited the site in the early 1991:
"After a day of bush walking, I follow up up this story about 'Zero Creek' and found the engine and a twisted 7.7mm machine gun at the site."

References
J-Aircraft "Vanished without a trace: The First Tainan Kū Loss in New Guinea, 5 April 1942" by Luca Ruffato, 2013.
Kōdōchōsho Tainan Kōkūtai April 5, 1942
IJN "5th Air Attack Force Detailed Combat Report No. 10" WDC161729, page 5
Australian Army 30th Infantry Brigade War Diary, April 6, 1942
“[...] 2130. C.M.C. report that a native had seen someone suspected to be a Jap pilot, vicinity SAPPHIRE CK. MINE. Suspect had run away on being seen. May have reached there from scene of crash along track of ‘flying fox’ rope ry. from SMELTERS area. P.A.U. Offr. had interrogated native and believed his story was reliable. – Advised 39 Bn and suggested SMELTERS and Tk. be watched in case suspect doubled back [...]”.
Australian Army 30th Infantry Brigade War Diary, April 8, 1942
“[...] 1540. 39 Bn. report smoke sighted from Post C. to left of posn. of Jap plane crashed 5 Apr. C.O.I.C. informed 39 Bn sent out patrol from Dokuna to investigate. – Later D Coy (DOKUNA) 39 Bn. made nil report on investigating patrol [...]”.
Australian Army 30th Infantry Brigade War Diary, April 11, 1942
“[...] 1030. A piece of silk from Jap parachute and eight metal plates from different parts of wreckage all having Jap characters forwarded by 39 Bn. Picked up by C Coy patrol sent out after Raid 22. – Material forwarded 8 MD with Sitrep 36 [see below].
39 Bn were asked for more material. Explained that plane fell and burnt out in an unaccessible gully. Chute was torn on tree top. Pilot had lit a fire near base of tree. Near this a piece of chute harness was found slightly cleaved. Forwarded 8 M.D. by B.I.D. 13 Apr [...]”.
SitRep No. 36 of 1725K/11 from 30 Inf. Brig. to 8 M.D.:
“[...] Portion of Jap parachute and metal plate from type 0 crashed vicinity MERRIGEDDA are forwarded [...]”.
30th Infantry Brigade HQ IntSum No. 29, 5 Apr 42:
“[...] Reported that one Type “0” probably crashed about six miles N.E. MERRIGEDDA Mission. “C” Coy. 39 Bn. has sent out a patrol. A parachute was seen to leave plane but so far no reports are to hand [...]”.
30th Infantry Brigade HQ IntSum No. 30, 6 Apr 42:
“[...] C Coy patrol discovered late 5 Apr one crashed type “0” fighter and a Jap parachute, which was in a tree top. Pilot had evidently endeavoured to pull parachute out of sight before climbing down and escaping. All units have been warned to be on lookout for pilot and 39 Bn patrol together with P.A.U. patrol Offrs. are combing likely areas particularly concentrating on native villages, where pilot may soon be forced to seek food. He will probably be wearing a white singlet with navy blue neckband, khaki ‘Singapore’ type shorts and sandalhoes [sic]. Probably carries pistol [...]”.
8MD IntRep No. 22:
“[...] Following Raid 22 (PORT MORESBY) a patrol from C Coy 39 Bn. late on 5 April discovered a crashed Zero fighter and parachute in the vicinity of MERRIGEDDA (S.D.A.) MISSION which is 13 miles from PORT MORESBY. The pilot is apparently alive and still at large [...]”.
Kaigun Sentoki Tai Shi (Japanese Naval Air Force History) by the Zero Fighter Pilots Association 1987 page 51
Eagles of the Southern Sky pages 13-16 (Chapter Three - First Moves)
Kokoda Air Strikes pages 138-139
Thanks to Luca Ruffato, Minoru Kamada and Edward Rogers for additional information

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Last Updated
January 5, 2018

 

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