Built by Mitsubishi with an estimated date of assembly in November 1942. Delivered to the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) as A6M3 Model 32 Zero manufacture number 3285. Painted overall gray at the factory.
Assigned to an unknown Kokutai with tail code 3-174 painted in white on both sides of the tail. In the field, this Zero was painted overall gray with green paint applied over top in the field. Later, redesigned or reassigned to another Kokutai with tail code 5-136 painted in yellow.
During 1943, this Zero was abandoned or damaged on the ground at Ballale Airfield on Ballale Island. Likely stripped for usable parts during the war.
Until 1968, this Zero remained in situ on Ballale Island. The wreckage had manufacture number 3285 and traces of tail codes 5-136 and 3-174 visible on the tail.
During 1968, salvaged by Robert Diemert. During the salvage, this Zero's fuselage section was cut between stations 12 and stations 13 and was in a truncated condition. Also recovered were the horizontal stabilizer fairings. Likely, the wings of this aircraft were also salvaged.
This Zero was
loaded onto a barge and transported to Port Moresby and stored in a fenced area at Jackson Airport. During the middle of January 1969, a deal was made with the Royal Canadian Air
Force (RCAF) to airlift the wreckage aboard a C-130 Hercules to Canada and delivered to Robert Diemert at Frendship Airfield.
In 1990, the tail fin was sold to John Calverley and Earl Calverley / Blayd Corporation and placed into storage. The tail fin was missing the leading edge but was otherwise intact and has evidence of battle damage or shrapnel damage sustained on the ground. The tail fin had original paint including tail code 5-136 painted in yellow and original tail code 3-174 painted in white on the side of the tail. This tail fin was placed into storage.
Ryan Toews adds:
"The unit prefix 3- is indicated by Diemert’s notes. Neither this prefix, nor the 5- prefix that was painted over the earlier code, can be attributed to any particular formation. The paint is red primer / olive gray / sprayed green/hand painted white code 3-174 / hand painted yellow code 3-174 / hand painted green/sprayed yellow code 5-136. The cut marks on this fin at station 16 link this fin with the rear most section of an A6M3 fuselage. It is possible to establish this identification by the location of the tail cone fasteners aft of station 16. Because of a lack of an adjustable rudder trim tab inspection panel it can be assumed that this tail came from A6M3 Model 32 3285. The existence of two squared wing tips, a wing panel, a right flap and both left and right wing root skinning also point to the recovery of the wings from A6M3 3285."
Production figures of the Mitsubishi/Nakajima A6M Zero by Jim Long
A Brief History of the Blayd Zero and Its Markings by Ryan Toews June 15, 2014 page 1, 3
(Page 1) "Components of Mitsubishi-built A6M3 32 (s/n 3285) and A6M3 22 (s/n 3753) were also salvaged." "
(Page 3) "The evidence provided that at least six tail fins with tail codes had been recovered, but only three of these could be identified: ...what is believed to be an A6M3 32 tail with the code 3-174 over-painted with 5-136."
J-Aircraft "Zero Tail Relic" photos by Dave Pluth text by
Thanks to Ryan Toews for additional information
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October 16, 2018