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  A6M3 Model 22 Zero Manufacture Number 3844 Tail 2-152
USAAF
? Kōkūtai

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September 1945
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Fred Waldron 1953
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Peter Flahavin 2002
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M Claringbould 2006

Aircraft History
Built by Mitsubishi, estimated date of assembly July 1943. Assigned to ? Kokutai with tail code 2-152.

Wartime History
Transported to Rabaul during the middle of 1943. Assigned to ? Kōkūtai (possibly the 201 Kōkūtai). Assigned tail code 2-152. Flown from Rabaul to Bougainville. This Zero was damaged or left unserviceable and Kara Airfield (Toripoil).

As a morale boosting exercise for the 60-70 maintenance personnel at the airfield a composite Zero was repaired, using spare parts from many Zeros abandoned at the airfield, including the tail section of 3844. The repaired Zero was flyable by July 1945 and Rabaul was notified.

Pilot Petty Officer Sekizen Shibayama, was flown by E13A Jake from Rabaul to Buin (near Kara Airfield) who was instructed to test-fly this Zero and fly it back to Rabaul, but the war ended before this was accomplished.

Phil Bradley adds:
"The story goes that it was assigned to fly a bombing / kamikaze mission but the ground crew delayed the work so the war ended before the mission was flown. When they restored the plane they found a poem written inside the gun compartment. I have pictures of various other bits and pieces on display next to the aircraft pilot's gear etc.

Postwar
After the official surrender of Japanese forces on Bougainville on September 1, 1945, rumors about an intact came to the attention of RNZAF intelligence officers. On September 14, a photographer departed Piva Yoke Airfield aboard RAAF Auster A11-3 and landed at Kara Airfield. Japanese started the engine and ran it up.

The next day, on September 15, 1945, Wing Commander Bill Kofoed and Engineer Officer C D Kingsford departed Piva Yoke Airfield in RAAF 5 Squadron Wirraway to Kara Airfield to inspect the Zero, and Kofoed was briefed by the Japanese about how to fly it, and the Zero was fueled. Kofoed took off from Kara Airfield on a 32 minute flight to Piva Yoke Airfield, flying with the landing gear down.

War Prize
On the ground at Piva, the Zero was a curiosity to the Allies, and heavily photographed. Personally inspected by RNZAF Air Commodore G. N. Roberts. At Piva, the engine was run-up several times but the Zero was never flown again.

During October 1945, the Zero was partially disassembled and transported to Torokina and loaded as cargo aboard the Wahine. Departing Bougainville on October 15, 1945, the ship arrived at Auckland five days later. Then, barged to Hobsonville Airfield.

Assigned RNZAF serial number NZ6000. The Zero was flown once during December 1945 by Wing Commander Willis (C.O. Hobsonville) for a ten minute flight, reporting: "the aircraft was quite pleasant to fly, being rather like a Harvard. It appeared to have no unusual traits in the ten minutes I was flying."

The RNZAF planned to flight test it further, or donated to an aviation school as a training aid, but both plans never materialized. Officially grounded in May 1946, the Zero was assigned serial numbers INST.113, the engine INST.BI72, for use as a training aid, and was transferred to Technical Training School at Hobsonville, on February 28, 1947.

Never used, it was offered to the Auckland War Memorial Museum in September 1947, but remained in RNZAF possession until a display space was available at the museum. The Zero remained in storage and was only occasionally displayed thought the 1950's, and parked outdoors with other old and surplus aircraft. Display at the Easter Show at Hobsonville in 1954 and 1957. Afterwards, the Zero was stored at Ardmore Airfield in No. 8 hangar, partly dismantled.

In 1958, the RNZAF attempted to reassemble the Zero and repainted it for display at events celebrating the 21st Anniversary of the RNZAF. Afterwards, stored at Ohakea Airfield, then to Whenuapai Airfield on November 30, 1959, where it remained prior to donation.

Display
During December 1959, this aircraft was delivered to Auckland War Memorial Museum and reassembled by RNZAF personnel.

During 1985, the Zero was dismantled for study by RAAF restorers F/L Scholz and Dennis Doggett, who were involved with the restoration of A6M2 Zero 5784. They confirmed components from several Zeros were used to repair this aircraft, including:

LH wing root accessory panel - 3278
Both gun port panels - 3616
Top engine accessory cowl - 3616
Top engine cowl - 3616
Tail cone - 3844
RH gun chute access panel - 3616
LH gun chute access panel - 3217
Both sides gun blast panel - 3616

Later, Andrew Wilkins and Peter Lewis made a further examination of the Zero. They noted, that the front section of the Zero is from A6M3 Zero 3835, and the rear half from A6M3 Zero 3844.

In 1995 the Zero underwent extensive restoration at the museum, and is today displayed in at the "Scars on the Heart", exhibit, opened in 1997.

References
Pacific Aircraft Wrecks page 20 (upper)
The Mitsubishi Zero - War Prize by Peter Lewis about capture of A6M3 3844)
The Mitsubishi Zero - Identity by Peter Lewis about identification numbers and parts
Koku Fan August 2009 "Then & now story of Recycled Zeros" by Yoji Watanabe
This article speculates this Zero was assigned to the 201st Kōkūtai at Rabaul, and was flown to Buka Airfield on October 22, 1943, enroute to Kara Airfield (Toripoil), but was instead abandoned on Bogainville
Zero A Biography of Mitsubishi A6M3 NZ600 Auckland War Memorial Museum 1985

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Last Updated
January 9, 2018

 

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