"...The Wildcat was clinging grimly to the tail
of a Zero, its tracers chewing up the wings and tail. In desperation,
I snapped out a burst. At once the Grumman snapped away in a roll
to the right, clawed around in a tight turn, and ended up in a climb
straight at my own plane. Never before had I seen an enemy plane
move so quickly or gracefully before, and every second his guns were
moving closer to the belly of my fighter. I snap-rolled in an effort
to throw him off. He would not be shaken. He was using my favorite
tactics, coming up from under.
I chopped the throttle back and the Zero shuddered as its speed fell.
It worked; his timing off the enemy pilot pulled back in a turn. I
slammed the throttle forward again, rolling to the left. Three times
I rolled the Zero, then dropped in a spin, and came out in a left vertical
spiral. The Wildcat matched me turn for turn. Our left wings pointed
at a right angle to the sea below us, the right wing at the sky.
Neither of us could gain the advantage. We held to the spiral, tremendous
G pressures pushing us down in our seats with every passing second.
My heart pounded wildly, and my head felt as if it weighed a ton. A
gray film seemed to be clouding my eyes. I gritted my teeth; if the
enemy pilot could take it, so could I. The man who failed first and
turned in any other direction to ease the pressure would be finished.
On the fifth spiral, the Wildcat skidded slightly, I had him, I though.
But the Grumman dropped his nose, gained speed, and the pilot again
had his plane in full control. There was a terrific man behind that
He made his error, however, in the next moment. Instead of swing back
to go into a sixth spiral, he fed power to his engine, broke away at
an angle, and looped. That was the decisive split second. I went right
after him, cutting inside the Grumman's arc, and came out on his tail.
I had him. He kept flying loops, trying to narrow the distance of each
arc. Every time he went up and around I cut inside his arc and lessened
the distance between our two planes. The Zero could out fly any fighter
in the world in this kind of maneuver.
When I was only fifty yards away, the Wildcat broke out of his loop
and astonished me by flying straight and level. At this distance I
would not need the cannon; I pumped 200 rounds into the Grumman's cockpit,
watching the bullets chewing up the thin metal skin and shattering
I could not believe what I saw; the Wildcat continued flying almost
as if nothing had happened. A Zero which had taken that many bullets
into its vital cockpit would have been a ball of fire by now. I could
not understand it. I slammed the throttle forward and closed in to
the American plane, just as the enemy fighter lost speed. In a moment
I was ten yards ahead of the Wildcat, trying to slow down. I hunched
my shoulders, prepared for the onslaught of his guns, I was trapped.
No bullets came. The Wildcat's guns remained silent. The entire situation
was unbelievable. I dropped my speed until our planes were flying wing-to-wing
formation. I opened my cockpit window and stared out. The Wildcat's
cockpit canopy was already back, and I could see the pilot clearly.
He was a big man, with a round face. He wore a light khaki uniform.
He appeared to be middle-aged, not as young as I had expected.
For several seconds, we flew along in our bizarre formation, our eyes
meting across the narrow space between the two planes. The Wildcat
was a shambles. Bullet holes had cut the fuselage and wings up from
one end to the other. The skin of the rudder was gone, and the metal
ribs stuck out like a skeleton. Now I understood his horizontal flight,
and also why the pilot had not fired. Blood stained his right shoulder,
and I saw the dark patch moving downwards over his chest. It was incredible
that his plane was still in the air.
But this was no way to kill a man! Not with him flying helplessly,
wounded, his plane a wreck. I raised my left hand and shook my fist
at him shouting uselessly, I knew, for him to fight instead of flying
along like a clay pigeon. The American looked startled; he raised his
right hand weakly and waved.
I had never felt so strange before. I had killed many Americans in
the air, but this was the first time a man had weakened in such a fashion
directly before my eyes, and from the wounds I had inflicted upon him.
I honestly, didn't know whether or not I should try and finish him
off. Such thoughts were stupid, of course. Wounded or not, he was the
enemy, and he had almost taken three of my own men a few minutes before.
However, there was no reason to aim for the pilot again. I wanted the
plane, not the man.
I dropped back and came again in on his tail. Somehow
the American called upon a reserve of strength and the Wildcat jerked
into a loop. That was it. His nose started up. I aimed carefully
at the engine, and barely touched the cannon trigger. A burst of
flame and smoke explode outward from the engine. The Wildcat rolled
and the pilot bailed out. Far below me, almost directly over the
Guadalcanal coast, his parachute opened. The pilot did not grasp
the shroud lines, but hung limply in his chute. The last I saw of
him he was drifting in towards the beach..."
Sakai 's autobiography Ôzora no samurai (Japanese language) originally published in