Roy Wiggs  1962 Discovery of Zeke Piloted by Lt. Shinya Ozaki

March 1962 Mitsubishi A6M5a Zeke Model 52ko Serial Number 4685 Tail Number 43-188

A6M5 Zero Model 52ko Manufacture Number 4685

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Zero Today at Hamamatsu
Photo courtesy of Mr.Uru

Interview with Roy Wiggs

What brought you to Guam?
I'm retired from the Navy and the Post Office. I was sent to Guam in 1961 compliments of the Navy. I''ve been interested in WWII for as long as I can remember. Now, I live in Salem Oregon. Guam was nice and peaceful then but also hot and humid. There was still some reminders of the war, Burnt out tanks up on Nimitz Hill, old artillery pieces, rusting landing barges in Apra Harbour.

How you first learned about Zero?
I was in the chow hall eating lunch with a buddy of mine and he told me that a Japanese airplane had been found behind George Washington High School. I thought he meant they had dug up the buried remains of a plane but he told me that it was intact and in a swamp. 43-188 was the tail code. After the plane was discovered and recovered an old Guamain man claimed he saw it belly in and knew it was there all along, he never said anything because he didn't think anyone would be interested!

What was the condition of the Zero?
The pictures are pretty self explanatory about the condition. As you can tell from the pictures the plane was bellied in and the engine was stopped.

When I first saw the plane in the swamp one of the cowl machine gun covers was bent and twisted and I could see the breech with a link belt of ammo still intact, I told the warrant officer that was in charge of the recovery about the machine gun bullets and based on that I told him the 20mm wing cannons were probably loaded also, he told me that he "had fought against Japs" (his words) in the war and "none of their airplanes had cannons."

When they lifted the plane up EOD removed almost 100 20mm shells from the nonexistent cannons. I don't know about any fluids still onboard, but a translation I saw from Koku-fan #56, page 60 said that the landing gear was still in excellent shape and that the tires were still inflated.

What stimulated the recovery?
It pretty much went without much planning or problems that the aircraft would be removed from the swamp. The aircraft was damaged when it was lifted out of the swamp but not too bad. The original plan was Government of Guam was going to put it on a concrete pylon in downtown Agana. Thank God that harebrained scheme fell through and after letting sit on a hill side and further deteriorate for a couple of more years, the government of Guam gave it back to Japan.

The worst thing they did to it was cut its wings off so that they could put it in a C-130 to fly it to Japan [January 17, 1964]. The nice thing about having the military around is you used to get stuff like this gratis. The CB's bulldozed a road into the swamp and the Navy Crash Crew from NAS Agana cleared the boonies away, they brought in a Cherry Picker, hoisted it up and put it on a Navy trailer. Total cost was a few beers and some time.

The nose was damaged by the metal bar on top of the mattress when the aircraft was transported to NAS Agana. The wing tips were also intact when the plane was recovered and they were still there after Typhoon Karen in Nov. 1962.

Where is the aircraft today?
The plane was restored by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries at Hamamatsu AFB and that is where it's located today, hanging in their Air Museum. I didn't know anything about the pilot or the plane until just recently when I emailed the pictures to a couple of web-sites in Japan. I saw the serial number on the plane at Hamamatsu AFB and recognized it to be the one found on Guam. When I asked the guys if they would be interested in some pictures and the story of how it was found they acted like I'd just offered them a priceless heirloom. We exchanged information and I slowly put the whole story together.

The restoration work, undertaken by engineers of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, was done in a hangar at JASDF Hamamatsu Airbase. After completion it is staitioned at Hamamatsu South Airbase and is displayed at various airshows. The landing gear received little damage as they were in the up-position, so the restoration work was a little easier. Unfortunately, the carburetor intake, the oil-cooler fairing, and the panels after the cowling were restored in the wrong shape. Also, the wings were cut off in order to facilitate shipping to Japan, and distinctive seams were left. The aircraft has accumulated much minor damage in nearly 30 years of display, a permanent and thorough re restoration would be seriously considered, including correcting the mis-shaped parts, as this is the most authentic example of the A6M5 series in Japan.


Shimazu Ozaki (upper left)
Shinya Ozaki (upper)

and Lt. Kazuo Yamagishi (lower

Lt. Commander Dick Harmer
Lt.Commander Dick Harmer

Last Mission of Zeke 43-188
This aircraft flew its last mission on June 19, 1944, the first day of the Battle of the Philippine Sea better known as the "Marianas Turkey Shoot". The battle lasted two days and was the greatest Naval Air Battle in history. Zero 43-188 may very well be the only surviving aircraft from that air combat.

Pilot Shimazu Ozaki and another Zeke straffed a Navy SOC seaplane attempting a rescue of a downed American flyer. A USN F-6F of VF-10, flown by Lt. Henry C. Clem joined the battle, but was shot down by Ozaki. In turn, a F4U-2 Nightfighter on temporary day duty, flown by Lt.Cdr. R.E. Harmer of VF(N)-101 pursued Ozaki, and damaged his Zeke.

It escaped back towards Guam streaming smoke. Ozoaki crashed landed his Zeke just off the airstrip, and later died of his wounds. Rediscovered in March of 1962, this remarkable aircraft was almost perfectly preserved in the swampy area just off the airfield. It was recovered and later returned to Japan. Today, it has been fully restored and is on display at Hamamatsu in Japn.

Several books mention the combat that resulted in the damaging of Zeke 41-188 and wounding of its pilot, after he shot down an F-6F.

Red Sun Setting, page 139:
"Ensign T.E. Hallowell from Fighting 51, had been lost, as well as Lieutenant Henry C.Clem, the executive officer of the "Enterprise's" Fighting 10. Clem and Lieutenant Commander Harmer, VF(N)-101's CO, were escorting a pair of "Montpelier's" SOCs a few miles off Orote Point when a Zeke jumped the floatplane Clem was covering. Clem tried to follow the agile Zeke but stalled out. Before he could recover, the Zeke whipped around and shot him into the sea. Harmer took out after the Zeke and was able to put a few shells into it but it escaped. When Harmer returned to where Clem had gone in, all he could see was a slowly spreading oil slick."

Carrier Battle in the Philippine Sea, page 26:
"The VF-10 loss was Lt. H.C.Clem, the "Reapers" exec, killed trying to protect an SOC rescuing a downed flier. He engaged two Zeros strafing the floatplane, but the Japanese leader was aggressive and skilled. Turning into the attack, Lt. Shimazu Ozaki of 343 Kokutai shot Clem's F6F into the water but was bounced by another "Enterprise" pilot. Lt.Cdr. R.E. Harmer was CO of VF(N)-101, a small F4U-2 detachment doing daytime duty like his F6F-3N counterparts. Harmer, who had first fought from "Saratoga" in 1942, got a brief shot at Ozaki, whose plane made off streaming smoke. Forty years later, researchers established that the Japanese Ace died of wounds after landing on Guam. The SOC took off safely and returned to the task force."

Do you remember the two Japanese Holdouts found in 1961?
I remember when they found the two soldiers but other than the fact that one of them was shot and wounded by an overexcited Guamainian while he and his comrade were trying to steal some food. The other one surrendered because he was scared to death and half starved, I don't remember when just that I was there at the time.

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