c/n 3372, Lt. Kiku-ichi Inano, Tainan Kōkūtai, Tainan airfield, Taiwan, November 1941
This aircraft, released by Mitsubishi on October 21, 1941, became the first Zero in repairable
condition to fall into Allied hands. The legendary Tainan Kōkūtai was established on October
1, 1941, at the Tainan base. Most of the unit participated in combat over the Philippines, Borneo and the Dutch East Indies. A smaller part, under the command of Lt. Kiku-ichi Inano, was
transferred to French Indochina in late November and temporarily became part of 22. Kōkū
Sentai HQ fighter squadron. The “V-172” fighter was Inano's personal machine. During the
transfer to Saigon on November 26, Inano flew aboard a transport aircraft and his Zero was
piloted by PO1c Shimezō Inoue. Inoue and his wingman with Zero “V-174” lost their bearings
in poor weather and made an emergency landing on the coast of the Leichou Peninsula. Both
pilots were taken prisoner by the Chinese. Inoue was repatriated after the war. He returned
to his home village with shame over his capture, suffered from depression, and died in a war
veterans' hospital. With great effort, the Chinese managed to transport the Zero “V-174” to
Liuchow base, where they began repairs. The machine was given Chinese national insignia
and number P-5016. It was also tested by pilots of the American 75th FS. In 1943, the aircraft
was transported to the USA, where it received the designation EB-2, later EB-200. Lt. Inano
returned to Tainan Kōkūtai in July 1942, participated in combat over New Guinea and Guadalcanal. From October 1944 served as Hikōtaichō of Tainan Kōkūtai (II) in Taiwan.
Fighters from the 3rd Kōkūtai at Kupang airfield, Indonesia in 1942. Note the difference between the light identification stripes and bands as compared to grey color of the aircraft, which appears relatively dark.
(photo: San Diego Air and Space Museum)
Lt. Cdr. Shigeru Itaya, Akagi Fighter Squadron, Pearl Harbor first attack wave
During the first wave Itaya led 43 Zero fighters, including 9 from Akagi. Itaya's own Akagi
formation shot down one sightseeing and three training aircraft. Then, at Hickam and Ewa
bases, they destroyed about 25 aircraft and also attacked incoming B-17s. Itaya's wingmen
damaged and set fire to a B-17C from 7th BG of Capt. Swenson´s crew with one passenger
who did not survive the attack. Itaya's wingman, PO1c Hirano, was hit by anti-aircraft over
Fort Kamehameha and hit an obstacle while flying low over the ground, killing himself and
four American soldiers. Itaya was born in 1909 and graduated from the Naval Academy in
1929. From November 1936, he was the Buntaichō of the Ryūjo Fighter Squadron for one year.
He then served with the 15th and 12th Kōkūtai and from January 1940 he was Buntaichō
of the Hiryū Fighter Squadron. In November 1940 he took over this position on the aircraft
carrier Akagi, in April 1941 he was appointed Hikōtaichō and remained in this position until
the Battle of Midway. He was killed on July 24, 1944 in the Kuril Islands, at that time serving
as a member of the staff of the Naval 51st KōkūSentai. He was flying aboard a G3M bomber
towards Paramushir and was accidentally shot down by a Ki-43 fighter.
The burning Japanese aircraft carrier Hiryū, photographed after Battle of Midway by a Yokosuka D4Y “Judy” from
the carrier Hōshō shortly after sunrise on June 5, 1942. Hiryū sank a few hours later. Flight deck is torn out by
the bomb dropped by SBD bomber.
(Photo: U.S. Navy National Museum of Naval Aviation)
c/n probably 2236, PO2c Akira Yamamoto, Kaga Fighter Squadron, Pearl Harbor first attack
Kaga sent nine Zeros in the first wave of the attack on Pearl Harbor under command of
Lt. Yoshio Shiga. His formation destroyed 21 aircraft at Hickam. Six of them were credited
to PO2c Yamamoto, who had previously shot down a yellow-painted civilian Piper J-3 on
a sighseeing flight. The two men on board were killed. Lt. Shiga lowered Yamamoto's rank one
notch and called him an idiot bastard. Yamamoto had served as a fighter pilot since 1934 and
had seen combat in China with the aircraft carrier Hōshō and 12th Kōkūtai. During the Battle
of Midway, he shot down five bombers. After Kaga was hit, Yamamoto landed aboard Hiryū
and while escorting bomber he claimed four fighters including F4F flown by „Jimmy” Thatch,
commander of VF-3. In the fall of 1942 he served on the carrier Zuihō and was promoted to
the rank of Warrant Officer. In May 1944, he was transferred to the Yokosuka Kōkūtai and
participated in the defense of Iwo Jima. He was killed in the defense of Japan on November
24, 1944. After his aircraft was hit by a B-29 gunner, Yamamoto bailed out, but his parachute
did not open. He achieved 13 aerial victories and the rank of Lieutenant junior grade.
Part of Tainan Kōkūtai pilots in Lae, New Guinea in June 1942. Saburō Sakai is in the middle row second from the
left, Hiroyoshi Nishizawa is standing to the far left.
(Photo: San Diego Air and Space Museum)