When Allied units entered Buna airstrip on New Guinea at the end of 1942, they found a former Tainan Kōkūtai Zero which became subject of many photos and also souvenir hunting. A6M3 Type
32 “V-187” (c/n 3028) carries typical markings of Tainan Kōkūtai – the V code and diagonal identification band. Latest research indicates this aircraft with shorter range belonged to Buna detachment of Tainan Kōkūtai and carried yellow markings. The Hókoku 870 marking with inscription Ko Gen indicates the aircraft was donated by civilian volunteer group.
a middle of cross-fire, exploded, and the pilot
was instantly killed. The airplane crashed at the
end of the runway.
Both Americans were credited with a single victory. They applied two basic rules in duels with
Zeroes: “Hit and run” and “Don't dogfight”. In this
case, it paid off. The shocked Sakai watched the
return of the five Zeroes instead of the expected
six. His faithful friend and wingman was dead.
The apologies of Watari Handa were useless.
It could not return Honda´s life. Handa did not
stop to blame himself for the death of Sakai's
wingman until the end of his life. According to
Sakai's memories, Honda's score exceeded 15
In the middle of May, Sakai is said to have participated in one of the most epic events of Pacific war – aerobatics over enemy airfield. The
story in book “Samurai!” says that on the night
of 16 May, Sakai and his colleagues, Hiroyoshi
Nishizawa and Toshio Ota, were listening to
a broadcast of an Australian radio program,
when Nishizawa recognized the eerie "Danse
Macabre" of Camille Saint-Saëns. Inspired by
this, Nishizawa came up with the idea of doing
demonstration loops over the enemy airfield.
The next day, Sakai´s flight included fellow aces
Hiroyoshi Nishizawa and Toshio Ōta. At the end
of an attack on Port Moresby that had involved
18 Zeros, the trio performed three tight loops in
close formation over the allied air base. Nishizawa indicated he wanted to repeat the performance. Diving to 6,000 ft (1,800 m), the three
Zeros did three more loops, without receiving
any AA fire from the ground. The following day,
a lone Allied bomber flew over the Lae airfield
and dropped a note attached to a long cloth ribbon. A soldier picked up the note and delivered
to the squadron commander. It read (paraphrased): "Thank you for the wonderful display of aerobatics by three of your pilots. Please pass on
our regards and inform them that we will have a
warm reception ready for them, next time they
fly over our airfield". The unit commander was
furious and reprimanded the three pilots for
their stupidity, but the Tainan Kōkūtai's three
leading aces felt Nishizawa's aerial choreography of the "Dance Macabre" had been worth it.
Evidence in historical documents for this event
is lacking. There are five days when the trio flew
together, but May 17 is not matching. There are
also no reports from Allied side of such activity
of Japanese airmen over Allied airfield.
FIGHTS WITH MEDIUM BOMBERS
Saburō Several times Saburō Sakai clashed
with American twin-engine bombers over New
Guinea The first battle occurred on May 25, 1942.
Six B-25 Mitchell belonging to 13th and 90th
Bomb Squadron attacked Lae. Ten miles before the target, the Americans noticed the starting Zeroes. The bombers successfully dropped
their cargo and were departing from the target,
accompanied by accurate flak fire. The American formation was then attacked by fifteen
Zeroes. Bomber pilots wanted to find protection in low-level flight over the water. This was
supposed to make fighter attacks more difficult.
According to information from American side,