Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Photo: Honma via Wikimedia Commons.
Wounded Saburō Sakai walks away from airplanes after legendary return flight from Guadalcanal on August 7, 1942. Next to him walks Buntaichō Lt.jg. Jun-ichi Sasai (54 v.) with his personal Zero fighter (V-138)
in the background.
Photo: M: D. Harmer.
The final part of the duel between Sakai and Southerland, which took place on August 7, 1942 over Guadalcanal, was depicted by Piotr Forkasiewicz.
VF-5 pilot Lt. James J. “Pug” Southerland that fought against Sakai over
Guadalcanal on August 7, 1942 in one of best known dogfights of World
War 2. His Wildcat F-12 (Bu.No. 5192) exploded at low altitude moments
before impacting the ground. The wreckage landed in a ravine covered
with dense jungle. Most parts have been well preserved by thick foliage
protection. It was found in 1998.
According to Sakai, they arrived only after the
fifth attempt on June 20, 1944 (in reality on
Two days later, in the morning of June 24, the
Japanese radar identified an enemy formation
approaching Iwo Jima. Yokosuka Kōkūtai made
ready 25 machines, with Kōkūtai 252 and 301
another 32 machines available. The fighters
took-off at 6.20, climbing counterclockwise
around the island. Japanese formation clashed
at 06.30 with Hellcats of VF-1, VF-2 and VF-50.
Without major problems Sakai shot down two
Hellcats and then wanted to join a formation of
fifteen fighters, which he identified as Zeroes.
But it was his bad sight that betrayed him this
time. The Zeroes were in fact Hellcats of VF-2.
Before Sakai could do anything, he was in the
middle of the gang of Hellcats, who tried to hit
him without success, but fired more and more
When Ens. Clarence E. Rich and Ens. William
A. McCormick of VF-50 appeared on the scene,
they saw how four Hellcats chased one Zero,
which maneuvered so sharply that pursuing fighters falled to a spin. McCormick did not want
to get involved in such a confusing combat,
where novices from VF-2 were fooling around.
But Rich joined the fight and managed to pursue Sakai down to 5000 feet. As enemy tracers began to fly around him, he was forced to
break and disengaged from the attack on Sakai.
He got the Zero recognized as a damaged.
Sakai had reached the sea level during the fight
and tried to escape by flying low over the water. Not less than three times the waves hit the
wing of his Zero. Near Iwo Jima the attackers
were discouraged by anti-aircraft fire and Sakai safely landed at main airfield Motoyama.
The amazed ground crewmen found out that his
Zero did not have a single hit!
According to Yokosuka Kōkūtai war diary, Saburō Sakai took part in an interception mission
of US Naval aircraft in the morning of June 24,
and in an escort mission for torpedo bombers
on the same day in the afternoon. The report
says victories of the fighter unit were seventeen F6Fs including six probables in the morning and one F6F in the afternoon. But individual
victories were not recorded. One of Sakai´s colleagues participating in these combats was his
friend Ens. Kaneyoshi Mutō (35 v.) who as well
served as an instructor with the unit .
Iwo Jima became the target of raids on July 3
and 4. It was on the US Independence Day that
Sakai shot down another US Navy Hellcat. During the three days of battles Yokosuka Kōkūtai
lost 54 machines (not 71, as stated by Sakai)
Back from deadly mission, Petty Officer Saburō Sakai with blood streaming down his face. He was hit in the head by two heavy fragments.
Blinded in his right eye and temporarily in his left eye, having paralizing
wounds in his left leg, arm and chest! His return flight from Guadalcanal
took almost five hours. Everybody wanted to hear from Sakai his unbelievable story. Immediately behind him stands Lt. jg. Jun-ichi Sasai,
to the Sakai´s right in white shirt wearing a helmet is Petty Officer
Toshio Ôta (34 v.). Behind Ôta wearing a helmet is Petty Officer Sadao
Uehara (13 v.). Unusually in a middle of the excited crowd stands Cdr. Yasuna Kozono the Executive Officer and Hikóchó of Tainan Kōkūtai, he can
be seen in a white cap between Ota and Uehara. Famous Hiroyoshi Nishizawa (87 v.) can be seen in upper left part of the photo in flight helmet.
A war time photo of AO2c Harold L. Jones, Dauntless gunner of VB-6 who
almost killed Saburō Sakai on August 7, 1942 over Guadalcanal. His pilot
on the epic Flight 319 mission was Ens. Robert C. Shaw.