My Jap Zero.....

Discussion in 'General Military Arms & History Forum' started by Guest, Feb 23, 2003.

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    Xracer
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    (4/30/01 8:30:29 am)
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    In another thread, Polish mentioned AT-6s with meatballs painted on them playing "Zeros" in the movies....this reminded me of a correspondence I had a while ago with a WWII vet concerning that subject.

    Some of you have heard this story before, so bear with me.....this is for those who haven't.

    True story......

    Hi Bill:

    Since you were in the Aleutians during WW II, you might find this of interest:


    MY "JAP ZERO"


    I grew up during World War II....and like almost every young boy of that era, I was plane crazy. We lived in East Hartford, Connecticut, and within a radius of 100 miles there were at least 20 Army and Naval Air Bases. In addition, there were 5 major manufacturers...Grumman, in Bethpage, L.I., Vought-Sikorsky in nearby Stratford, Conn., and Pratt & Whitney, Hamilton Standard (propellers) and Nordon (bombsights) right there in East Hartford.

    What's more, we lived on the highest hill in East Hartford....right in the landing pattern for Rentschler Field...the airport for Pratt & Whitney, Hamilton, & Norden.

    The sky was full of airplanes...and I could identify every one of 'em! After all, every box of cereal had cardboard cutout model warplanes....you could go down to Woolworths 5 & 10 and for 25 cents buy a pack of playing cards with 52 different 3 view silohuettes of Allied & Axis warplanes...."just like the ones our brave airmen use."

    I knew everything that flew....I could even identify some prototype and experimental aircraft that never made it into production.

    Then, one day, a strange aircraft flew low over the house to land at Rentcheler. It was a sort of dull green with a light grey bottom....and it had American markings....but it was a JAP ZERO! I just knew it was a Jap Zero!

    My dad was an engineer at Pratt & Whitney, and when he got home from work I said: "Dad, Dad, I saw a Jap Zero today....and it landed at Pratt & Whitney!" He said, "No, it must've been an AT-6 or SNJ".

    Now Bill, I'm sure you remember that during WW II, every "B" war movie used AT-6's or SNJ's to protray Zeros.....take an AT-6, paint "meatballs" on it, stick an oriental actor in the cockpit, and you've got a Jap Zero.

    "No, Dad...it wasn't an AT-6.... or an SNJ....it was a real, live Jap Zero!!!"

    "You're mistaken son....if a Jap Zero landed at Pratt & Whitney today I'd know about it. And I can assure you that no such thing happened."

    Flash forward about 3 years.....now, P&W had a monthly employees' magazine called The Beehive. One month in '46, when we got our copy in the mail.....there, on the cover, was a picture of MY Zero, sitting on the tarmac at P&W!!!

    When my Dad got home from work, I confronted him with the magazine. Yes, he'd known about it...in fact, he'd been a member of the evaluation team that studied it.

    Here's how it all came about.........

    During the Battle of Midway, Admiral Yamamoto launched a diversionary attack on the Aleutian Islands in Alaska. In fact, they captured and occupied Attu and Kiska Islands in the Aleutians (I'm sure you remember that). One of their Zeros out on patrol, became lost in the fog, and ran out fuel...the plane made a wheels up soft landing on the muskeg with no more damage than bent propellers....what happened to the pilot, no one knows.

    A few days later a ground patrol of the Alaskan National Guard found it......an intact, late Model A6M Zero!

    The plane was rushed to Wright Patterson AAFB for a quick evaluation....and then was flown to Grumman down in Bethpage, Long Island for testing against the prototype F6F Hellcat. As a result of what was learned in mock dogfights, modifications were made to the Hellcat.....which became the premier "Zero Killer" in the Pacific Theater.

    The Zero was then flown up to Pratt & Whitney for evaluation of the engine. It stayed there for about three weeks, and then went back to Wright Patterson for more detailed analysis. I'm not sure, but I think this may be the same plane that's in the Air Force Museum there at Wright Pat.

    Damn it Bill.....I knew that was Jap Zero!

    See ya on the photo board......

    Jim

    Jim,
    The Small World comes to play again!! We arrived at Attu on May 29/30 1943 carrying Ammo -mostly 105 shells and the steel mats for an airstrip. The last Banzai Charge occured on May 31 and the Japanese Marines all became dead.
    Stories - stories- stories- then we were ready to head back to Dutch Harbor. We went to Anchorage instead because of a "Special" deck load.
    What was said to be the First Zero captured intact was put aboard. The Zero had ground flipped on the Tundra airstrip at Massacre Bay -Attu. That was where our airstrip went- it had only been a Flat spot. At that time the plane was was Zero Black Laquer with the orange balls-- 20+ coats hand rubbed I have been told. The damage had been only the prop and a scuff on top of the rudder. The Japs had virtually No Air in the chain,Kiska was their larger base. The Zero and a P-38 stuck in the hillside as a dart would be were the only 2 planes that I saw while at Attu.
    The story of the Alaska National Guard was probably in error as I only knew of Armies-Jap and American. Remember that any NG would have been called up for Army service earlier than 1943.
    Jim,The course followed by "Your Zero" is just what would have been expected for such a rare find. I am glad to hear the later parts of this process.
    I don't suppose the plane would have been very safe flying in US Airspace as originally colored,do you?
    Pappy Boyington of the "Flying Tigers" who's P-40 planes shot down many zeros was a pal of my folks-- just unrelated addendum.
    Thanks so much for the story of what is now Our Zero!!
    Regards,
    Bill






    polishshooter
    Senior Chief Moderator Staff
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    (5/1/01 10:08:18 pm)
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    Thanks, X. I read the first part when you posted on GB, but I didn't see the response.

    You're the Jim, Right?

    Xracer
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    Posts: 218
    (5/2/01 4:37:00 pm)
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    Yep, that's me......
     
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General Military Arms & History Forum My Jap Zero... May 23, 2004