Sunday 28 June 2020

IJAAF & IJNAF wrecked aircraft #34 - Saipan Pt.6

And now Group 4.
In the beginning there were only three Zeros in front of the hangar.

Zero14 was an A6M5 Model 52 with tail marking "61-120".

The tails of the other two Zeros (15 & 16) are not clear in the photos. But let's see the third video, of exceptional quality, from here.

From the beginning, we can see that the Zeros of Group 4 are now five.

A nice close up of the engine.

The Group 4 from a different angle.
The third Zero from the left is "61-120" and is under a camouflage net. Note the cowling cover of the second Zero from the left and the spinner. They are the same with the Zero in the photo below.
The tail marking is barely visible, but Zero15 is "8-28".
More photos of the Zeros of Group 4.

Unfortunately, we have found no more information about the rest of the Zeros in Group 4. At least for now.

There is one Zero found in a hangar that is not clear if it was brought out and was placed in a group. Tail marking is "61-125".

And ofcourse, there were Zeros that were too damaged to be of any use.

And some had various parts taken as souvenirs.

As mentioned in a previous post, the aircraft were placed on trailers...

...and were brought to Saipan harbor to be shipped to the U.S.A.
Above is Zero "8-36" of Group 3.
Zeros "61-131" and "8-03" of Group 3.

We discussed in older posts how various Japanese aircraft were transported to the U.S., in our 8-part series "Toraware no Nihonki", here. Some of these Saipan Zeros (13 Mitsubishi A6M Zeros, 1 Nakajima B5N "Kate" and 37 engines, according to Wikipedia) were ferried on board USS Copahee. The total of the Zeros we found in all groups is 18, which means five were left behind. The 1 "Kate" is without doubt "KEB-306" we saw in the previous post. Here's a list of all the Zeros we have identified in this series. 
From the "8" unit: "8-13" & "8-17" (Group 1), "8-07 & "8-34" (Group 2), "8-36" & "8-03" (Group 3), "8-28" (Group 4).
From the "61" unit: "61-197" & "61-180" (Group 2), "61-131" (Group 3), "61-120"(Group 4).
Total 11 out of 18 Zeros.

Let's see how these Zeros were placed on Copahee.
There are two without a tail marking. One more intact Zero on the top left, and another without an engine in the middle. I believe the one without an engine is Zero 10 of Group 2.
Here are the Zeros with their numbers.

There are four Zeros we could not place in the Groups.
"8-24", below is another photo. Note the lack of tail cone.

Another Zero is "61-121". There is also the Zero without a tail number and the one in the back of the photo with a "6" tail marking we can't read.

We know that "8-34" (Zero6) was also on Copahee as can be seen in the photo below and was placed in front of "8-24" and on the port side of "61-121".

Here's another photo of another group of Zeros carried by Copahee.
And their numbers.
We can't read with certainty the tail marking of the Zero on the top right.

So, from the total 13 Zeros on Copahee, we have identified 8 also spotted in the Groups, two that appear only on Copahee and one without a tail marking. Plus two we can't read their tail markings. 8+2+1+2=13. But actually if you look closer at the photos, you will notice there are 14 Zeros. Seven in the first Copahee photo plus "8-34" and six in the second photo. Where's "Kate"?...

Saturday 27 June 2020

IJAAF & IJNAF wrecked aircraft #33 - Saipan Pt.5

Zero Group 3 is a lot clearer.

Zero11 is a A6M5 Model 52 and has tail number "8-36" with a kanji "" (Oka) above it.

Zero12 is another Model 52 with tail marking "61-131".

Zero13 is not very clear in most photos so it's time for the second video from here.


The video reveals that Zero13 has tail marking "8-03" with the kanji "" (Sen or Chi). Yet another Model 52.

At the end of the video we can see the following aircraft in the hangar.

It's not a Zero but a Nakajima B5N2 "Kate" tail marking "KEB-306" with radar.
It belonged to the 931 Kokutai same as the "Mavis" we saw in a previous post. Actually the existence of  the "Kate" confirms that this particular unit was active in the area and as a result confirms that the tail marking of the "Mavis" was a "KEB", not a "KEA" (901 Kokutai).
At some point the "Kate" was pushed out of the hangar and was loaded on a trailer to be shipped to the U.S.A.

Friday 26 June 2020

IJAAF & IJNAF wrecked aircraft #32 - Saipan Pt.4

Let's move to the 2nd Group.

Zero4 had a battered fuselage and a damaged fin tip. Tail number was "8-07". 

Right next to it, is Zero5 and the tail marking is very clear; "61-197". It belonged to 261Ku, known as "Tora Butai" (Tiger Unit). The 261Ku was another unit organized in Kagoshima on June 1, 1943. Relocated to Saipan at the end of February 1944 with mainly air defence duties. It was disbanded on July 10, 1944.
On the far right of the above photo we can see the warped tail of "8-07". Half a kanji is barely visible, but unfortunately we cannot identify it. 
It also looks like the "8" part is written in red with a white surround. 
Below is a photo showing "61-197" and the damaged fuselage of "8-07" on the left.

As you can see, the "61-197" has A6M2 cannons and folding wings! Note the traces of what looks to be a white band on the fuselage of "8-07", similar to the one "8-13" had.

Next to Zero5 "61-197", is Zero6, another "8" Zero on jack stands. The tail marking is clear, it's "8-34" and the kanji is "" (Mori).

It's time to see the first video.

The video starts with two Group 1 Zeros, "8-13" and "8-17". Note that the starboard wing of "8-13" has suffered only small damage. Probably just a few panels were removed.

Then we notice that the Zeros of Group 3 have not yet been placed in front of Group 2.

Moving on, we see Zero7, Zero8, Zero9 and maybe Zero10 is somewhere there. Zero7 has an engine mount, but nothing else on the nose and there are some dark "things" under the wings.

Finaly, we notice that there are three Zeros in Group 4.

At some point some of the Zeros were transported to the harbor to be sent to the U.S. Below is one such photo showing Zero "61-180"; another most interesting subject for a small diorama.

It has too many similarities with Zero7 to be a coincidence and the "things" under the wings seen in the video stills above, are actually bomb racks. Note that the wing cannons have been faired over (?). I'm not sure if it's an A6M2 or a modified A6M5.

We weren't able to find any information regarding the tail markings of Zeros 8 and 9. The aircraft can be seen in some videos but not their tail markings.

30/7 update
In the photo below from the "U.S. Naval Institute photo archive" we can see on the far left the tail of either Zero 8 or 9. 
It's "61-106" and I'm leaning towards Zero 9.