The Akutan Zero was a Mitsubishi A6M Zero Japanese fighter aircraft that crash-landed on Akutan Island, Alaska Territory, during World War II. It was found intact by the Americans in July 1942 and became the first flyable Zero acquired by the United States during the war. It is also known as Koga’s Zero and the Aleutian Zero, after Koga Tadayoshi, a 19-year-old petty officer from the Japanese aircraft carrier Ryūjō.
About Akutan Zero in brief
The Akutan Zero was a Mitsubishi A6M Zero Japanese fighter aircraft that crash-landed on Akutan Island, Alaska Territory, during World War II. It was found intact by the Americans in July 1942 and became the first flyable Zero acquired by the United States during the war. The Zero was the primary Japanese Navy fighter throughout the war and was destroyed in a training accident in 1945. Parts of it are preserved in several museums in the U.S. and are on display at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., and the National Museum of American History in New York City. It is also known as Koga’s Zero and the Aleutian Zero, after Koga Tadayoshi, a 19-year-old petty officer from the Japanese aircraft carrier Ryūjō who was part of the first section of his wing; Koga was a wingman of his first-plane section. It has been described as ‘one of the greatest prizes of the Pacific War’ and ‘a prize almost beyond value to theUnited States’ During the war, the Japanese manufactured roughly 10,500 Zeros. Nine Zeros were shot down during the attack on Pearl Harbor. One Zero, piloted by Hajime Toyoshima, crashed on Melville Island in Australia following the bombing of Darwin. Another Zero, Piloted by Yoshimitsu Maeda, crashed near Cape Rodney, New Guinea, after the Battle of Midway. The Japanese were not prepared to or weren’t capable of building more advanced fighters in the numbers needed to cope with increasing numbers and quality of American fighters.
In 1940 Claire Lee Chennault, leader of the Flying Tigers, wrote a report on the Zero’s performance. However, United States Department of War analysts rejected it as ‘arrant nonsense’ and concluded the performance attributed to the Zero was an aerodynamic impossibility. In June 1942, as part of Japanese operation Midway, Japanese aircraft attacked the Japanese islands off the south coast of Alaska. A Japanese task force led by Admiral Kutaji bombed the Unalaska Island twice, once on June 3 and again the following day following the day of Dutch Harbor. The Allied forces were able to destroy the Japanese carrier and take the islands back. The Allies learned that the Zero lacked armor and self-sealing fuel tanks, but little else about its capabilities. The Zero’s flight performance characteristics—crucial to devising tactics and machinery to combat it remained a mystery. It had no armor and no self- SEALING fuel tanks. To achieve this, Japanese engineers had traded off durability. One Zero was heavily damaged and became Australia’s first Japanese prisoner of thePacific war. A third came from China, where Gerhard Neumann was able to reconstruct a working Zero. He used partly intact Zero that had landed in Chinese territory, repaired with salvaged pieces from other downed Zeros, and the long delivery time from China prevented Neumann from reaching the United states until June 1942.