The Japanese Zero Fighter
The Japanese zero fighter was developed by the Mitsubishi company in 1937. This fighter was more nimble and had long range capability.
Facts about the Mitsubishi Zero:
Crew: 1 except trainer Two
Total Production Fighters-10, 449 Trainers-515 Seaplanes-327
Range: -Early Models-1, 194 at speeds of 331mph Later Models-1, 926 at speeds of 351mph.
Military Load: - On the Type 97 two 7.7mm cannons on the type 99 two 7.7 cannons and two 20mm Guns in the Fuselage some carried two 60kg (135 Bombs)
In 1937, the Japanese Empire issued an order to the Mitsubishi company to have them design a new fighter: one that was more nimble and with long-range capability. Under Chief Engineer Jiro Horikoshi, the Mitsubishi Co. created a masterpiece in the Zero. The specifications for this aircraft were that it should carry two machine guns, one in each wing, and have extraordinary maneuverability over its adversaries. Over the bloody battlefield in Central Asia, in the late 1930’s and early 40’s, it enabled the Japanese to defeat the nimble biplanes of the Soviet Union. It soon became a symbol for the Japanese nation.
In early 1939 the Zero was fitted with a more powerful Nakajima Engine, giving it the maximum speed the Japanese Imperial Navy wanted. As part of the testing the Japanese Navy sent 15 new A6M Zeros to China. By September 1941 they had shot down 99 of the enemy aircraft while only losing two Zeroes, neither victims of air combat. Afterwards the Japanese Navy had some small changes made, one of which were the folding wingtips the aircraft carrier version used. The Japanese Imperial Navy Air Corps division took great care to learn how to fly the Zero for maximum fuel efficiency. It helped the Japanese keep the Zero unknown to most of the Allied Commands. They believed there must be several times as many Zeroes as there actually were. In late 1941, the Mitsubishi Zero was fitted with clip-on wings making it the A6M2.
On December 7, 1941 at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, the Japanese Imperial Navy had 328 A6M2 in-service. During the Battle at the Navy yard were they had sank the Battleship Arizona and capsized the Oklahoma, along with six other battleships. The Japanese only lost a total of eight aircraft. At the same time other Zeros were bombing the Army Airfield as well as the Army Barracks. This traumatic shock to the United States of America forced them into World War II. It also put the U.S. in a defensive role as the Japanese had more carriers than they did. It was just a matter of days before the Japanese had swept away all its opposition from Hawaii to Ceylon. When the Americans first saw the Zero they gave it the code-name ’HAP’, but hastily changed to ’HAMP’, because of Hap Arnold U.S.A.A.F. Chief of Staff. Later, this was changed to Zeke.
At the battle of Midway, the Japanese lost four of its top line aircraft carriers, along with most of its experienced pilots. This forced the Japanese to operate from land based airfields, as the Allied had improved its aircraft with planes like the P-38 Lightning and the P-51 Mustang. The heavily armored and more maneuverable Allied aircraft outclassed the Zero in every way. As one U.S. pilot said, “We are shooting them down like flies.” So the Japanese made some modifications to the Zero. Smaller, but with thicker wings for faster diving and larger guns in the fuselage. But, with lack of experienced pilots for combat, their losses added up fast. Adding in the fact that replacement parts that never made it to the Japanese air squadrons, the Zero had no chance in combat. So, the Japanese called for pilots to join as the infamous suicide Kamikaze pilots. It was considered an honor to die in this manner, serving the Emperor.
At the Battle for the Mariana Islands, the Japanese used kamikaze attacks against the U.S. Navy ships without success. As Admiral Bull Halsey said, “It was a Turkey Shoot!” It is known today as The Great Mariana Turkey Shoot. By October 1944 ,many Zeroes had been used up in suicide missions. By the end of the war the Japanese had less than 300 Zero in services.