The Mitsubishi A6M outclassed every American fighter at the beginning of World War II. Called the “Zero” by the Allies, the A6M could out climb, out turn, and out run almost anything in the air. “Never try to turn with a Zero,” Claire Chennault of the Flying Tigers always advised his pilots. Because of the A6M’s exceptional range and performance, it would see action in nearly every naval engagement in the Pacific theater of the war.
The Zero became less effective once the Allies began exploiting its weaknesses, most notably its lack of armor and self-sealing fuel tanks. New American fighter designs closed the performance gap as Hellcats, Mustangs, and Corsairs began to arrive in the Pacific in great numbers.
History of the Artifact
This Zero was one of many Japanese combat planes damaged by American bombing in New Guinea during World War II. In the early 1990s the wrecked plane was discovered by a warbird hunter. Three recovered Zeros, including this one, were sent to Russia for restoration. The fighter’s salvageable parts were retained, while missing or heavily-damaged components were created by Russian craftsmen.
In order to operate dependably, each aircraft was fitted with a specially-modified American radial engine created by Fighter Rebuilders in Chino, California. The Flying Heritage & Combat Armor Museum’s Zero, modified to carry two passengers, was purchased in 1998.
Did you know?
Near the end of World War II, Zeros served as escorts for Kamikaze (suicide) planes, and finally, were used as Kamikaze weapons themselves.