Dragon DRW50010 Imperial Japanese Navy Mitsubishi A6M2 Type 21/22 Zero Fighter - Saburo Sakai, Tainan Naval Air Group, Rabaul, 1942 (1:72 Scale)
"We have resolved to endure the unendurable and suffer what is insufferable."
- Japanese Emperor Hirohito, after the Hiroshima bombing
Aside from the early-morning raid on Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941, perhaps the biggest shock for American forces in the Pacific was the outstanding performance of the Imperial Navy's main carrier fighter, the beautifully proportioned Mitsubishi A6M2 Zero-Sen. Some 10,500 Zeros were built by Mitsubishi in no fewer than eight different sub-types, and although outclassed by more powerful US fighters from late 1943 onwards, the Zero retained a modicum of 'combatibility' due to its weight.
Pictured here is a 1:72 scale replica of an Imperial Japanese Navy Mitsubishi A6M2 Type 21/22 Zero fighter based at Tainan. Sold Out!
Wingspan: 6.5 inches
Length: 5 inches
Historical Account: "Sword of the Samurai" - Within just a few months following the Pearl Harbor raid, Japan had destroyed most of the allied air forces defending the Pacific. Interestingly, Saburo Sakai's Tainan Squadron, based in the Philippines, took credit for destroying the most allied planes in the history of Japanese military aviation.
On August 7th, 1942, 18 Zeroes from the Tainan Squadron received the order to attack Guadalcanal. The distance from Rabaul to Guadalcanal was roughly 560 miles, barely within the range of the Zero fighter.
Nevertheless, Sakai singlehandedly managed to shoot down three F4F Wildcats flying over the island then eyed eight additional enemy planes, which he presumed to be more Wildcats. Sakai was wrong.
They were SBD Dauntless dive-bombers which carried rear machine gunners. In the ensuing battle, Sakai shot down three SBD's, but was struck in the head by a bullet, very nearly blinding him in one eye and leaving him somewhat paralyzed. He survived the ordeal, flying four hours and almost 600 miles back to Rabaul. By the time he landed, his gas tank was completely empty and he was immediately taken to hospital.
Sakai would eventually resume flying, but his bad eyesight got him into trouble on other occasions. On June 24th, 1944, he approached 15 planes that he thought were Zeros, but were, in fact, US Navy Grumman F6F Hellcat fighters. In a high-flying chase that has become legendary, Sakai eluded every single attack made by the Hellcats for over 20 minutes, enabling him to return to base untouched if a little shaken. Eventually, Sakai would go on to become Japan's top surviving ace, credited with destroying 64 enemy planes.