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The Untold Story of Langley and a Famous Japanese Zero

DSE

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http://crgis.ndc.nasa.gov/historic/Langley_Photo

As Full Scale Tunnel comes down, we are fortunate to have retired researcher Joe Chambers writing a new history of the facility. Not surprisingly, Joe has uncovered several previously unknown activities of significant historical interest. This month's photo is of the captured Japanese Zero on the Langley runway. But did you know that the airplane was secretly tested in the Full Scale Tunnel? We are looking for anyone who remembers when the plane was here.

A more in depth article is linked to at the above site.
 

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Stargazer2006

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Interesting. I'm intrigued that this Zero photograph is dated 8 March 1943 and that NACA evaluated the aircraft at the time. The U.S. is supposed to have taken possession of its first Zero (EB-2/EB-200) in India and shipped it home where it was restored to flying condition by Curtiss-Wright (presumably in the latter half of 1943). I know of that aircraft being evaluated at USAAF's Evaluation Branch, then at Wright Field, Ohio and finally at the Army Proving Grounds at Eglin Field, Florida, but all this took place in 1944. Could this aircraft be the same one? Why would it be in good condition early 1943? Or is it not the same aircraft? But then EB-200 is supposed to have been the first... Without any markings it's hard to tell...

Allow me to share with you an article I've researched and compiled/written for my forthcoming website on Curtiss-Wright:

#3372 was the first very first intact Japanese A6M2 Zero captured as a prize of war. Built as c/n 3372 by Mitsubishi on October, 21 1941, this Zero was regularly assigned to Lt. Inano. The aircraft was painted gray and had a diagonal yellow strip on the fuselage, rear of the hinomaru. Also, two blue bands around the tail number, which was painted white and outlined in red. It took off before dawn on a ferry flight from Tainan Airfield for Saigon, with a refueling stop at Hainan Island. Two Zero became separated and lost due to bad weather, this aircraft and another A6M2 Zero piloted by Shimohigashi. Over the coast near Qian Shan on the southeastern coast of Leichou Panto, both pilots force-landed on the beach. Inoue was successful, but Shimohigashi’s Zero fighter was extensively damaged during the beach landing. The exact fate of the pilot is unknown. Reportedly, he was captured by Chinese forces and never returned.It was pulled off the beach by the Chinese, along with the other Zero that had force-landed. Transported over several months to Liuchow, it was reassembled there by Chinese mechanics. During re-assembly it was found that the fuselage panels aft of the cowling had been lost during its trip north. Therefore, the Chinese mechanics replaced the missing parts. Reportedly, Major General Nathan F. Twining, then Director of war Organization and Movement, went to China and was shown the remains of this Zero and subsequently informed General Chennault.

Two 76th Fighter Squadron personnel later arrived at Liuchow and inspected the Zero, and an American photographer documented the aircraft. The Zero had been repainted with Chinese Air Force markings and the Chinese serial, P-5016. 75th FS C.O. pilot Alison was the first American to fly this Zero to Kweilin. It suffered a force landing due to failure of the landing gear to extend and was again repaired. Later, the Zero was flown by at least five other American pilots who called themselves “The Zero Club". In early 1943 the Zero was flown from Kunming to Karachi, India with an escort flight of 23rd Fighter Group Curtiss P-40K Warhawks. One by one, all the Warhawks aborted their escort mission and Zero 3372 arrived in Karachi alone. There, Neumann supervised the crating of the Zero and it was placed aboard a ship bound for the United States as a war prize and for further testing.

Although it sustained some damage during transport, Curtiss Aircraft volunteered to rebuild the damaged Zero once again. After its repair and reconstruction, it now sported USAAF markings and the Evaluation Branch tail code EB-2 on the tail. It underwent further test flights at Wright Field, Ohio and the Army Proving Grounds at Eglin Field, Florida. At Eglin Field the tail number was changed to EB-200. "A report dated 10 March 44 says that Zeke EB-200 had arrived at Wright Field with 30 hrs flying time and had flown no additional hrs since arrival."

The "Curtiss Zero", so to speak, was scrapped or otherwise disposed after the war. Today, a piece of tail fabric with the serial number 3372 and a metal data plate are all the only known remains of this aircraft.

Main sources:
- the PacificWrecks.org website
- the J-Aircraft.com website
- War Prize: The Capture Of The First Japanese Zero Fighter In 1941 by Jim Lansdale
- Koku-Fan Magazine, May 1964, Vol. 13 No. 7, published by Bunrindo Co., Ltd., Tokyo
 

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Abraham Gubler

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There was also a Zero fighter (BII-124) recovered from Melville Island in February 1942. It was in near flying condition after having made a belly landing due to its oil tank being pierced in the bombing of Darwin. I don't know what happened to it but its joy-stick and fuel cap remained in my family’s possession until the early 1990s when they were given to the Australian War Memorial for incorporation into a Zero restoration project. We still have the manufacturers patch from the pilot's parachute and sitting on my desk is a wonderful Pearl Shell with "Bathurst Island, NT, Feb 1942" written on the back...

http://www.ozatwar.com/nt39.htm
 

Stargazer2006

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Abraham Gubler said:
There was also a Zero fighter (BII-124) recovered from Melville Island in February 1942. It was in near flying condition after having made a belly landing due to its oil tank being pierced in the bombing of Darwin. I don't know what happened to it but its joy-stick and fuel cap remained in my family’s possession until the early 1990s when they were given to the Australian War Memorial for incorporation into a Zero restoration project. We still have the manufacturers patch from the pilot's parachute and sitting on my desk is a wonderful Pearl Shell with "Bathurst Island, NT, Feb 1942" written on the back...

http://www.ozatwar.com/nt39.htm
Very interesting. Thanks for sharing! Do you reckon if this particular Zero ever find itself on U.S. mainland at some point?
 

AeroFranz

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Stephane,

you might want to get a copy of Gerard Neumann's biography, "Herman the German". Besides a pretty complete account of the zero capture and rebuild, it contains the fascinating story of Neumann's life. THe guy could literally build and maintain any machinery using a screwdriver and metal wire. He was supposedly the only German national sworn in the US army, and was made a US citizen by an act of congress! In 1945, he traveled with his newly wed wife from Hong Kong to Jerusalem in a Jeep.
Oh, i almost forgot he rose to one of the top positions at GE and was head of the team which designed the J79.
 

Stargazer2006

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Sounds interesting... Thanks for the tip!
 

Stargazer2006

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Another couple of photos of the Langley "Zero" can be found in the document mentioned in the first post: THE UNTOLD STORY OF LANGLEY AND A FAMOUS JAPANESE ZERO. I'm attaching here both the pics and the NASA article.
 

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chuck4

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There was a zero which made a emergency wheels down landing in the Aleutians in June 1942, and was recovered intact and test flown in late 1942. If I recall it was subsequently scrapped.
 

Apophenia

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That Aleutian A6M2 was sent to San Diego when it lasted until 1945. "Koga's Zero met its end in February of 1945, when a taxiing Curtis Hellcat [sic] overran it and chopped it to pieces."

Another A6M2 examined and flown by Americans was one recovered by the Chinese in Nov 1941.
http://www.j-aircraft.com/research/WarPrizes.htm
 
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