A6M2 Zero


*Shared with our museum courtesy of the Texas Flying Legends Museum from mid May to the latter part of July*

The Last Samurai, an A6M2 Model 21 Zero, was resurrected by the Blayd Corporation in Wahpeton, ND and is on display from mid-May through mid-July at the Dakota Territory Air Museum. This fighter was one of many that filled the skies over the bloody Solomon Islands. It witnessed the beginning of the end of Japan’s dream of victory. The Battle of Guadalcanal and Santa Cruz resulted in the loss of ships, aircraft, and men from which Japan could not recover. The allied island hopping strategy was met with heavy resistance, displaying some of the largest aerial battles in the Pacific. Warriors and their machines would duel overhead islands like Bougainville, New Britian, and Ballale.

Blayd’s Zero was reclaimed from the island jungles of Ballale in the late 60’s. It is a small island south of Bougainville that was used by the Imperial Japanese Naval and Army Air Forces. This aircraft might have been seen by Admiral Yamamoto, if he wasn’t shot down in April of 1943 – since Ballale Island was his destination. It might have been one of the fighters belonging to the 251 or 201 Kokutai (Naval Air Group) stationed at Ballale. It could have been flown by Hiroyoshi Nishizawa, the “Naval Ace of Aces,” who shot down 87 plus allied aircraft. It could also be one of the fighters in a photo taken during the war showing the Japanese pilots on Ballale Island.

But one thing is for sure, a perfectly restored A6M2 Model 21 fighter can be seen – sometimes flying – but usually on display. Blayd’s Zero has been praised by Japanese aeronautical engineers and world experts. It is the only Zero built in exact detail with the exception of its DC-3 engine. It is the “Last Samurai” that will take to the air with the same performance that allowed it to dominate the skies in the early years of the war. It is living history: an example that reveals the genius of the men who designed it and a tribute to the bravery and skill of the men who fought against it.