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The most effective Japanese fighter of World War II was known by many names. To the Imperial Japanese Navy, it was the Type 0 Carrier Fighter, Model 52. To the U.S. Navy pilots who fought it in the skies over the Pacific, it was the "Zeke." And to the American public it was known as the Zero.
By whatever name, the Japanese Navy's Zero fighter was one of the most potent warplanes of World War II and probably the best all-around carrier-based fighter of the early 1940s. The Zero's outstanding performance stemmed primarily from the fact that it weighed only 5,500 to 6,500 pounds fully loaded. For this reason the Zero was extremely maneuverable and had a fast rate of climb.
Of the many different models of the Zero produced from 1939 until the fall of Japan in 1945, the A6M5 was the most numerous. Designated the A6M5 Zero-Sen, the plane was powered by a Nakajima twin-row, 14-cylinder radial engine. The low-wing, single-seat monoplane had a top speed of 350 miles per hour, a service ceiling of 38,500 feet, and a combat range of better than 1,170 miles. The Zero was armed with a pair of 7.7 millimeter Vickers-type machine guns that were mounted on the top of fuselage and fired through ports in the engine cowling. Each gun was supplied with 500 rounds of ammunition. In addition, a 20-millimeter cannon with 60 rounds was mounted in each wing. Unluckily for Japanese pilots who had fly them, however, the Zeros had neither armor plate nor bulletproof glass. Instead, the zero relied for survival on its maneuverability and high rate of climb. As the war progressed, the Zero, once the most feared fighter in the Pacific, became outclassed by new more powerful American fighters. Even so, it remained an important factor in the Pacific theater, for it was used for kamikaze, or suicide, missions that inflicted some of the most severe damage of the war on the U.S. Navy. Loaded with explosives and manned by pilots willing to lose their lives for their country, the Zero became a flying bomb aimed at American ships. The Zero was used in nearly 2,000 kamikaze attacks before Japan finally surrendered to bring down the curtain on the war in the Pacific.
The preceding information was extracted from the pamphlet,
"The Great Airplanes Sterling Silver Miniature Collection", published by The Franklin Mint, 1979.
Permission was granted to ALLSTAR by The Franklin Mint to use the preceding materials.
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Updated: March 12, 2004