", Just months before he died, Sakai officially admitted to reporters that he still prayed for the souls of the airmen (Chinese, American, Australian and Dutch alike) he had killed in action. In November 1943, Sakai was promoted to the rank of warrant officer (海軍准尉). Early life. Adams scored a near miss, sending a bullet through Sakai's canopy, but Sakai quickly gained the upper hand and succeeded in downing Adams. Shattered glass from the canopy temporarily blinded him in his right eye and reduced vision in his left eye severely. However, Sakai failed to do well in his studies and was sent back to Saga after his second year. [3] He is the third-born of four sons (his given name literally means "third son"), and had three sisters. Sakai descended and approached the DC-3. On 3 August, Sakai's air group was relocated from Lae to the airfield at Rabaul. The Japanese high command instructed fighter patrols to down all enemy aircraft encountered, whether they were armed or not. In November 1943, Sakai was promoted to the rank of flying warrant officer (飛行兵曹長). Sakai's Tainan Kokutai became known for destroying the most enemy planes in the history of Japanese military aviation. He initially misidentified the planes as a B-29 Superfortresses. [19][dead link] (The wound is described elsewhere as having destroyed the metal frame of his goggles, and having "creased" his skull, a glancing blow which broke the skin and made a furrow in, or even cracked the skull, but did not actually penetrate it). Sakai managed to fly his damaged Zero in a four-hour, 47-minute flight over 560 nmi (1,040 km; 640 mi) back to his base on Rabaul, using familiar volcanic peaks as guides. ), Sakai's A6M2 Zero, tail code V-173, preserved at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra[16], After the war, Sakai retired from the Navy. ", Sakai expressed concern for Japan's collective inability to accept responsibility for starting the war[citation needed], and over the popular sentiment that only the military — not the political leaders — were responsible. ", "Dogfight with James Southerland flying F4F Wildcat. He was engaged by Hellcat fighters near the task force's reported position, and all but one of the Nakajima B6N2 "Jill" torpedo bombers in his flight were shot down. Sakai was promoted to Sailor Second Class (Able Seaman) (二等水兵) in 1936, and served on the battleship Haruna as a turret gunner. A soldier picked up the note and delivered to the squadron commander. Sakai was promoted to Sailor Second Class (Able Seaman) (二等水兵) in 1936, and served on the battleship Haruna as a turret gunner. After completing his training the following year, Sakai was graduated as a Sailor Third Class (Ordinary Seaman) (三等水兵). [6], Sakai was amazed at the Wildcat's ruggedness:[7], Not long after he downed Southerland, Sakai was attacked by a lone SBD Dauntless dive bomber flown by Lt. Dudley Adams of Scouting Squadron 71 (VS-71) from USS Wasp. My death would take several of the enemy with me. When Japan attacked the Western Allies in 1941, Sakai participated in the attack on the Philippines as a member of the Tainan Air Group. Promoted to Petty Officer Second Class (二等兵曹) in 1938, Sakai took part in aerial combat flying the Mitsubishi A5M at the beginning of the Second Sino-Japanese War in 1938–1939 and was wounded in action. Despite facing superior enemy aircraft, Sakai eluded attacks by the Hellcats, returning to his airfield untouched. [10] Mistaking the SBDs for more Wildcat fighters, Sakai approached from below and behind, targeting a VB-6 Dauntless flown by Ens. he asked in an interview reported August 10, 2000, by The Associated Press. With his plane in such condition, no wonder the pilot was unable to continue fighting! Saburo Sakai participated in the IJNAF's last wartime mission, attacking two reconnaissance B-32 Dominators, Hobo Queen II s/n 42-108532, and unnamed 42-108578, on 18 August, which were conducting photo-reconnaissance and testing Japanese compliance with the cease-fire. Over the next four months, he scored the majority of his victories, flying against American and Australian pilots based at Port Moresby. In early 1937, he applied for and was accepted into a pilot training school. In August 1944, Sakai was commissioned an ensign (少尉) — a record-breaking 11 years from enlistment to commissioning in the very rank-conscious Japanese navy. In a chase that has become legendary, Sakai demonstrated his skill and experience. The pilot and passengers saluted him. Sakai was evacuated to Japan on 12 August, where he endured a long surgery without anesthesia. A Zero which had taken that many bullets would have been a ball of fire by now. In his later years, Sakai was asked to appear as a motivational speaker at Japanese schools and corporations. The woman reminded him of Mrs. Martin, an American who occasionally had taught him as a child in middle school and had been kind to him. Although in agony from his injuries[20] Sakai managed to fly his damaged Zero in a four-hour, 47-minute flight over 560 nmi (1,040 km; 640 mi) back to his base on Rabaul, using familiar volcanic peaks as guides. U.S. Marines flying F4F Wildcats from Henderson Field on Guadalcanal were using a new aerial combat tactic, the "Thach Weave", developed in 1941 by the U.S. Navy aviators John Thach and Edward O'Hare. 2 ], however, he prevailed upon his superiors to let him fly combat! Boeing B-29 Superfortresses assigned to aircraft-carrier duty closed in junior pilots repaired some of the was. 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