A Zero fighter took off from Akagi for the attack on Pearl Harbor in the US Territory of Hawaii, 7 Dec 1941

Caption   A Zero fighter took off from Akagi for the attack on Pearl Harbor in the US Territory of Hawaii, 7 Dec 1941 ww2dbase
Source    ww2dbaseUnited States National Archives
Identification Code   80-G-182252
More on...   
A6M Zero   Main article  Photos  
Attack on Pearl Harbor   Main article  Photos  Maps  
Akagi   Main article  Photos  
Photos on Same Day See all photos dated 7 Dec 1941
Added By C. Peter Chen
Added Date 7 Sep 2006

This photograph has been scaled down; full resolution photograph is available here (1,195 by 955 pixels).

Licensing  Public Domain. According to the US National Archives, as of 21 Jul 2010:
The vast majority of the digital images in the Archival Research Catalog (ARC) are in the public domain. Therefore, no written permission is required to use them. We would appreciate your crediting the National Archives and Records Administration as the original source. For the few images that remain copyrighted, please read the instructions noted in the "Access Restrictions" field of each ARC record.... In general, all government records are in the public domain and may be freely used.... Additionally, according to the United States copyright law (United States Code, Title 17, Chapter 1, Section 105), in part, "[c]opyright protection under this title is not available for any work of the United States Government".



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Visitor Submitted Comments

1. Alfredo says:
1 Jul 2008 02:29:06 PM

This plane´s canopy is NOT the Zero's canopy, but looks exactly like the one from an North American AT-6... Therefore this picture must be from a "Fake Zero", like the ones used to shoot the "Tora-Tora-Tora" and "Battle of Midway" Films!!!
2. j a luster says:
29 Nov 2009 08:56:41 PM

The aircraft is in fact a Mitsubisi type 00 A6M5, type 22, careful, well, not really, observation will show inward cant of landing gear, also painted black, pilot's seat elevated to full height, correct position of arrestor gear,no vent aperture on aft part of rear canopy housing, unlike initial production run in 1940, aotake green/grey laquer overcoat, and about 20 other details that distinguish this as a true A6M5, not the total cheeseball jokes used in one of the worst war movies, next to pearl harbor and midway, EVER made. Only a complete novice would EVER think this was a bogus SNJ parading as a zero.
3. Commenter identity confirmed Bill says:
23 Dec 2009 04:32:07 PM

The aircraft in question is: Mitsubishi A6M2 Navy Type O Carrier Fighter Model 21, Code Name (Zeke) Armament: Two 7.7mm Type 97 machine guns w/ 680 rpg with about 45 seconds firing time, and two wing-mounted 20mm Type 99 cannons w/ about 7 seconds firing time. Note* All weapons could not fire at the same time machine guns and cannons were fired separately. Most Japanese pilots, would use machine guns to lead the target, and within range, use cannons. The Zero was also built by Nakajima Aircraft Total production was 10,449 Fighters. The A6M3 Model 22 or Model 22A (A6M3a) used improved Sakae 21 engines, and mounted long- barrel 20mm cannons w/ increase of 100 rpg The A6M5 Model 52 was in frontline service in the autumm of 1943. The Zero was designed light as possible the aircraft had outstanding maeuverability,long range,but no armor protection until the later models of zero aircraft.
4. Commenter identity confirmed Bill says:
27 Dec 2009 01:10:44 PM

Photograph of Zero taking off: Mitsubishi A6M2 Model 21, Flown by PO/2 Petty Officer 2 Class, Masao Taniguchi takes off from Carrier Akagi, Carrier Division One 7,December 1941.
5. Commenter identity confirmed Bill says:
16 Feb 2010 10:17:03 AM

To create the Zero for the 1970 movie Tora, Tora, Tora, North American T-6 Texan Training Planes were used. The area around the cockpit, greenhouse canopy was changed, to match the zeros. The windshield canopy and upper deck were changed to resemble the zeros look. Engine cowling modified with cowl-flaps, and repositioning the air-scoop for the carburetor,and a oil cooler scoop added and spinner to cover the propeller. The modifications made the T-6 look like a zero,wing tips and rudder were reshaped the engine was a R-1340 geared to drive a three bladed propeller. Working arresting hook was fitter for the carrier landing shots.
6. Vicious says:
24 Apr 2010 04:39:31 PM

Believe this is a single frame of a filmstrip shot during take-off evolution. The canopy appearing to look like that of an AT-6/SNJ is merely the lighting/angle due to the sliding portion of the canopy being open/rolled aft. This was done routinely "back in the day" by all naval aviators of all nations in case your plane spashed shortly after take-off due to engine failure and the like, you would have a better chance of escaping the aircraft before it sank.
7. Zero says:
26 Apr 2010 03:46:31 PM

This photo is of and A6M2 it was and early mark of the zero. It had two type 99 mark 2 20 mm cannons and two 7.7 mm type 303 machinegun. its marking are from the Akagi the red band ment it was a flight leader aircraft.
8. Commenter identity confirmed Bill says:
21 May 2010 08:33:08 PM

Technology of the Zero: The aircraft was made from a Super-Duralumin alloy protected on both sides, with pure aluminum for anti-corrosion control, with fabric control surfaces. The Super Duralumin, was developed by the Sumitomo Company of Osaka, and was regarded as secret. Super Duralumin was also used on the main spar, flanges and stringers. The Super Duralumin, had a tensile strength 30 to 40 percent greater than 24S aluminum used at that time, in the aviation industry worldwide. Hydraulically powered retractable landing gear. Many of the components that the zero used, were built under license, this is not new many nations supplied parts to each other or they were built under license, many of the components were also improved. This is the case made against the Japanese aircraft industry, and it is a incorrect assumption,based on the belief that reflected stolen American or other foreign technology. For example: Sumitomo's propeller derived from a patent license agreement made with the Hamilton- Standard company, prior to the July 1938 embargo. The type 99 20mm cannons were built on patent rights by Japan from the Oerlikon company of Switzerland. The type 97 7.7mm machine guns were also built under license. Mitsubishi developed a rubber bladder built into the fuselage, this device helped keep the aircraft afloat, after ditching at sea. Build The Zero Light: No armor protection for the pilot or engine this was a weight saving measure, but this made the zero vulnerable to enemy fire. Another weight saving measure lack of self-sealing fuel tanks, this was a disadvantage in combat. Both fact and myths caused many Allied pilots fright when meeting the zero until a captured or crashed zero could be found and tested the strengths and weakness would be found to combat this legendary Japanese fighter.
9. Commenter identity confirmed Bill says:
22 May 2010 07:32:10 AM

Above photo of the first zero launched against Pearl Harbor. Red fuselage band is marking of carrier Akagi, Division One.
10. Commenter identity confirmed Bill says:
22 May 2010 03:45:22 PM

While the Zero A6M2,Model 21 was spectacular in the early years of the Pacific War, by 1943 it was becoming outclassed by newer American designs. The Model 22 and 32 were improved with more powerful engines However, these models were an attempt to bridge this gap in fighter development. The A6M5 Model 52 was an improvement in the basic design of the Zero giving it an edge in air to air combat. The A6M5 Model 52 Hei was an improved in speed and firepower. For the first time armor plate was added to the design,installed behind the pilot. Bullet-resistant glass panels added to the front wind screen and behind the pilot as well. A self-sealing fuel tank, was installed behind the pilot and C02 cylinders added in the wings. The two 7.7mm machine guns machine guns were replaced by one 13mm machine gun in the upper fuselage decking. Additional two 13mm machine guns were added one in each wing outboard from the 20mm cannon bays. About 6,000 Type 52 Zero's were built. One of the few surviving Zero fighter's can be seen today, at the Planes of Fame Museum located in Chino, California U.S.A. An A6M5, Model 52 Zero is still powered, by its original Sakae engine. Improved with more powerful engines, higher speeds. In the hands of an expert, the Zero or (Zeke) as named by the Allies, was still a deadly combat aircraft.
11. Commenter identity confirmed Bill says:
22 May 2010 04:11:43 PM

Zero for Two: The A6M2-K was training variant of the Zero rebuilt from obsolete Model 11 airframes. The aircraft was a two-seat dual control trainer. The rush of training replacement pilots after the loss of so many of the Imperial Navy's front-line combat pilots, led to the developmant of such a two-seat trainer of the Zero. This was hoped to cut down training accidents, and qualify pilots quickly. All armament was removed, and a long green- house canopy was designed the student pilot sat in the open front cockpit,the instructor sat in back in the enclosed cockpit canopy. Most training aircraft were painted Orange with Black cowings. A total of 273 A6M2-K's were built by the Hitachi Company. A few A6M5, Model 52 trainers were also built. Like most Japanese aircraft near the end of the war, the training variant of the Zero was also used for Kamikaze attacks.
12. Commenter identity confirmed Bill says:
22 May 2010 05:10:58 PM

The Imperial Navy realized the need for a floatplane fighter, that could be used to secure forward bases, in support of Military operations in the Pacific. Nakajima developed a floatplane fighter variant of the Zero, and flew for the first time on Dec. 8, 1941. The new aircraft was accepted by the Navy in 1942 a total of 327 A6M2-N's were built and received the Allied code name "Rufe". Armament: Two 20mm cannons in the wings and two 7.7mm machine guns in the upper fuselage decking able to carry two 60 kg (132 lb) bombs. Did you Know.. The Nakajima A6M2-N "Rufe" was the only WWII Japanese fighter aircraft to be based on captured American soil,(or on water) during the Aleutians Campagin. After WWII captured Japanese aircraft were operated by the French, among the aircraft used in Indo-China, were A6M2-N "Rufes".
13. Commenter identity confirmed Bill says:
25 May 2010 05:27:47 PM

More About The Zeros Technology: The Zero was one of the most agile of all WWII fighters. Its light weight 5,555 lbs. loaded with fuel, ammunition and pilot its range was 1,010 miles w/normal load and about 1,685 miles w/drop tank this data is for the A6M2,Model 21 Zero-sen. In the early years, the Zero outflew every fighter it went up against. As the war went on in the Pacific, newer American designs would pass the Zero, but in the hands of a master the Zero was still a very deadly combat aircraft. Claire Chennault better known as adviser to Chiang Kai-shek, and later the Commander of the American Volunteer Group (AVG) better known as the Flying Tigers, sent reports to Washington, with photo's of the Zero, and its estimated performance. Washington's respose: Such an aircraft, is an aerodynamic impossiblity. Such a loss of intelligence, would cost many Allied pilots their lives. Lessions learned: "Never ever underestimate your enemy".
14. Commenter identity confirmed Bill says:
26 May 2010 08:54:13 AM

About 16 Zeros survive today, and only two a able to fly.One is owned by Planes of Fame Museum,located in Chino, California U.S.A., The other by the Confederate Air Force in Midland, Texas U.S.A. Restoring these fighters has been a time consuming undertaking. The lightweight ESD alloy used in its onstruction has over the years crystallized, losing its structural strength, with parts needing to be rebuilt. The Mitsubishi design team never imagined that its design, would still be in operation into the 21st. Century. Did you know... The Sakae 21 engine that powered the Zero, shared its "Pratt & Whitney" ancestry by displaying the "Pratt & Whitney" logo with an eagle on it, and the English term stamped "Quality & Reliability" along with the name Nakajima in Japanese.
15. Commenter identity confirmed Bill says:
27 May 2010 08:26:35 PM

During the Pacific War,a number of Zeros were captured,after the recovery of the Zero that was found in Alaska in 1942. Koga's Zero was rebuilt, and tested during the war, the information was passed on to Allied pilots on how to best fight the Zero in air-to-air combat. After the fall of Saipan,a dozen A6M5a's were captured in October 1944. A Grumman test pilot named Corwin H. Meyer flew one of the Zeros and evaluated its performance, Meyer said the Zero looked every bit the fighter, and regarded it as a well-built aircraft. He also said, it was a delight to fly, very light on the controls, and he was surprised at the quility of manfacture,the workmanship was superb and comparable to American quality to learn more about the Zero found in Alaska read: Koga's Zero The Fighter that Changed World War II by Jim Rearden Libary of Congress Catalog Card No. 95-68965 ISBN 0-929521-56-0
16. Commenter identity confirmed Bill says:
26 Sep 2010 10:47:11 AM

AOTAKE: The Japanese counterpart to the American use of Zinc Chromate, anti-corrosion paint was called aotake. The paint was a semi-transparent varnish that looked blue-green. The paint was used on all wheel wells, cockpits, interior panels and internal bulkheads and other exposed aircraft parts.
17. Commenter identity confirmed Bill says:
26 Sep 2010 06:54:45 PM

The Imperial Army and Navy applied Aotake for corrosion control. Since the color is translucent, the tone after painting depends on the number of coats applied. Making it lighter or darker the color ranged from a light blue tint,to a clear green color. Aircraft were built at different factories and the lots of paints came from outside venders, that were different in color, so a Nakajima Ki-43 Oscar's corrosion paint was tinted different from a Mitsubishi A6M Zero
18. Commenter identity confirmed Billl says:
26 Sep 2010 07:30:49 PM

Near the end of the war, some Japanese aircraft were left in bare metal However, the cockpit, wheel wells and all inside and exposed aircraft components were painted in Aotake, that was more of a protective laquer than paint described before. Some aircraft had a dark blue anti-glare panel on top of the cowling and along the fuselage decking. Camouflaged aircraft paint started to fade and peel and weather along the fuselage, wings and walkways.
19. Commenter identity confirmed Bill says:
27 Feb 2011 08:35:59 PM

MITSUBISHI ZERO VARIENTS: A6M1: Prototype powered by 780hp air-cooled radial engine first flight April 1939. A6M2: Model 11 Followup prototype of A6M1 powered by 925hp air-cooled radial engine first flight 1940. Designated Navy Type O Carrier Fighter. A6M2: Model 21 production series w/folding wing tips, with 328 in service by 1941. A6M3: Model 32 improved model powered by a Nakajima Sakae 1130hp air-cooled radial engine modified with clipped wing tips. A6M5: Model 52 Major production model powered by air-cooled radial engine of 1130hp it carried armor protection and more armament. Sub-variants A6M5a, A6M5b, A6M5c Hei, A6M5dS night-fighter w/20mm cannon mounted obliquely behind the cockpit and A6M5-K two-seat trainer. A6M6: Model 53 Re-engined variant of A6M5 in production 1944 A6M7: Model 63 Developed as a fighter-bomber able to carry 1x250kg/551bl bomb built from mid 1945. A6M8: Model 64c Final variant of the Zero powered by a air-cooled radial engine of 1560hp, two prototypes were built before the end of the Pacific war. A6M4: Model 41 Fitted w/experimental turbo- superchargers for high-altitude project faced many technicial problems Imperial Navy cancelled, to continue production of A6M5 variants. Both Mitsubishi and Nakajima built variants of the Zero. Mitsubishi built 4,720 Nakajima built 6,217 and 327 A6M2-N float- plane fighters. Total production 10,937
20. Commenter identity confirmed Bill says:
1 Mar 2011 03:02:18 PM

PLANES OF FAME MUSEUM: ZERO 61-120 The Planes of Fame Zero was built by Nakajima in 1943, she was the 2,357 A6M5 Model 52, to roll off the production line. Accepted by the Imperial Japanese Navy and was assigned to the 261st Naval Air Corps in Japan. Flown to Iwo Jima and later reassigned to Saipan in March 1944 operated from Asilito airfield, Saipan, 61-120 was captured by US Marines along with other Zeros fighters. IN ENEMY HANDS: The zeros along with other types of Japanese aircraft were shipped to the USA, four zeros were put back into flying condition at NAS San Diego, Ca. for test and evaluation. 61-120 was ferried back to NAS Patuxent River Maryland in Ausust 1944 test flown and evaluated by both civilian and military pilots of the US Navy, USMC and the Royal Navy. Returned to San Diego, Ca. in January 1945 and finished its tests and evaluation 61-120 logged over 190 hours flight time. NOW THAT YOUR THROUGH WITH ME: After World War Two the zero was declared surplus by the Navy and was intended to become just another gate guard, the plan was cancelled and the zero was to be sold for scrap. Bought by Ed Maloney and kept in his back yard until his Air Museum could be built and open to the public. In 1957 the Museum opened and the zero was on static display the museum had to move from its first location to Ontario, Ca. in the 1960s and than to Buena Park, Ca. in the 1970s to its last location Planes of Fame Museum Chino, Ca. REBUILDING THE ZERO: Restoring the zero to flying condition started in 1973, after 4 1/2 years of work 61-120 took once again to the air. The zero was shipped to Japan for a six month tour It is now the star attraction at the Museum and is flown during air show events the zero is powered by its original Sakas engine, I'm sure the Mitsubishi design team never dreamed one of its fighters would be flying into the 21st Century. Personal note* In the early 1960s my Father took my brother and I, to the Air Museum in Ontario, Ca, and saw 61-120 located in the storage yard, it was a wonderful day. As the years passed, I was able to see the zero go from a surplus wreck, to a rebuilt operational aircraft.
21. Commenter identity confirmed Bill says:
2 Dec 2011 08:20:12 PM

BUILDING THE ZERO: Easy to build at the factory and maintain in the field. The A6M Zero was built in two sections. First the engine and forward fuselage with cockpit were joined together, with the wings with its landing gear assembly to form one unit. Second the rear fuselage and tail, were joined with the forward fuselage and assembled together by eighty bolts final assembly fitted were propeller and spinner. Both Mitsubishi test pilots and Navy pilots made test flights to correct any problems, when the aircraft was ready, it was turned over to the Imperial Navy. Armament tests were carried out by the Navy, the A6M Zero would replace the older A5M Claude open cockpit with fixed landing gear single-seat fighter. PHOTO OPS: MADE IN JAPAN Before and during WWII Mount Fuji was always the perfect backdrop for propaganda photos and to instill national pride. CODE NAME: ZEKE OR ZERO? In 1942 a code system was finely developed to identify Japanese aircraft. The Zero was given the code name of Zeke and the floatplane fighter named Rufe, as time passed it became known as just the Zero. JACK & JILL: Fighters were given boys names, Bombers were given girls names, Trainers given Tree names Gliders Bird names. Jack: Mitsubishi J2M Raiden,Land-Based Single-Seat Single-Engine Fighter Used by Imperial Navy. Jill: Nakajima B6N Tenzan, Carrier/Land-Based Three seat, Single-Engine Torpedo Bomber Used by Imperial Navy. PERSPECTIVE: During the Cold War, NATO developed a code name system for Soviet aircraft, but Fagot Mig 15, Farmer Mig 19, Bison Myasishchev M-4 and Tupolev Tu-95, didn't quite have the romantic names of Betty, Kate, Oscar or Tony they were names of a bygone era.
22. Commenter identity confirmed Bill says:
22 Dec 2011 03:17:24 PM

JAPAN'S ZERO FIGHTER: One of the design flaws was the use of a low power engine 960hp Nakajima Sakae, a more powerful engine would have increased the zeros performance, but due to the lightly built airframe, it would have put too much stress. Later models had increased engine power the airframe had another weakness its lack of armor protection for the pilot, and self-sealing fuel tanks. FLAME A ZERO: NO ARMOR PROTECTION Once Allied pilots found the zero lacked this protection, and were able to get hits from fifty caliber slugs, it could not take this damage, many would catch fire or break up in the air, but the trick was to get a zero in your gun sights. BUILD IT LIGHT, BUILD IT STRONG: The wing was built as a single unit divided into left and right fuel tanks the tanks were large, giving the zero its long-range it also carried a drop tank of 330 liters. The upper surface of the center section of the wing was the floor of the cockpit with an enclosed canopy w/instrument panel in front and a bulkhead aft of the pilots seat, the rear fuselage, and tail were a seperate unit this design contributed to structural strength and made it easy for ground crews to service, assemble or disassemble the zero in the field. Mitsubishi faced many production problems in building its fighter the supply of 24S Super Ultra Duralumin and Japan's limited supply of alloy metals caused a shortage of high-tensile steel used in aero-engines and other components. The zero schedule for overhaul was every 150hrs of operation, but it was stretched to 200hrs. and maintenance suffered as the war progresseed ground crews faced the lack of supplies, spare-parts, fuel and oil side-lined aircraft were cannibalize to keep others flying, rebuilding wrecks from other airframes many zeros were rebuilt from three or more parts from other aircraft. ARMAMENT: 7.7mm machine guns were ineffective against Allied aircraft, pilots had a select switch to use the machine guns to find the range and than switch to the 20mm cannons to make the kill. The cannon rounds packed a lot of punch, but the weapon had a low muzzel velocity that reduced its accuracy, and a slow rate of fire, with 60 rounds the pilot had to make every round count, later model Zeros had 100 and 125 rounds of 20mm ammo per gun. The Japanese saw this weakness in this type of armament and later model A6M5 Zeros increased the 20mm ammo supply and replaced the 7.7mm's with heaver 12.7mm machine guns.
23. wdenomie@yahoo.com says:
25 Dec 2011 12:56:12 PM

JAPANESE AIRCRAFT WERE FULL OF HOLES: Aircraft Engineers and Designers in every country found solutions to reduce the weight of their designs. To cut weight, holes were punched in different diameters called(Lightening holes)during manufacture in the wing spars, ribs, fuselage, tail and horizontal stabilizers this method seved hundreds of pounds in weight, but still kept structural strength of the airframe strong. WALK AROUND AND FLIGHT HOURS INSPECTION: During maintenance checks, mechanics can check for mechanical damage, corrosion, cracking called metal fatigue and leaks in the fuel system, inspection of control cables for the rudder, ailerons, flaps and actuators. The Mitsubishi A6M2, Model 21 Zero/Zeke the empty weight was 3,770lbs and its gross weight was 5,555lbs. Zero Designer Jiro Horikoshi built a fighter within structural strength and weight limitations, once faced with the rigors of combat against Allied fifty caliber slugs, it could not withstand the punishment many broke up in the air, with the loss of many pilots or flamed because of the lack of armor protection for the pilot and fuel tanks.
24. Commenter identity confirmed Bill says:
28 Dec 2011 06:00:58 PM

WHO DESIGNED THE ZERO: Jiro Horikoshi (1903-1982) The Zeros designer of the A6M1 prototype would later become the backbone of the A6M series. A little known fact, the Zero did have floatation bags in the wings and had excellent water ditching characteristics. Operated by the Imperial Japanese Navy from 1940 to 1945. He would later develope the Mitsubishi J2M Raiden(Jack) as a land-based fighter for the Imperial Navy. His last design was the A6M Zeros successor, the A7M Ruppu(Sam)a mockup was built, and prototypes developed the second prototype was destroyed in a landing accident the first, third and fifth were destroyed on the ground, the forth, sixth and seventh were operational with one production A7M being completed the end of the war stopped further work and flight-testing. Improved Mitsubishi designs along with other Japanese fighter designs developed during the middle of the war saw more powerful engines, armor protection for the fuel tanks and pilot along with heaver caliber machine guns and cannons. The A6M Zero was still in production and improved, it was less nimble with added armor protection, but in the hands of an experienced combat pilot it was still a deadly fighter. I thank the editor/ww2db for allowing me to contribute my personel knowledge to this site Bill
25. Commenter identity confirmed Bill says:
24 Nov 2015 05:26:10 PM

LAUNCH AIRCRAFT: TARGET PEARL HARBOR Much published photo from a Japanese newsreel showing a Mitsubishi A6M2, Model 21 Zero taking off from the aircraft carrier Akagi 1st Koku Kantai on Dec. 7, 1941. Zero A1-108 was flown by PO2c Sakae Mori 2nd attack wave. The Zero was armed with 2 x 7.7mm machine guns and 2 x 20mm cannons in the wings, it had great maneuverability, built light and strong but lacked self-sealing fuel tanks one in each wing and one in front of the cockpit behind the engine, it also lacked armor protection for the pilot. The zero was also designed with a large floatation bag, to keep the fighter afloat if the pilot had to ditch at sea...

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