The A6M Zero (also known as the Mitsubishi Zero) was an Imperial Japanese carrier-based aircraft used by the Japanese Navy during World War II. Until the P-51 Mustang and the F6F Hellcat entered widespread service in 1943, the Zero was easily the fastest, deadliest, and most maneuverable fighter aircraft in the world.
However, these advantages came with a price. Unlike their Allied counterparts, the early Zeros had no armour or self-sealing fuel tanks, making them vulnerable to enemy fire. By the end of 1942, Allied pilots had learned to exploit this weakness, causing increasing losses among the Japanese. Later models of the Zero had more protection, but they were still deficient compared to Allied planes. All models of the Zero were armed with 2 20mm cannon and 2 machine guns.
The Zero first saw combat in China on September 13, 1940, when 13 Zeros fought 27 Chinese fighters over the city of Chungking. In a thirty-minute battle, every Chinese plane was downed, one pilot accounting for five planes himself. Four Zeros suffered light damage.
Notable Roles in Combat
The Zero played a role in the attack on Pearl Harbor, escorting the Japanese bombers and strafing installations. Nine Zeroes were lost in the attack, but they shot down at least ten defending American fighters and destroyed many more on the ground.
- Aircraft vs. Aircraft, by Norman Franks, Barnes & Noble Books, 1998
- The Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Combat Aircraft of World War II, by Bill Gunston, Salamander Military Press, 1990
- Zero, by Masatake Okumiya, Jiro Horikoshi, and Martin Caidin, 2004