Japanese A6M5 Mod. 52 Zero s/n 2551 302nd Kokutai Relic Display by Ron Cole

The 302nd Kokutai (Naval Air Group) was one of the most important Japanese air-defense units towards the end of World War II. The 302nd's primary mission was to intercept American B-29s then firebombing Tokyo and other major population centers, and they scored over 300 confirmed 'victories' by war's end. Based at Atsugi, in the Yokohama/Tokyo region, they were primarily equipped with later-model Zero Fighters (A6M5s) and Raiden interceptors (J2M3s). After Emperor Hirohito's radio broadcast that ended the Pacific War on August 15th, 1945, Atsugi pilots and officers rebelled against the Japanese government and briefly took up arms against their own countrymen who were acting under orders to disarm the military, though the Atsugi garrison ultimately surrendered without bloodshed. General Douglas MacArthur chose Atsugi to host his personal arrival in Japan, and thus mark the beginning of the official Allied occupation of the country on August 30th. MacArthur's reasoning at the time was that if the Supreme Allied Commander could land safely at Atsugi without incident - any Allied serviceman would be safe anywhere else in Japan! 

This A6M5 Model 52 was the 551st aircraft of this type built by Mitsubishi in 1944 (the first digit of the serial number was meant to confuse enemy intelligence). It survived the war and was captured at Atsugi after hostilities ceased. Fabric from this aircraft was cut from its control surfaces before it was burned along with most other captured Japanese equipment. The souvenired material included the aircraft's serial number, stenciled upon the lower starboard horizontal stabilizer, and part of the portside rudder aircraft number hand painted in yellow over the factory-applied green camouflage.   


Ron Cole's artwork of this aircraft in action against U.S. Navy carrier attack fighters reveals its original markings. 

Each of these wall-hanging displays combine his artwork with roughly 1x1-inch cut pieces of original linen from the larger souvenired section cut at Atsugi after the war. Each piece reveals the unique nature of Japanese wartime aircraft camouflage, which was high gloss from the factory. The Mitsubishi gray undersurface paint is almost perfectly preserved. 

These displays measure 13x19-inches (artwork is 11x17-inches). 

*** To ensure the precise numbering of this very limited-edition series of displays, all original pieces of fabric have been cut and sorted prior to release and there will be no more material outside of this series, except for the serial number stencil (which will be preserved intact) and the green & yellow tail number (which will be preserved intact). The number of this series is strictly 72 - each signed by the artist and numbered ***


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