Saburo Sakai's Last Battle

The war was over on August 15th, 1945, but Saburo Sakai's last combat mission took place two days after that day.

The 15th and the 16th went by quickly, and it was a little past 11:30 AM on the 17th when we suddenly heard an air raid alarm. We were caught totally off guard because we thought it was all over, and we all stood up with a tense feeling. Intelligence says the enemy is one large bomber flying up the Boso Peninsula. The war is over now, do they still want to fight?

"Commander what should we do? Intercept him?" I asked.

Lt.Cmdr Ibusuki hesitated for a moment, then called the Hikocho and asked something, hung up, and hollered "Start the engines!"

We surrounded Lt.Cmdr. Ibusuki with excitement.

"International law forbids us to attack the enemy after surrender, but it is okay to get back at planes that come to attack us. Come on men! Go get him!" he said.

The pilots who were all frustrated at the sudden surrender sprung on to their planes which were already started. There were ten Zeros and five or six Shiden-kais. I chose the nearest Zero. I thought I would never fly the Zero again, so I was very excited about having the chance to fly again.

It wasn't just because the Zero was nearest to me that I chose the Zero. Ever since it's debut in 1940, I was into my sixth year flying and fighting on the Zero. In fact a Shiden-kai, then the state-of-the-art fighter plane, was paked even closer to where I was than the Zero I flew. However, I instinctively chose the Zero, not even considering the Shiden-kai. the thought that flashed in my mind then was this;

"The Pacific War was started by the Zero. This is probably going to be the last air battle in WW2, and I would want to let the Zero place it's name in history as having fought that last battle!"

Three or four planes followed me up. We were heading for Narita. If you were not a pilot, you may wonder why we would still fight; the war was over and shooting down the enemy was not going to do us any good. On the contrary, we may lose our lives which had been saved. But such logic just did not make sense to us then.

At around this time, the Yokosuka Kokutai was working on the improvement of radio equipment on fighter planes and, performance had improved considerably, so we had no trouble finding the enemy. We found him at 6,000 meters. I had assumed the enemy was a B-29, but what I saw was a completely different aircraft. The single vertical stabilizer was enormous, and sweeped upwards towards the rear. I had never seen this plane before (I later found out that this was the Convair B-32 Dominator).

Altitude 6,000 meter is where the 2nd speed of the Zero's supercharger works best. My wingman got to him first and started shooting. The enemy was obviously surprised at the interception, and started fleeing south, shooting it's defensive guns frantically. I managed to catch up after a while, but the enemy's airspeed was very high. I made a run from the upper right side, but got interrupted by another Zero that got in my way. There were more fighters than the enemy so I had to wait for my turn to attack again. The enemy went into a shallow dive to increase air speed. It was so fast! I thought they used some kind of rocket acceralator device or something.

We had quickly flew past Tateyama and the enemy was fleeing towards Ohshima. I noticed that the enemy was trailing white smoke from the left wing root. Someone's bullet hit the enemy!

"We can get him", I thought. However, I was having a hard time catching up. I noted our fighters started turning back one by one. They were out of 20mm shells. I fired my last cannon shells. Several shells exploded on the enemy's right wing. My wingman followed with a burst. The enemy kept getting lower, and by the time it was near Miyake-jima, it was skimming the water. I thought I should confirm it going down, but if an enemy carrier was around, we would have to fight fresh fighters. Then it would be our turn to die. I turned around and headed back to Yokosuka Kokutai. If my memory is right, the other Zero that followed me to the last attack was another ace, PO1 Komachi.

This apparently became the last air battle of the Pacific War.

According to US records, on august 17th 1945, a B-32 that took off from Iwo Jima on a recon mission over Tokyo splashed down near the Izu islands due to malfunction. All crew were rescued.

Apparently, the action was legal and we were never questioned about this action by McArthur's forces.

Zero-sen No Saigo, Saburo Sakai 1995, ISBN4-06-207770-1