Discovery of a Zero Fighter
all photos by Justin Taylan

Photos & Caption

The Jungle Trek

[High Res File/JPG]

Clouds roll into the mountains obscuring a remote mountain village

[High Res File/JPG]

Dawn in the Owen Stanley Mountain Range

trail.jpg [High Res File/JPG]
Traveling in the mountains requires crossing ridge after ridge to make straightline progress

trek/owen-stanleys-vert.jpg [High Res File/JPG]
The mountains are a beautiful site, but were once a battlefield

bush.jpg [High Res File/JPG]

Our trek begins. Bosco, my guide carries a machette for cutting a path in the jungle and shotgun for hunting wild pigs. Due to restrictions on ammunition imports, he only had one shell left, and wild pigs are know to be violent prey.

hut.jpg [High Res File/JPG]

Typical home in the mountain village, made entirely of bush materials, no nails or other construction tools. All huts are raised off the ground on stilts and contain a fire area that is kept lit all day long for cooking and warmth at night.

kids.jpg [High Res File/JPG]
Curious children come to see me, the guest from far away. Younger babies often cry, as they have never seen a white person before, while older kids are more curious and want to touch my skin or hair.

The Discovery

zero-tail-topview.jpg [Highe Res File/JPG]
Tail section, the rear formation light is visible at the bottom, center of the photo, and intact but battered left stabalizer. Bright green primer paint stands out from exposed portions of the interior.

tail-rudder.jpg [Highe Res File/JPG]
View of the tail section, right side showing the exterior gray paint scheme and skeletal framework of the rudder. The fabric covered surfaces have long since rotted away.

[High Res File/JPG]

The tail of wreck. Painted gray, the note the green interior primer paint located at the lower portion of the tail. The raised portion is the right stabalizer, its fabric covered rear portion is rotted away, and a center panel is missing.

tail-view-best.jpg [High Res File/JPG]
The tail of the Zero, the right stabalizer was torn off in the crash, and the left is visible on the oppsite side.

tailwheel.jpg [Highe Res File/JPG]
Sideview of the tail wheel assembly. The wheel is in perfect condition. The rectangular dataplate is visible at the center of the photo. The grooved track at the top of the assembly was for a canvas covering (since rotted) to attach, to prevent dirt from going inside the tail.

hook.jpg [Highe Res File/JPG]
View of the tail hook. This is a rare site, as most land based Zeros had their hooks removed. Even rarer in crash sites because the metal often quickly corrodes. This hook is in perfect condition, including its part number dataplate visible halfway down the shaft.

zero-prop-ground.jpg [High Res File/JPG]
The three bladed propeller. The center spinner hub has corroded away, revealing three counterweights underneath. The upper two blades are only slightly bent, apparently from the initial impact with trees, while the lower blade is in perfect condition.

zero-prop-tip-red.jpg [High Res File/JPG]
The tip of one of the propeller blades, adorned with a pari of red stripes

wing-prop-wreckage.jpg [High Res File/JPG]
Wreckage of the propeller and section of the wing with its landing gear leg still in the retracted position.

mg-leftside.jpg [Highe Res File/JPG]
7.7mm machine gun, mounted in the left side of the nose. In the Zero, the rear of the gun extended into the cockpit, allowing the pilot to manually cock the weapon with the leaver on the opposite side. The two mounting supports are visible at the base, and the barrel is slightly bend, evidence of the force of the crash.

boridi-mg-bullet.jpg [Highe Res File/JPG]
Close up view of the chamber of the same machine gun. Inside, a 7.7mm round is still chambered, but has 'cooked off' in the crash.

shells.jpg [Highe Res File/JPG]
A handfull of 'cooked off' 7.7mm shell casings discovered in the area of the cockpit wreckage.

zero-wing-gearleg.jpg [Highe Res File/JPG]
Moss covered wreckage of the inner wing and landing gear leg, still in the retracted position.

zero-gear-leg.jpg [Highe Res File/JPG]
The other landing gear leg and inner wing section are still buried in sixty years worth of erosion sediment. The circular loop at the end of the leg is a tie down point for carrier use.

hinomaru.jpg [High Res File/JPG]
First view of the red hinomaru on the lower surface of the outer wing pannel.

discovery/wing2.jpg [High Res/JPG]
Severed Outer wing pannel of the Zero's wing, with folding wing tip and hinomaru visible.

discovery/zero-wing-hinomaru.jpg [High Res File/JPG]
The group poses with the lower side of the left outer wing pannel. The folding outer wing tip is visible on the right side. The red hinomaru (rising sun) brilliantly reflects the camera's flash. The specular gray is painted underneath.

zero-jt-wing-pose.jpg [High Res File/JPG]
Drenched by the intense rain, I handed my camera to Bosco to take my picture. Although slightly blury as he had never used a camera before, it captures my complete surprise at what was revealed when they lifted the wing upwards: the brilliant red hinomaru (rising sun).

[High Res File/JPG]

The tail of wreck. Painted gray, the note the green interior primer paint located at the lower portion of the tail. The raised portion is the right stabalizer, its

zero-engine-tree-impact.jpg [High Res/JPG]

Bosco (left) points to the decades old gash in the tree trunk that finally stopped the engine's momentum. Two of the group's hunting dogs look on patiently.

zero-engine-cu.jpg [Hight Res/JPG]

Front view of the remarkably preserved Sakae engine after being disloged from the tree trunk.

engine-tree-impact-high.jpg [High Res File/JPG]
Close up view of the engine's propeller shaft, disloged from the tree trunk, exposed for the first time in sixty-one years.

zero-engine.jpg [Highe Res File/JPG]
The group poses around the engine's remarkable intact radial engine



Researching The Wreck

zero-dataplate.jpg [Highe Res File/JPG]
Closeup view of the tail wheel assembly constructor's number 3442, manufactured on September 27, 1941.

artwork.jpg [Highe Res File/JPG]
Artwork depicting Yamaguchi's Zero, with the canopy opened, moments before the crash. The Zero is painted specular gray overall, with a black cowl and red hinomaru markings. Its tail number is unconfirmed to date, but would have been a "V-" with a three digit codes in the 100 series. The unit also used red or blue diagonal strips on the fuselage and tail that denoted bun-taichou (squad-chief) and syou-taicyou (platoon-chief)



Reporting The Wreck


ministry-group-jt.jpg [High Res File/JPG]

Japanese governement's "Ministry of Health Labor & Welfare" team with Justin Taylan (center) after their succesful mission to recover the remains of the Zero's pilot

chopper-boride-landed.jpg [High Res File/JPG]

The Japanese team's arrival at the village creates alot of excitement and with the cooperation of the local people visit the site to recover the remains.


May 17, 1942 Mission

yamaguchi-enlargement.jpg [High Res File/JPG]
Enlargement of Kaoru Yamaguchi, as an Ensign in 1941 in Japan.

NOTE - this WWII photo, I only have as halftone scans, not the original file

mission/zero-pilots-group.jpg [High Res File/JPG]
Photo by Ens Junichi Sasai taken on Kyushu, 1941 of Oita Kokutai pilots.
(Front row, l to r) WO Tadashi Torakuma (KIA), P.O. 1/c Mitsunori Nakashima, Ens Masayoshi Baba (KiIA)
(Middle row, l to r) Ens Sadao Yamaguchi (KIA), Ens Kaoru Yamaguchi (sunglasses, KIA), Ens Kiyoharu Shibuya (KIA), Ens Nobuhiro Iwasaki
(Back romw, l to r) Ens Toshita Kawazoe (KIA), Ens Shigeru Araki (KIA), Ens Katsutoshi Kawamata (KIA)

farewell-to-yamaguchi.jpg [High Res File/JPG]
"Farewell to Yamaguchi" 2003 painting by Masao Stake

map.jpg [High Res File/JPG]
Japanese wartime map of the New Guinea area, and northern Australia

map-red.jpg [High Res File/JPG]
Japanese wartime map of the New Guinea area, and northern Australia. The red lines indicate the flight path of Zero fighters to Port Moresby, from Lae the shorter route and Rabaul, the longer path. Each route took pilots over different parts of the mountains.

record.jpg [High Res File/JPG]
Tainan Kokutai mission record for May 17, 1942 mission. Yamaguchi and Ito, the two losses of the day are lated as aircraft 2-1 and 2-2. Both are lised their cause of death 'suicidal explosion', the customary Japanese terminology for killed in action. Infact, only Yamaguchi was killed, Ito became a POW.