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Caring for the Aleutian Zero at San Diego
American sailors buff the San Diego Zero

'Never attempt to dog fight the Zero'

In December 1942, the U.S. Army published Informational Intelligence Summary No. 85, entitled Flight Characteristics of the Japanese Zero Fighter (click on the title to download the PDF file). It was classified Confidential and marked "Not to be taken into the air on combat missions." The 10-page document was based on evaluations of an early-production Model 20 aircraft piloted by Koga Tadayoshi off the carrier Ryujo, making a diversionary attack on the Aleutian port of Dutch Harbor during the Battle of Midway in June 1942. Koga's plane was hit by ground fire, and he attempted to make a wheels-down landing. The plane flipped, and he was killed. Five weeks later, a search party found the aircraft, and it was decided to move it to San Diego for repair and evaluation. Above, a U.S. Navy ground crew poses with the restored Zero.

The results were distributed to USAAF squadrons a few months later, with these recommendations:

1. Never attempt to dog fight the Zero.

2. Never maneuver with the Zero at speeds below three-hundred (300) miles per hour indicated [airspeed] unless directly behind it.

3. Never follow a Zero in a climb at slow speeds.

The whole document makes interesting reading today, though you may need a magnifying glass to follow the text. To download it, click here. You'll need the free Acrobat Reader in order to view or print it.

A tip of the virtual hat to Rich Leonard, who passed the document along to me.