Roaring Glory Warbirds: A6M5 Zero
Roaring Glory Warbirds: A6M5 Zero
Roaring Glory Warbirds: A6M5 Zero, 1998, 103 minutes
This is a delightful DVD made by people who have a love for the Planes of Fame Museum’s Mitsubishi A6M5 Type 0 – known to the western world as the Zero. Pilot Steve Hinton describes the Zero in terms only a person familiar with flying the aircraft can describe. His body language and thinking-out-loud narration while he pilots the aircraft from engine start through landing is priceless. Though the producers respect for history is obvious and admirable this is not a DVD to be used as a primary reference since, other than the technical aspects of the Zero, the historical recollections, as well as analyses are simplified in the way one first explains the Zero’s role to novice students. This is an observation and not a criticism as this DVD is not meant to be more than an introduction as well as an appreciation of the Zero and the history it helped to make.
The major menu options are discussed in the subsequent paragraphs.
This is where the piloting the Zero comes to life. Hinton explains much in an easy informative manner a professional can give with an effortless description of intricate details. He mentions the vital numbers needed to fly the aircraft with fuel quantities, oil temperatures and manifold pressures to be sure. Describing the cockpit as he teaches the location and use of the control devices for everything from cowl flaps to machine gun cocking levers, including the trim controls and any changes made for flight safety is a well done affair. His observation of the machine gun and cannon triggers (as well as the selector switch for both) is fascinating as well as why the aircraft is flown using the left fuel tank first. The point-of-view video camera with narration combination shows the pilot’s perspective during three phases of flight (taking off, flying and landing) – and is interspersed with clear and tight formation air filming. The Zero’s attributes are well described and demonstrated in terms of roll rate and speed. Less discussed are its drawbacks with the exception of the lack of armor and self sealing fuel tanks which leads to misunderstanding the combat flying of the Zero. The significance is that the Zero is very light in weight so many design sacrifices were made for its near legendary range and roll rate — in this way the Zero epitomized Japan’s prewar strategy of hitting unexpectedly from long distance marked by superior airmanship.
Then a segue occurs describing some of the experiences of Zero ace pilot for the Imperial Japanese Navy pilot Kawato Masajiro (the western version of his name is Masajiro Kawato with the nickname “Mike”). Victor Ho re-enacts Kuwato and clever shots were filmed of him in the Planes of Fame Air Museum — Chino CA Zero. The filming cleverly makes use of a vibrating camera platform and blown smoke to give an in-flight impression. A major portion of the story is Kuwato’s claim of the shooting down, and subsequent capture, of Greg “Pappy” Boyington. This claim is emphasized elsewhere during the DVD, as well, but not mentioned is the controversy about the claim. Both pilots were involved in a general and wide-ranging melee on the day Boyington led a fighter sweep over the area to be sure. Kuwato states he shot Boyington’s Corsair down over Rabaul though Boyington was shot down over New Ireland. More on this aspect can be seen here. However, nearly 75 fighters engaged in a 35 minute air battle, both pilots were in the fight and Kuwato was a fearless as well as gifted fighter pilot all the same.
Multiangles: film clips of the Planes of Fame fighter in three phases of flight
Zero Goes to Japan: the story of how the Zero was acquired by the Planes of Fame Air Museum — Chino CA, the five year restoration effort and the tour in Japan. The low level flying and sound is indescribable as well as incredibly delightful
Pilot’s Handbook: photos but no captions of the cockpit as well as walkaround photos
Interview with Mike Kuwato: seeing and hearing a person retelling experineces is a gift and this is no exception, though subtitles would have been appreciated to better understand his spoken English
Family Album: combat artwork and in-flight photos of this Zero
Some discussion about roll rates going from an offensive advantage to a defensive advantage could have been mentioned as this was significant in explaining why the Zero went from the World’s premier air superiority aircraft in the beginning of World War II to less than that by the middle of the war. Additionally, the Nakajima Sakae 14 cylinder twin row radial is mentioned often, and quite rightly, but the engine was not developing much more power at the end of the war in comparison to the beginning whereas Allied engines increased in horsepower beyond imagination for Zero pilots (putting them at greater disadvantage). Zero pilots were required to have better than average accuracy to be effective, as well, due to the limited ammunition load — another compromise for agility and flight endurance. The bias of the appreciation of this aircraft and its heyday is obvious in the DVD, and why not? The DVD, after all is said and done, was not meant to be an analysis or history of the Zero but more of an ode to this flying Zero with original engine —and why not?