Cascoly Books: Samurai

Cascoly Books - Samurai

From the Foreword: SABURO SAKAI enjoyed a singular and most cherished reputation among fighter pilots. Of all Japan's aces, Saburo Sakai is the only pilot who never lost a wingman in combat. ...

Saburo Sakai suffered disastrous wounds and intense agony during air fighting over Guada1canal in August of 1942. His struggle to return in a crippled fighter plane to Rabaul, with paralyzing wounds in his left leg and left arm, blinded permanently in his right eye and temporarily in his left eye, with jagged pieces of metal in his back and chest, and with the heavy fragments of two 50-caliber machine-gun bullets imbedded in his skull is one of the greatest air epics. These wounds were more than enough to have ended the combat days of any man.

Ask any veteran fighter pilot of the appalling difficulties which face a combat flier with only one eye. Especially when he must return to the arena of air battle in a suddenly obsolete Zero fighter against new and superior American Hellcats. After long months of physical and mental anguish, during which he despaired of ever returning to his first love, the air, Sakai again entered battle. Not only did he again assert his piloting skill, but he downed four more enemy planes, bringing his total score to sixty-four confirmed kills.

Brief selections: "And I looked without a second to spare. At least a half a dozen Grummans were on my tail, jockeying into firing position. Their wings burst into sparkling flame as they opened fire. Another left roll-fast!-and the tracers slipped harmlessly by. The six fighters ripped past my wings and zoomed in climbing turns to the right. Not this time! Oh, no! I slammed the throttle on overboost and rolled back to the right, turning after the six fighters with all the speed the Zero would give me. I glanced behind me -no other fighters in the back. One of these was going to be mine, I swore! The Zero closed the distance to the nearest plane rapidly. Fifty yards away I opened up with the cannon watching the shells move up the fuselage and disappear into the cockpit. Bright flashes and smoke appeared beneath the glass; the next moment the Hellcat swerved crazily and fell off on one wing, its smoke trail growing with each second. But there were more fighters on my tail! ...."


A Hellcat rolled frantically, trying to escape a Zero VI _11 clung grimly to its tail, snapping out bursts from its cannon no more than fifty yards behind. Just beyond the Zero another Hellcat pursued the Japanese fighter. Even as I tUrn after the Grumman. One after the other they came in, a long snaking file! The second Zero, intent upon the pursuing Hellcat fighter,seemed entirely unaware of a third Hellcat following in its dive. And a third Zero, watching the whole proceedings, snapped around in a tight turn and caught the trailing Hellcat without warning. It was an astonishing-and to me, a horrifying-death column which snaked along, each plane following the other I before it with determination, firing at the target' before its guns. Hellcat, Zero, Hellcat, Zero, Hellcat, Zero. Were they, all so stupid that not one pilot, either Japanese or American, guarded his weak spot from the rear? The lead fighter,the Grumman, skidded wildly as it hurled back smoke, then plunged toward the sea. Almost at the same moment the pursuing Zero exploded in a fireball. The Hellcat which had delivered the death blow remained in one piece less than two seconds; cannon shells from the seccond Zero tore its wing off, and it fell, spinning wildly. The wing had just ripped clear of the fighter when a blinding flash of light marked the explosion of the Zero. And as the third Hellcat pulled up from the explosion, the cannon shells of the third Zero tore its cockpit into a shambles. The five planes plunged toward the sea. I watched the five splashes. The last Zero rolled, turned, and flew away, the only survivor of the melee.