In a seven-year combat career, Sakai survived horrible injuries and impossible odds, and almost got a chance to kill Lyndon Baines Johnson. Sakai came to prominence in when his memoir, Samurai! It became an instant classic and is still in print today, well after his death. Yet the man behind the legend remains little known, and his career deserves a reappraisal. Sakai Saburo to render his name in proper Japanese order was born to an impoverished Kyushu farming family in

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Sakai was born into a family with immediate affiliation to samurai and their warrior legacies and whose ancestors themselves samurai had taken part in the Japanese invasions of Korea between to , but who were later forced to take up a livelihood of farming following haihan-chiken in Sakai was 11 when his father died, leaving his mother alone to raise seven children. With limited resources, Sakai was adopted by his maternal uncle, who financed his education in a Tokyo high school.

However, Sakai failed to do well in his studies and was sent back to Saga after his second year. Sakai described his experiences as a naval recruit: Sakai posing in front of the hinomaru on his Mitsubishi A5M Type 96 fighter Wuhan, Whenever I committed a breach of discipline or an error in training, I was dragged physically from my cot by a petty officer.

Bend down, Recruit Sakai! Bend down! The pain was terrible, the force of the blows unremitting. He then served aboard the battleship Kirishima for one year. In early , he applied for and was accepted into a pilot training school. He graduated first in his class at Tsuchiura in and earned a silver watch, presented to him by Emperor Hirohito himself. Sakai graduated as a carrier pilot, although he was never assigned to aircraft-carrier duty. In his first combat against Americans, shot down a Curtiss P Warhawk and destroyed two B Flying Fortresses by strafing them on the ground.

Sakai flew missions the next day during heavy weather. Sakai, who has often been credited with the victory, was a Shotai leader engaged in this fight with the bomber, although he and his two wingmen do not appear to have been given official credit for it.

The Japanese high command instructed fighter patrols to down all enemy aircraft encountered, whether they were armed or not. On a patrol with his Zero over Java, just after shooting down an enemy aircraft, Sakai encountered a civilian Dutch Douglas DC-3 flying at low altitude over dense jungle. Sakai initially assumed it was transporting important people and signaled to its pilot to follow him; the pilot did not obey.

Sakai descended and approached the DC He then saw a blonde woman and a young child through a window, along with other passengers.

The woman reminded him of Mrs. Martin, an American who occasionally had taught him as a child in middle school and had been kind to him. He ignored his orders and flew ahead of the pilot, signaling him to go ahead.

The pilot and passengers saluted him. Over the next four months, he scored the majority of his victories, flying against American and Australian pilots based at Port Moresby. Inspired by this, Nishizawa came up with the idea of doing demonstration loops over the enemy airfield. At the end of an attack on Port Moresby that had involved 18 Zeros, [9] the trio performed three tight loops in close formation over the allied air base. Nishizawa indicated he wanted to repeat the performance.

The following day, a lone Allied bomber flew over the Lae airfield and dropped a note attached to a long cloth ribbon. A soldier picked up the note and delivered to the squadron commander. It read paraphrased : "Thank you for the wonderful display of aerobatics by three of your pilots. Please pass on our regards and inform them that we will have a warm reception ready for them, next time they fly over our airfield".

Sakai in flightsuit On 7 August, word arrived that U. Marines had landed that morning on Guadalcanal. The initial Allied landings captured an airfield, later named Henderson Field by the Allies, that had been under construction by the Japanese. The airfield soon became the focus of months of fighting during the Guadalcanal Campaign , as it enabled U.

The Japanese Zero pilots flying out of Rabaul were initially confounded by the tactic. Commander Tadashi Nakajima encountered what was to become a famous double-team maneuver on the part of the enemy. Nakajima was raging when he got back to Rabaul; he had been forced to dive and run for safety.

On 7 August, Sakai and three pilots shot down an F4F Wildcat flown by James "Pug" Southerland , who by the end of the war became an ace with five victories.

At once the Grumman snapped away in a roll to the right, clawed around in a tight turn, and ended up in a climb straight at my own plane. Never before had I seen an enemy plane move so quickly or gracefully before, and every second his guns were moving closer to the belly of my fighter.

I snap-rolled in an effort to throw him off. He would not be shaken. He was using my favorite tactics, coming up from under. They were soon engaged in a skillfully maneuvered dogfight. Southerland parachuted to safety. For some strange reason, even after I had poured about five or six hundred rounds of ammunition directly into the Grumman, the airplane did not fall, but kept on flying.

I thought this very odd — it had never happened before — and closed the distance between the two airplanes until I could almost reach out and touch the Grumman.

With his plane in such condition, no wonder the pilot was unable to continue fighting! A Zero which had taken that many bullets would have been a ball of fire by now. The dive bombers, with their rear-mounted twin 7. After he attacked with three other A6M2 Zero fighters, he discovered that the aircraft were actually Grumman TBF Avengers because he clearly distinguished the enclosed top turret.

He shot down two of the TBF Avengers his 61st and 62nd victories , which were verified by the other three Zero pilots. During this day, no Avengers were reported lost. Sakai sustained serious injuries from the return fire of the lower rear gunner. He was hit in the head by a. Shattered glass from the canopy temporarily blinded him in his right eye and reduced vision in his left eye severely. The Zero rolled inverted and descended toward the sea. My death would take several of the enemy with me.

A ship. I needed a ship. When he attempted to land at the airfield he nearly crashed into a line of parked Zeros but, after circling four times, and with the fuel gauge reading empty, he put his Zero down on the runway on his second attempt. After landing, he insisted on making his mission report to his superior officer before collapsing. His squadron mate Hiroyoshi Nishizawa drove him to a surgeon.

Sakai was evacuated to Japan on 12 August, where he endured a long surgery without anesthesia. The surgery repaired some of the damage to his head, but was unable to restore full vision to his right eye.

Nishizawa visited Sakai while he recuperated in the Yokosuka hospital in Japan. Recovery and return[ edit ] After his discharge from the hospital in January , Sakai spent a year training new fighter pilots. On 24 June , Sakai approached a formation of 15 U. William A. Sakai demonstrated his skill and experience.

Despite facing superior enemy aircraft, Sakai eluded attacks by the Hellcats, returning to his airfield untouched. Sakai managed to shoot down one Hellcat, then escaped the umbrella of enemy aircraft by flying into a cloud. Rather than follow meaningless orders, in worsening weather and gathering darkness, Sakai led his small formation back to Iwo Jima.

About the same time, Sakai married his cousin Hatsuyo, who asked him for a dagger so she could kill herself if he fell in battle. His autobiography, Samurai! He initially misidentified the planes as Boeing B Superfortresses.

Both aircraft returned to their base at Yontan Airfield , Okinawa. He became a Buddhist acolyte - vowing to never again kill anything that lived, not even a mosquito. So I perfectly understand why the Americans bombed Nagasaki and Hiroshima.

Sakai sent his daughter to college in the United States "to learn English and democracy. Claims have been made that his autobiography Samurai! The book was not published in Japan and differs from his biographies there.


Saburō Sakai

However, he considered the arrangement worthwhile owing to the many friendships and contacts he made in America. Eighteen Zero pilots made the journey from Rabaul. All Content Copyright Jonathan C. Samurai saburo sakai english you like to tell us about a lower price? According to Australian records, two Americans were known to have parachuted: For four hours and 45 minutes Sakai navigated homeward, lapsing in and out of consciousness. Well written, but too much side talk andsound.


Saburo Sakai: Samurai of the Air

Sakai, the third born of four sons his given name literally means "third son" , had three sisters. With limited resources, Sakai was adopted by his maternal uncle, who financed his education in a Tokyo high school. However, Sakai failed to do well in his studies and was sent back to Saga after his second year. Whenever I committed a breach of discipline or an error in training, I was dragged physically from my cot by a petty officer. Bend down, Recruit Sakai!




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