Last Samurai | A6M2 Model 21 Zero

The Texas Flying Legends Museum has one of only a few flying Japanese Zeros left in the world.

Mitsubishi designed the Navy Type Zero Carrier-Based Fighter in 1937 and it became known for its design and production volume during the war. Of course, it is also known for being the symbol of Japanese air power during World War II. The Allies referred to the Zero as “Zeke” and American pilots gained experience fighting them in China with the American Volunteer Group, known as the Flying Tigers.

A combination of nimbleness and simplicity gave the Zero fighting qualities that no Allied plane could match at the beginning of the war. Lightness, simplicity, ease of maintenance, sensitivity to controls, and extreme maneuverability were the main elements that the designer Jiro Horikoshi built into the Zero. Saburo Sakai, Japan’s highest-scoring surviving World War II ace, with sixty-four kills, believes that if the Zero had not been developed, Japan “would not have decided to start the war.” We understand his comment to indicate that the Zero gave the Japanese a false sense of superiority.

Max Speed (MPH)

39' 4"

Wing Span

Range (Miles)

29' 9"


Service Ceiling (ft)



The white circle around the Hinomaru, the rising sun, indicates that this navel plane was manufactured by Nakajima. Its model number is the same as those that attacked Pearl Harbor, but the Last Samurai, an A6M2 Model 21 Zero, was made a bit later. This fighter was one of many that filled the skies over the bloody Solomon Islands. It witnessed the beginning of the end of Japan’s dream of victory. The Battle of Guadalcanal and Santa Cruz resulted in the loss of ships, aircraft, and men from which Japan could not recover. The allied island hopping strategy was met with heavy resistance, displaying some of the largest aerial battles in the Pacific. Warriors and their machines would duel overhead small islands like Bougainville, Rabaul, and Ballale.

The aircraft was resurrected from the island jungles of Ballale in the late 60’s. It is a small island south of Bougainville that was used by the Imperial Japanese Naval and Army Air Forces. This aircraft might have been seen by Admiral Yamamoto, if he wasn’t shot down in April of 1943 – since Ballale Island was his destination. It might have been one of the fighters belonging to the 251 or 201 Kokutai (Naval Air Group) stationed at Ballale. It could have been flown by Hiroyoshi Nishizawa, the “Naval Ace of Aces,” who shot down 87 plus allied aircraft. It could also be one of the fighters in a photo taken during the war showing the Japanese pilots on Ballale Island.

But one thing is for sure, a perfectly restored A6M2 Model 21 fighter can be seen – sometimes flying – but usually on display. This Zero, reclaimed and restored by the Blayd Corporation, has been praised by Japanese aeronautical engineers and world experts. It is the only Zero built in exact detail with the exception of its DC-3 engine. It is the Last Samurai that will take to the air with the same performance that allowed it to dominate the skies in the early years of the war. It is living history: an example that reveals the genius of the men who designed it and a tribute to the bravery and skill of the men who fought against it.

Skins on the Zero

The Zero is coming along great! Most of the structural work is done. Skins are being made and attached to the rear fuselage. The replica guns and tailhook are in final assembly. Progress can be seen at Aircorps Aviation.

Spring Update on the Zero

Last month AirCorps Aviation released the newest info on the restoration and renovation of the museum's A6M2 Zero. The rear fuselage is coming along nicely with trial fittings of the outer skin being made. The rear fuselage framework, vertical and horizontal...

The Zero is Coming Along Great!

The repairs on the Zero are showing daily changes as progress by AirCorps Aviation is pushing to get the plane up flying this spring. As many parts as possible are being reused with leftover ones from the Blayd Corporation to fill in where needed. The vertical...

AirCorps Aviation progress on Last Samurai

The Zero is looking ready to fly again this Spring! Our first major update on the repair of the Zero thanks to the skill and dedication of AirCorps Aviation (Website) (Facebook)!

Inside the Last Samurai

Go inside the Last Samurai with Warren Pietsch, pilot of one of the last flying Zero's in the world.

Koga’s Zero

At first glance this picture resembles a photo of a pile of junk. Look closer, however, and you will see a propeller, a wing, and a belly tank. Far from being junk, it is a Japanese ‘Zero’ fighter plane from World War II that went on to be of inestimable value to the United States.

Museum Secrets: The Zero

Zero squadrons were the villains of Pearl Harbor and the Pacific air-war that followed. How did American pilots defeat them? The Smithsonian Institution celebrates many of Americas greatest heroes, so it might be surprising to some that its Air & Space Museum...
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