Saburo Sakai Tinian Air Group Samurai by Jack Fellows
Certainly one of three of Japan’s most famous WWII pilots, all naval aviators, Sakai and fellow Tainan Air Group fighter pilot Hiroyoshi Nishizawa share the limelight with Mitsuo Fuchida who rose to prominence during the Pearl Harbor attack. Nishizawa did not survive the war and Sakai nearly shared his fate when he failed to take into account the rear gunners in a flight of four Douglas Dauntless SBD-3 dive bombers he attacked on August 7, 1942 during D-Day of the Guadalcanal invasion. In the illustration, Sakai has been injured by fragments from a 7.62 mm round fired by the Dauntless rear gunners from VB-6 off USS Enterprise, aircraft which Sakai had mistaken for F-4F Wildcats during the rapid pace of the air battle above the water between Tulagi and Guadalcanal. He had just begun firing when a fragment from return fire hit his skull and right eye, blinding him and partially paralyzing him, causing him to instinctively yank back
on the control stick, then rolling-out towards the water below, out of control, recovering barely in time to avoid death. Now lapsing in and out of consciousness Sakai began an epic four and a half hour survival flight back to Rabaul where his friend Nishizawa, relieved to see Sakai alive, whisked him off to the hospital for treatment. Sakai never regained much use of his right eye, but nonetheless continued to fly, beginning as an instructor, and then back to flying combat missions, miraculously surviving the war.
Having written several books critical of Japan’s handling of the war, Sakai disappeared into relative obscurity after the war, then rising to prominence after American author Martin Caidin, along with Japanese journalist Fred Saito wrote a sensational and unfortunately somewhat fictional account of Sakai’s life story which was published in 1957, titled SAMURAI! It became a classic tale about Japanese combat flying, still in print today. Sakai’s dedication to duty and indomitable spirit were the embodiment of Bushido, the core element of the Samurai ethos so important to the Japanese wartime belief system – understandably in Sakai’s case since he was a direct descendent of a Samurai family which dates back to the 1500’s.
Overall size: 24" x 27½"
Available in the following editions
Giclée on paper
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