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A6m and D3A aircraft prepared to launch from Shokaku to attack Pearl Harbor, US Territory of Hawaii, 7 Dec 1941, photo 1 of 3

Caption     A6m and D3A aircraft prepared to launch from Shokaku to attack Pearl Harbor, US Territory of Hawaii, 7 Dec 1941, photo 1 of 3 ww2dbase
Photographer    Unknown
Source    ww2dbaseUnited States National Archives
Identification Code   80-G-71198
More on...   
A6M Zero   Main article  Photos  
D3A   Main article  Photos  
Attack on Pearl Harbor   Main article  Photos  Maps  
Shokaku   Main article  Photos  Maps  
Photos on Same Day 7 Dec 1941
Photos at Same Place Pacific Ocean
Added By C. Peter Chen

This photograph has been scaled down; full resolution photograph is available here (740 by 553 pixels).

Licensing  Public Domain. According to the US National Archives, as of 21 Jul 2010:
The vast majority of the digital images in the Archival Research Catalog (ARC) are in the public domain. Therefore, no written permission is required to use them. We would appreciate your crediting the National Archives and Records Administration as the original source. For the few images that remain copyrighted, please read the instructions noted in the "Access Restrictions" field of each ARC record.... In general, all government records are in the public domain and may be freely used.... Additionally, according to the United States copyright law (United States Code, Title 17, Chapter 1, Section 105), in part, "[c]opyright protection under this title is not available for any work of the United States Government".

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Visitor Submitted Comments

1. Commenter identity confirmed Bill says:
25 Apr 2010 02:35:22 PM

Japanese Carrier Operations:
The Imperial Japanese Navy was a pioneer in
naval aviation.
Carriers used cross-deck arrestor gear, the
landing pattern was setup and used both fore
and aft wires. The landing wires were arranged six across-deck, and a single three-wire barrier six feet high, to stop aircraft
should a hook-skip occur.

Landing Signal Officer:
The Japanese did not use a Signal Officer w/
paddles to guide or wave-off aircraft.
A flagman (Hikocho) on the bridge, who waved
a red flag indicating a fouled deck to approaching aircraft, to signal a wave-off.
The pilot linedup his approach, with the use
of red and green lights arranged in groups
of two on eather side of the flight deck this
system was used both for night and day flight
The landing light system could be raised or
lowered. The pilot would approach astern w/
landing gear down (except fixed landing gear aircraft) flaps and hook down.
The pilot would follow the light pattern
showing if he was two high or two low, off
two the left or right of the flight deck, the
aircraft would catch one of the wires, the
deck crew would guide the aircraft toward its
position on the flight deck, or to one of the
elevators, to be serviced below deck.
Flight operations, were always dangerous with
pitching decks, wind, rain, moving aircraft,
and the danger of propellers.
Flight operations were "cyclic" meaning that
aircraft were set up for launch or recovery, but not both at the same time.
During flight operations a trailing destroyer
would act as plane guard.
Many of the Japanese pilots agree that most carrier landings were scary, especially in bad weather, night or when the carrier was
pitching and rolling in heavy weather.
Japanese carriers had no catapults, aircraft
were deck launched, a smoke generator built
into the flight deck, released a stream of
smoke, to signal direction of wind, for the
aircraft to launch.
Flight deck crews worked hard and fast to
service, refuel and rearm aircraft of flight
operations. Japanese pilots, were the best
trained and experienced naval aviators in the
world, many had over 800 flying hours, with
combat experience in China.
Many of the Japanese pilots were made up from
enlisted personnel. Only 10% of the 3,500
active aviators, were officers most of the
officer aviators, came from the Japanese
Naval Academy, men who had a love of aviation
Other officers came from Special Service they
were promoted enlisted aviators,or reserve officers who were college graduates. These
men filled the ranks of engineering in both ship and aircraft, support and other service
specialities aboard ship.

The competition to become a enlisted naval
aviator, was fierce and standards were very high.
In 1937 1,500 sailors applied, only 70 were
accepted, and 25 graduated after training.
Flight training took one year, the trainee
started with two or three months primary
flight training 44 hrs., on to intermediate flight training 5 months 60 hrs. on to
operational flight training 5 or 6 months,
at the end of this period depending on what
type of aircraft the pilot would fly, the
enlsted pilot would have about 250 hours of flight training.
Officers were given preferential treatment
but, they would have to accumulate 400 flight hours.
The new pilot would be sent to a operational
unit where he would learn combat flying,this
could take up to another year of training,
before he could fly combat missions

Carrier Air Group: 1941

Mitsubishi A6M2 Model 21 Zero (Zeke)
Nakajima B5N2 Type 97 Torpedo/Horizontal Bomber (Kate)
Aichi Type 99 Carrier Dive Bomber (Val)

The Carrier Shoho was still equipped with
Mitsubishi A5M Type 96 Fighter (Claude)

This is not a definitive source of information, just a general overview.
2. Commenter identity confirmed Bill says:
28 Apr 2010 07:49:55 PM

Information on above photograph:

Mitsubishi A6M2 Model 21, and Aichi Type 99
Dive Bombers, preparing for launch, aboard Aircraft Carrier Zuikaku.
Orginal photo was captured on Attu in 1943
This is probably the Second launch, of the
Second Attack Wave Dec. 7, 1941.
3. Commenter identity confirmed Bill says:
23 May 2010 05:47:38 PM

More about Japanese carrier operations:

Japanese carriers used an ingenious system of
signal lamps, on each side of the flight deck
a red lamp was mounted thirty to fifty feet aft of a green lamp.
The pilot on final approach,with flaps,land-
gear and tailhook down only needed to aim
between the pairs of lights, and adjust his
glide path so the red lamps appeared to be
just above the green lamps.
The pilot once over the flight deck, would be
able to catch one of the across landing wires
The system was effective for even the hastily
trained second and third-rate carrier pilot
by 1943/1944 to get their planes down safely
This system had its limitations, there was
no way to signal for speed adjustments.

After World War II,the U.S. Navy developed a
similar system to recover carrier aircraft.

If you have more information contact me at:
4. Bill says:
31 May 2010 06:57:47 PM

One Warship, Two Crews:

Aircraft carriers require special design the
hanger looks large, but it is just adequate
for stowage of full size aircraft.
With space at a premium, complete fuselages,
wings, and other spare parts, are stored in
overhead areas other components find nooks
and corners to be secured. Complete machine
shop and other facilities are crowded into this area.
High explosives are stored much like other
warships in magazines, fuel and oil require
special handling to prevent a static spark, from detonating the fumes.
Two crews operate a carrier the ships crew
man the ship as any other naval vessel, the
second is the air group of pilots, officers and crew who are responsible for aviation duties.
Both crews have their own schedules meals,
training, sleep and other shipboard duties.
The carrier is constantly being policed by
both crews keeping the ship clean with the
maintenance needed to maintain it at sea.
The aircraft carrier Japanese, American,
British or French, is a potent force within
a modern navy. It is the mailed fist, with
aircraft to strike the enemy wherever he may

5. Commenter identity confirmed Bill says:
18 Sep 2010 10:34:28 AM

In 1941 the Imperial Navy had:

10 Battleships
10 Aircraft Carriers
38 Heavy and Light Cruisers
112 Destroyers
65 Submarines
and other support and auxiliary ships
6. Commenter identity confirmed Bill says:
7 Jan 2012 04:13:03 PM


Flight operations aboard any carrier are dangerous places with pitching decks, noise, wind, rain and propellers this is during the day, what about night operations!

Mitsubishi A6M2, Model 21 Zero EI-125 was part of Carrier(CAP)Combat Air Patrol waits
launch signal. Aircraft were not catapulted
from the deck, carrier turned into the wind, to launch aircraft.

Nakajima B5N2 "Kate" EI-309 behind the Zero, was flown by Lt.Tadao Ichihara. This still photograph, was taken from a movie that was filming launch operations. Is this film lost
or hidden away in some archive?


Additional Film taken during the attack on Pearl Harbor was aboard the four carriers and were lost when they were sunk during the Battle of Midway, June 1942.
You would think the Japanese after returning to Japan, would safeguard the films.
7. Commenter identity confirmed Bill says:
3 Dec 2015 01:33:16 PM


In spite of rough sea, strong winds, and pitching flight decks, the first wave attack force of forty
B5N Kate torpedo bombers, forty nine B5N Kate high-level bombers, fifty one D3A Val dive bombers and forty three escorting A6M Zero fighters were launch within 15 minutes! during the launch operation, two aircraft failed to get airborne.


The second wave were fifty four B5N Kate bombers, seventy eight D3A Val dive bombers and thirty five A6M Zero fighters ready to launch at 07:15 added A6M Zeros flew (CAP) combat air patrol over the fleet.
After December 7,1941 the world would never be the same again, by the time WWII ended the world would see only two Super Powers the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialists Republics. The events of WWII are still with us to this very day.
8. Commenter identity confirmed Bill says:
11 Jan 2016 07:25:15 PM


Did you know that each Japanese aircraft carrier
carried spare aircraft. Three of each type A6M
Zero, B5N Kate torpedo bomber and D3A Val dive bomber.
Planes were disassembled and secured along hanger walls six carriers carries an extra (54) aircraft.


First aircraft off the deck were A6M Zeros/Zeke fighters, followed by D3A Val Dive Bombers and
B5N Torpedo and Level Bombers. Carriers could
recover aircraft between 30 to 45 seconds ground crews were highly trained to service, arm and refuel aircraft.
Japanese carriers didn't have a catapult system to launch aircraft, the carrier turned into the wind planes flew off the deck and were launched every (30) seconds. After the raid on Pearl Harbor, (74) aircraft returned with battle damage from anti-aircraft fire, others damaged beyond repair, were pushed overboard.


Additional aircraft were lost due to battle damage some lost their way back, ran out of fuel or had to ditched at sea, crews were listed as missing.
One A6M Zero failed to get airborne and went over the side pilot and aircraft lost.
Another Zero ditched at sea pilot picked up by a destroyer, one aircraft failed to launch due to engine problems.
9. Commenter identity confirmed Bill says:
14 May 2016 05:02:47 PM


The Imperial Japanese Navy had trained the best carrier pilots and aircrew in the world, many of them veterans having flown in China. The IJN
accepted only the very, very best and trained 100 pilots a year.
The crew losses at Pearl Harbor men would be about 1/4 of the annual intake of trainees at the pre-war level, it would take the Imperial Navy between one to two years to replace, time Japan didn't have.


Japan had the best pilots in the world However,
its air forces didn't have a replacement pool of pilots once war started and losses mounted and it had to rush pilot and crew training, by 1943 Imperial forces couldn't equal the naval air forces of the USA and its Allies.


The Japanese aircraft industry was looked upon as producing copies of other designs and having a third rate Navy and Army air arm. Many of their designs were modern low-wing, all metal carrier aircraft.
As the war continued the Japanese relied on its
pre-war designs as the Zero, Val and the Kate, improvements were made however, it couldn't produce aircraft in large numbers the USA did.
What new and improved designs followed were few in number to change the course of the naval war in the Pacific.
Did you know that the A6M Zero was reported in action over China 18 months before Pearl Harbor those reports were filed away as just to unbelievable.

The Japanese also tested new torpedoes and other types of anti-ship[ping bombs. Naval pilots were well trained in dive-bombing and torpedo attacks.


Type 98 250 kg/551lb Land bombs

Type 91 Model 2, Torpedo 838kg/1,847lb this weapon damaged or sunk battleships in Pearl Harbor.
Weapons modification, the Type 91, Model 2 Torpedo was 1/2 the size of Japan's long lance torpedo launched from ships. The type 91 had a 205kg/452lb warhead. It was also modified with wooded fins, this kept the weapon from digging itself into the shallow bottom of Pearl Harbor...

Type 99, Anti-shipping bombs 800kg/1,763 destroyed the USS Arizona.

Type 97, Land bombs 60kg/132lb

Type 99 Model 1, Anti-shipping bomb


Did you know that before the US entry into WWII
Japan was viewed as a third rate power much of this was a result of propaganda and that a war between the USA and Japan would be over quickly...it took the USA 44 months to defeat Japan.

One must also keep in mind that the combined industrial strength of the USA producing the weapons of war, were also directed against Nazi Germany and Italy as well as supplying its allies.
War production went on 24/7 both small and large companies across the USA, supplied the material needed.

Say I'm not an expert, I'm only sharing my knowledge of World War II. If anybody has more information, post it here, I'd like to read it.
I thank the editor/ww2db for allowing me to share my knowledge of WWII

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