ZERO 3647

In 1993, I collaborated with Takahashi Goro, a Japanese writer/producer, on a television story with Masajiro “Mike” Kawato, who wrote two books about his shoot down of Pappy Boyington on October 17th, 1943. Takahashi, who was writing a book at that time about Saburo Sakai, brought Mike to Guadalcanal to inspect Sakai’s legendary V103 Mitsubishi Zero airplane I had located in the middle of a swap not far from Henderson field on Guadalcanal. The story was aired in Japan and later that year, I located a previously undiscovered Betty Bomber on the side western side of a mountain on Guadalcanal with the crew still among the wreckage. Takahashi and I collaborated on our second project in the Solomon Islands and this time it was with  Fuji Television in Japan. Takashi arrived on Guadalcanal with Eiji Igarashi and we shot all the footage of a two day trek through the jungle to the mountaintop resting place. It turned into a moving story about the lost soldiers.

In a matter of months, Takahashi arrived with an NHK film crew without any warning and I had to scramble around for film permits. A call from the Prime Minister, Solomon Mamaloni, cleared the way and ZERO 3647 shooting commenced. Of course, by the time we got to the crash site, torrential rain filled the normally shallow swamp up to our waists. Luckily I had already retrieved a large portion of the aircraft, including the pilot’s bones, parachute, and pistol but the tail remained underwater. The original plan to film the tail reveal involved sandbagging the airplane and pumping out the water. Inaccessibility to just about everything on that list changed the plan to a hands-on scuba dive the next day into the snake infested swamp. We got the job done and I was surprised several months later when I received Sakai’s new book about V-103, autographed to me by the great man himself.

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