EXAMINATION OF JAPANESE AIRCRAFT EQUIPMENT
(Text and images by Richard Lane)
Japanese aircraft equipment (reportedly from a Zero Fighter) was listed in a May 2007 eBay auction. The image below shows the eight items displayed in the auction .
The items included were:
The flag, goggles, cleaver, knife & case, and silver bracelet was not analyzed in detail but was consistent with the fact that they may have been taken as souvenirs in the Philippines.
Altimeter to a Japanese Plane – From the auction image, it was clear that this instrument was not an altimeter but actually a fuel quantity gauge. The gauge’s dial depicted a fuel quantity of 102 liters and was marked - “Tank 1”. The gauge was missing the glass, bezel, and needle and showed signs of possible damage from impact, fire, and water. An instrument panel label placard for “Tank 2” was present directly below the 102 liter fuel quantity gauge.
Flight control stick broken off Japanese Zero – This piece appeared to be corroded. From the shape of the control grip, it appeared to be consistent for possible use in a Japanese Zero.
Engine Primer Fuel Pump – This item also appeared to be consistent for a use in a WWII Japanese Naval aircraft.
To determine the provenance of these items, I initially focused on the control grip. The control grip’s appearance suggested that it might have been taken from a Japanese Zero. However, for the fuel quantity gauges, the references for the Zero are well documented for various models . None of the references suggest that a 102 liter fuel quantity gauge was ever used for a Zero. Additionally (as mentioned by Jim Long via e-mail) the instrument panel’s placard nameplate was not consistent with a Nakajima or Mitsubishi Zero. The Zero was an unlikely candidate for a 102 liter fuel quantity gauge, so I explored the possibility that these may have been taken from an A6M2-N Rufe. However, the fuel specifications for Rufe, also ruled this out since the fuselage tank held 145 liters (vs. 102 liters) . Additionally, a Rufe wreck in the Philippines was an unlikely scenario.
In “Japanese Aircraft Equipment” (Mikesh, 2004), page 299, there is a Jake cockpit image that shows the lower right hand fuel panel (also depicted in Funatsu’s Aviation Instrument Museum online)  . In the service manual translation for Jake, the fuel capacities for all the tanks are described in detail . Jake had one gauge for each of its six fuel tanks. The starboard panel (right) had four fuel gauges for Tanks 3 & 4 (340 liters each) and Tanks 5 & 6 (300 liters each). The port (left) pilot instrument panel for Jake held fuel gauges for Tanks 1 & 2 (100 liters each). The translation has the following paragraph on the port panel:
”The port instrument panel, which is equipped with the fuel gauges for fuel tank Nos. 1 and 2, is attached to the floor panel on the lower port side. It is made of duralumin plates 1.5mm thick, with a dull black enamel surface. The main storage battery switch is on the forward section of the port instrument panel.”
Based on this document, I believe the fuel gauge and panel piece was part of a Jake’s port cockpit instrument panel. I have depicted this panel in the diagram below.
Jake’s control column is “wheel shaped” so this ruled out the possibility that the control grip in this eBay auction was from a Jake. Therefore, the control grip must have been taken from another type of aircraft.
After I received the items, I carefully cleaned them and looked for additional clues to help the analysis.
102 Liter Fuel Quantity Gauge/Instrument Panel Piece
The instrument panel thickness measured 1.5mm which was consistent with the port panel details in the OP-16-FE Jake service manual translation. The panel and gauge appeared to be damaged by impact, heat, and water. The instrument panel’s placard appears to be consistent for an Aichi aircraft .
The gauge has a data plate on the reverse that translates to “Fuel Quantity Gauge”, and was manufactured by Tanaka Keiki Seisakusho. The panel did not have any of the original black paint remaining. The only visible markings on the back of the panel were faintly stamped numbers “30 77”.
Control grip – Once cleaned, the control grip had a completely different appearance. There was no rust or corrosion present since it is made of aluminum (duralumin)). The top section of the control grip’s length is 12 cm and the top diameter approximately 40mm. This section of the control grip (except the top rounded area) has a textured finish that appears as if it was originally cast into the grip. The only marking I could find was a naval anchor stamped into the grip’s top. The top of this grip section was connected to the control column with a curved 20mm elbow. This elbow was connected to the control column piece with four riveted grommet shafts (this type of construction is consistent with the Zero’s control column).
Upon examining the control grip in person, it was apparent that it was a different design to the version used in the Zero. The 20mm additional curved elbow section and the textured grip area made it unique.
After looking into the possibilities, I concluded the control grip was removed from a F1M2 Pete. There are no known photographs of the Pete’s cockpit but there are several detailed drawings in Maru Mechanic . The drawings show the unique elbow attachment for the flight control grip in Pete.
I believe the grip for Pete was intentionally cast with a textured duralumin pattern. With Pete’s open cockpit design, this undoubtedly would have improved the pilot’s grip in the tropical Pacific climates.
Engine Primer Fuel Pump
The instrument measures 25cm in length and has a mounting diameter of 50mm. It has a naval anchor stamp on one of the brass fittings and a cast number “K 27” in an aluminum section. This fuel primer pump would have been mounted in cockpit with three screws. For Jake, the fuel primer pump was mounted to the cockpit with eight screws (this was also the case for the fuel primer pump in Zero)  . Therefore, I think it is possible that this instrument was also removed from a Pete (it is not known if Pete used a three screw design for the fuel primer pump mount). There is a translation of a service manual for Pete (OP-16-FE, Translation No. 128, 9 Jan 45) but unfortunately OP-16-FE did not translate the “Controls” section of this captured document (perhaps the original document is still somewhere in the US National Archives) .
I believe the aircraft relics described in this article were taken as souvenirs from a Jake and Pete. I think it is possible that a US Navy serviceman took these items from a wrecked Jake and Pete in the Philippines. The Pacific Wrecks Website shows a photo of a wrecked “Pete” at Cavite (see link below) .
Thanks to Jim Lansdale and Jim Long for their assistance in this analysis. I would also like to thank the unknown US Navy serviceman who took these parts as souvenirs. With these surviving parts (and other surviving relics) we now have more important details for Jake and Pete.