The Niihau Zero
Pieces of Pearl Harbor's lone surviving Zero tell of a violent clash of cultures and a race for technology.
- By Nick D'Alto
- Air & Space magazine, July 2007
U.S. Navy / National Archives
(Page 3 of 3)
“As soon as the inspection was finished,” Syd says, “what was left was dragged about 300 yards [to] beneath a stand of trees, to conceal from Japanese reconnaissance that a plane had landed on the island and was captured.” There B11-120’s hulk remained, obscured but not entirely idle in the hands of the resourceful islanders. “They peeled off swatches of the aluminum wing skin,” Robinson says. “Perfect for rolling into eyelets for their fishing nets.” The Robinson family eventually agreed to loan the wreck to the museum.
For his valor, Howell Kaleohano was awarded a Medal of Freedom in 1946. Bene Kanahele received a Medal of Merit and a Purple Heart. Against stunning defeat at Pearl Harbor, their unlikely victory received national acclaim. The December 1942 issue of Reader’s Digest regaled its audience with the exploits of the “full-blooded descendants of ancient Hawaiian warriors.” A wry Hawaiian ditty entitled “They Couldn’t Take Niihau, No-How,” penned by musician Alex Anderson, became America’s first World War II victory song.
One mystery remains unsolved: the tragedy surrounding Yoshio Harada. A Nisei (second-generation Japanese-American) living on the island, he spoke with the pilot, but did not reveal the attack on Pearl to the others. He then helped Nishikaichi terrorize the villagers before shooting himself when the siege ended. Whatever motivated Harada’s alliance, others would pay dearly for it. “The incident was used to help justify the dislocation and internment of thousands of Japanese-Americans during the war,” says KT Budde-Jones. “So many worlds collided when this plane crashed here.”