The year is 1991, and researchers have discovered the wreck of a Mitsubishi Zero A6M deep within the Indonesian jungle. It’s been 50 years since this aircraft – a legendary Japanese dogfighter – was gunned down over New Guinea, and soon the plane will be shipped to the United States before making its way to veteran Steve Barber. Yet the story is only just beginning. After years of studying the once-great Zero, the ex-Marine will uncover some startling facts about its past.

Image: Kogo

For all its ability to turn like a top, the Zero was something of a deathtrap. As Barber told Air & Space/Smithsonian magazine in 2007, “The Japanese government didn’t care if the pilot survived. They were looking for climbability and maneuverability.” The airman has a deep understanding of the Zero, too, and this knowledge has yielded a rather shocking secret.

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