Pilot Profile: Japanese ACE Saburō Sakai

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In this Pilot Profile series, we’ll be looking at each of the ACEs released for Blood Red Skies, their exploits and their abilities in your games, continuing with Japanese ACE Saburō Sakai

Sub-Lieutenant Saburō Sakai (25 August 1916 – 22 September 2000), known as the samurai of the skies, was a Japanese naval pilot ace of the IJN (Imperial Japanese Navy) officially credited with 28 victories.

It’s worth noting that the Japanese approach was not to record individual kills but assign them to the squadron instead, individual pilots still kept their own scores and there are claims that he accounted for 64 aerial victories. Discrepancies such as this were quite common, pilots’ official scores would be lower than those claimed by the pilots themselves, due to difficulties in providing appropriate witnesses or verifying wreckage, and variations in military reports due to loss or destruction.

Exploits of note:

On the 10th December 1941, flying from their base at Tainan, Saburō Sakai and his two wingmen shot down a B-17 operating from Clark Air Base on Luzon Island in the Philippines, the first to be lost in the air in the Pacific theatre.

On August 7, 1942, Sakai piloted one of 18 Zeroes ordered to attack Guadalcanal. The range from their new base at Rabaul was 560 miles, almost at the limit of the Zeros fuel. On route, Sakai claimed his 59th & 60th victories, the first an F4F Wildcat flown by James “Pug” Southerland, the second a Douglas SBD Dauntless dive bomber flown by Lt. Dudley Adams & gunner R3/c Harry Elliot. Then, over the island of Tulagi, he spotted a further 8 enemy planes in the distance and moved in to attack.

As Sakai dived to attack from below and behind on the American aircraft his Zero suddenly and unexpectedly became a target for 16 guns. They were either SBD Dauntless dive-bombers (mounting 2 × 0.30 in (7.62 mm) flexible-mounted Browning machine guns in the open rear cockpit) or Grumman TBF Avengers (with a rear-facing ball turret mounted .50 cal and a rear-facing belly mounted .30cal), not the F4Fs Sakai had first assumed.

Sakai claimed two of the SBD’s before being hit in the forehead by a .30 cal bullet. Miraculously he survived, the bullet had hit his goggles and gone through the right side of his head. Paralyzed on his left side and blinded in his right eye he flew for nearly 5 hours and 560 miles back to Rabaul. His engine coughing to a stop, out of fumes, as his wheels touched the ground.

Displaying true Samurai spirit Saburō Sakai on finally landing and being pulled out from his Zero by the ground crew, insisted on making his report to his commanding officer before collapsing.

June 24th, 1944.

After returning to service training new pilots, Sakai’s eye injury was to create a situation that would be recorded as one of the legendary exploits of the air war. Sakai approached 15 planes that he thought were Zeros. You can imagine the pilots in the flight of US Navy F6F Hellcats surprise as the Zero approached. The next 20 minutes saw a high-flying chase as Sakai eluded every single attack from the 15 Hellcats, eventually returning to his base untouched.

Japanese ACE Saburō Sakai in Blood Red Skies

Saburō Sakai brings an almost unrivalled manoeuvrability to Blood Red Skies. Mounted in his agile and fast A6M5 Zero he’ll use tactics such as Aggressive, Comeback King, and Tight Turn to potentially devastating effect!

Zero painted by Darek Wyrozebski

In the attack, Sakai brings his special ability +1 firepower into play, with Tight Turn allowing him to position easily for the kill by making a 45 degree turn at any point in his 7-inch movement. Add to this the Aggressive card that will allow him 2 pilot actions (outmanoeuvre and shoot), a devastating combination with 8 attack dice (Pilot skill 5 + Firepower 3) … Ouch!
In defence, Sakai won’t give up if he is caught out and takes a hit from enemy fire whilst in a disadvantaged state. If he avoids the hit with his 8 dice (pilot skill 5 + agility 3) and rolls a critical (2 aces) in doing so, he will not only survive but will return to a Neutral state.

A word of caution though, one major disadvantage to any pilot flying a Zero was that if hit they would almost always light up like a match. The Zero is therefore Vulnerable, any enemy about to fire on a Zero gains +1 to their firepower before they roll the dice.

By adding Saburō Sakai to your Japanese Naval Squadron you’ll instantly have a further edge over your inferior enemies by becoming a Samurai of the skies yourself…

Japanese ACE Saburō Sakai comes in an ACE pack with:

  • 1x White injection moulded plastic A6M5 Zero
  • 1x Advantage Flying Base
  • 1x Aircraft card
  • 1x Saburō Sakai Ace card
  • 2x Ace Skill cards
  • 2x Trait cards
  • 1x National emblem sticker sheet.
  • 1x double-sided Pilot Skill discs & Zoom chit

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Learn how the A6M5 Zero performs in Blood Red Skies HERE, then report your exploits over at the Blood Red Skies Facebook page. See you in the air!

The Japanese Superiority force

Start your aerial campaign with the Blood Red Skies Japanese Superiority force. This offer gives you the Japanese ACE Saburō Sakai, 1 squadron of 6 A6M5 Zero’s (with all the counters, advantage flying bases, models and cards needed to field these advanced, agile fighting machines) plus 10 dice and decals!

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