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Then, in June 1936, a poster caught his eye: an appeal for volunteers to join the Yokaren (flight reserve enlistee training program).
He applied and qualified as a student pilot in Class Otsu No. He completed his flight training course in March 1939, graduating 16th out of a class of 71.
He was pale most of the time.’ Sakai, who was one of Nishizawa’s few friends, described him as usually being coldly reserved and taciturn, ‘almost like a pensive outcast instead of a man who was in reality the object of veneration.’ To the select few who earned his trust, however, Nishizawa was intensely loyal.
Nishizawa underwent a remarkable metamorphosis in the cockpit of his Mitsubishi A6M Zero fighter.
It may safely be said, however, that the Japanese had misidentified their opponents, since there were no Spitfires in Australia at that time.
‘The worst airfield I had ever seen, not excluding Rabaul or even the advanced fields in China,’ said Tainan Ku. But his wingman, PO3C Toshiaki Honda, gleefully described Lae as ‘the best hunting grounds on the earth.’ Honda was referring to Port Moresby, an Allied hornet’s nest lying just 180 miles away. Sakai, covered by his two wingmen, PO3C Honda and Seaman 1st Class Keisaku Yonekawa, dove on the two rearmost P-39s and promptly shot down both.‘To all who flew with him,’ wrote Sakai, ‘he became ‘the Devil’….