Minot plane holds memories for Japanese womanMINOT (AP) — When Yukiko T. Howell recently climbed into the cockpit of the Zero, a Japanese fighter plane, it was a moment for her to capture how her uncle might have felt when he flew the same model with the Imperial Japanese Navy during World War II.
By: Associated Press, The Jamestown Sun
MINOT (AP) — When Yukiko T. Howell recently climbed into the cockpit of the Zero, a Japanese fighter plane, it was a moment for her to capture how her uncle might have felt when he flew the same model with the Imperial Japanese Navy during World War II.
Howell, a native of Japan who has lived in Tacoma, Wash., since 1973, was in Minot visiting her friend, Bernice Redding. Dakota Territory Air Museum member Jim Bergo helped with the plans for Howell to visit the Minot air museum. There she met with Warren Pietsch, who flies the Zero and is a board member of the Minot museum and chief pilot for the Texas Flying Legends Museum in Houston, owner of the Zero.
“My maternal side uncle, Nobuo Konish, was an Imperial Navy fighter pilot,” Howell said during her visit to the museum.
She said that during World War II her uncle was stationed in Rabaul, a large Japanese Army base in New Guinea, and flew the same model of Zero as the one that is in Minot.
“This is the one he flew, A6-M2,” she said.. “I’ve been looking for that airplane because not many survived and you have a restored one. I couldn’t believe it.”
Howell said her uncle died June 3, 1943. “He was 19; he was shot down,” she said. Her uncle crashed in the Rendova Island, which is in the South Pacific, she said.
After her uncle went through training, Howell said, he saw family members and told them he was heading for Rabaul the next day.
“And off he went with the airplane to Rabaul. That was in April. Between April 22 to June 30th, I don’t know how many times he flew,” Howell said.
Howell, a retired teacher who taught math, aviation and Japanese language in a private school, continues to work as a high school substitute teacher in Tacoma. A licensed pilot since 1998 who at one time had her own plane, she is the scholarship chairwoman of the Washington Chapter of Women in Aviation International in Seattle.
When Howell found out she could see the Zero in Minot, she was thrilled.
“I couldn’t believe it, and I could get in it,” she said.
She said she had seen a Zero before in the Air and Space Museum in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.
“That’s an A6-M2 there, but it’s hanging way up high so it’s untouchable,” she said.
Howell said she hopes to come back to Minot for a July 4 air show. “Because I want to see him flying,” she said, referring to Pietsch flying the Zero.