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The Nakajima B5N2, code-named “Kate” by the Allies, was the best carrier-based torpedo bomber in 1941 and scored the most damaging hits on U.S. battleships during the Pearl Harbor raid. Until now, however, the closest things to a surviving B5N were a large piece found in the Kuriles, now on display at the Wings Museum in Balcolme, U.K., and components of one that the Pacific Aviation Museum purchased in 2010. Now the Pearl Harbor–based museum plans to assemble those components, along with those it can find or remanufacture, with an eye toward fully restoring its Kate for static display.

Although believed to have been built prior to Pearl Harbor and possibly used there (if it had served aboard Shokaku or Zuikaku, the two carriers that survived 1942 and thereafter often operated their planes from land bases in the Solomons), the museum’s B5N2 is known to have served with the 105th Naval Base Unit at Rabaul’s Vunakanau airfield when it bombed and damaged a floating dry dock in Seeadler Harbor on April 27, 1945. After Japan’s surrender, it was flown to Jaquinot Bay airfield in New Zealand, and left to deteriorate until 1971.

A shot of the museum's Kate shortly after it arrived at RNZAF Station Jacquinot Bay, on New Britain island, Papua New Guinea, in October 1945.  (From the late Roy Paton's collection, via Dave Homewood)

Since its acquisition by the museum, the Kate has been on display in Lieutenant Ted Shealy’s restoration shop in Hangar 79, where the public can observe its progress. “An estimated 1,149 B5Ns were built, and only bits and pieces survive today, except for this Kate and its intriguing history,” said the museum’s executive director, Kenneth DeHoff. “With this year being the 75th anniversary of Pearl Harbor, the museum is honored to be able to display the Kate where she made aviation history, sharing a legacy with thousands of visitors worldwide.”

If all goes as planned, perhaps the world’s only complete—albeit non-flying—Kate may be ready in time for the Pearl Harbor raid’s 80th anniversary.