Iwo Jima Aviation Art: Mitsubishi A6M5 Zero Over Iwo Jima by Ron Cole

There are some extremely nice Iwo Jima aviation prints featuring both American and Japanese aircraft. My favorite is of a Mitsubishi A6M5 Zero with Mount Surbachi in the background by digital artist Ron Cole. The print shows the elegant and graceful lines of the Zero so well.

Ron Cole/Cole’s Aircraft

The subject of the print is a 252nd Kokutai Zero flown by JNAF ace CPO Tomokazu Kasai. There appears to be tri-color F6F Hellcats in the far background, so I am assuming aerial combat depicted in the print is of one the U.S. Navy’s early bombing missions against Iwo Jima between June 14, 1944, and August 5, 1944. From my research, it appears that the 252nd and 301st Kokutai were assigned to Iwo Jima in June of 1944, but I have been unable to determine when the 252nd was withdrawn.

The print can be purchased in sizes beginning at 13” x 19” up to 40” x 60”. Already framed prints can be purchased in sizes 13” x 19” and 24” x 36”. For serious collectors, Mr. Cole produces authentic aircraft relic displays which are prints that also include a piece of the actual aircraft. Check out Mr. Cole’s work at Cole’s Aircraft https://roncole.net/.

Japanese Naval Ace CPO Tomokazu Kasai – Born on March 8, 1926, in Sasayama, Hyogo Prefecture, Tomokazu Kasai enlisted in the Japanese Imperial Navy and began flight training at the Tsushima Kokutai on April 1, 1942. Kasai was initially assigned to the 263rd Hyo (panther) Kokutai which transferred to Tinian in the Mariana Islands in February 1944. His first combat was with a 7th Air Force B-24 Liberator over Guam on April 25, 1944. Between June 18th and July 10th during the United States invasion of the Marianas, Kasai was credited with eight victories. The 263rd Kokutai was disbanded due to attrition, and Kasai was reassigned to the 306th Hikotai of the 201st Kokutai.

Tomokazu Kasai

Kasai’s last assignment was with 301st Hikotai of the 343rd Kokutai (Japan’s Group of Experts) flying the Kawanishi N1K2-J Shiden-Kai (Violet Lightning). He added two additional aerial victories, but on April 17, 1945, crashed and broke his leg which ended his continued participation in World War II.

Japanese naval ace Tomokazu Kasai recently passed away on January 9, 2021, in Amagaski City, Japan at the age of 94.

Hasegawa has re-boxed its new tool 1/32 A6M5c kit with decals for two 252nd Kokutai planes and air to air bombs. Japanese Naval Air Forces on Iwo Jima used phosphorus air to air bombs to counter 7th Air Force B-24 Liberators.


A6M5 Zeros above the B-24 formations would release their phosphorus bombs which would explode over the formations sending phosphorus bomblets in a 300 yard wide pattern down onto the path of the bombers. Each 32 kg bomb would hold 75 steel encased phosphorus bomblets.

USAAF/National Archives via Fold3

While very unsettling for bomber crews, the phosphorus air to air bombs were largely ineffective. More 7th Air Force B-24s were lost to ordinary flak than to phosphorus bombs.

USAAF/National Archives via Fold3


1. Genda’s Blade: Japan’s Squadron of Aces – 343 Kokutai; Henry Sakaida & Koji Takaki (Classic Publications 2003)

2. Japanese Ace Tomokazu Kasai Dies at 94; Jon Guttman (HistoryNet, January 15, 2021)

Iwo Jima Art: 7th Fighter Command “Sun Setters” Trench Art

“Trench art” is a term used to describe objects made from battle field debris and by-products of modern warfare. The term “trench art” was coined during World War I, although similar items have been produced in other conflicts too, and World War II was no exception.

The material used in trench art usually depended on what was available, and the ingenuity of those individuals making the trench art. The most common materials used for trench art are shell casings and bullets, although other battlefield debris was used as well. While a lot of trench art is decorative, some trench art has utility, such as shell casings made into to candle stick holders, ash trays, vases, tea pots, pitchers, cups or beer steins.

While trench art suggests that it was made by front line soldiers to pass the time between battles, it would appear that most of it was made behind the lines by servicemen who had access tools and were experienced in the craft of metal working. Prisoners of war also manufactured trench art from available materials as way of passing the time.

Trench art was also made by local civilians for sale to soldiers (i.e. cigarette lighters, matchbook covers, etc . . .), and other individuals. This cottage industry arose during war, continued after the war, with trench art-type objects being created for sale as souvenirs to the visitors to battlefields and cemeteries. This cottage industry continues to this day.

A good friend of mine was attending an air show, and saw the above 50 caliber bullet being sold as a souvenir, and picked one up for me. It is a spent shell casing with a milled bullet that serves as a bottle opener. Great conversation piece when having friends over for a beer. Trench art? Absolutely. Trench art does not need to decorative.

7th Fighter Command officers, pilots, ground crews, and support staff had their own special trench art as shown below. It is a casting of Iwo Jima with Mt. Suribachi, the words “Iwo Jima” and a P-51D Mustang. Inscribed across the wings of the P-51D are the words “Sun Setters” and the 7th Fighter Command insignia.

Initially, these castings were made from aluminum from wrecked Japanese planes on Iwo Jima. The aircraft aluminum was melted down and poured into a mold. After that supply was exhausted, aircraft aluminum from wrecked American aircraft was used. It is not known how many of these castings were made, but it is safe to assume that if you were stationed on Iwo Jima, and wanted one, you were provided with one.

The 7th Fighter Command named themselves the “Sun Setters” because they saw their VLR missions as an integral part of bringing an end to World War II.

7th Fighter Command Insignia

These castings appear periodically on eBay and normally sell for some where between $100.00 to $200.00, although bidding can sometimes exceed $200.00. They are a nice piece of trench art, and a unique piece of World War II history for the historian, collector, or aviation enthusiast.