Saburo Sakai (1916-2000) was a Japanese fighter ace during the World War Two.
Saburo Sakai was born on August 25, 1916, in Saga, Japan, into a family with samurai ancestry but making a living as farmers. His studies did not prosper.
On May 31, 1933, at the age of 16, Sakai enlisted in the Japanese navy. First he served an a turret gunner until in 1936 he applied and was accepted into a pilot training school, from which he graduated in 1937 as a carrier pilot. He first took part of the real aerial combat in the beginning of Sino-Japanese War in 1938-1939 and was wounded. Later he was selected to fly the Mitsubishi A6M2 Zero fighter in combat over China.
After the war with the US begun, he participated in the attack of the Philippines. Early in the 1942 he was transferred to Tarakan in Borneo and fought in Dutch East Indies. He reached 13 air victories before he got sick. When he had recovered three months later in April, he joined the squadron under lieutenant Junichi Sasai in New Guinea.
On August 8, 1942, he was seriously wounded in combat over Guadalcanal and lost his right eye. He managed to take his plane back and endured a long surgery without anesthesia. He was invalided back to Japan for five months and then spent a year training new fighter pilots. In April 1944 he was transferred to Yokosuka Air Wing that was deployed to Iwo Jima. He flew only short sorties afterwards but shot down four Allied fighters before the end of the war.
During the war, Sakai shot down 64 Allied - mostly US - planes. He was one of the three from his original unit that survived the war.
After the war, Sakai retired from the army with the rank of a lieutenant. He became a Buddhist acolyte and ran a print shop. Later he also visited USA and met many of his former adversaries.
Saburo Sakai died of a heart attack he suffered on September 22, 2000, during a meeting in Atsugi Naval Air Station.