Along with the usual aerobatic and military flying action, the Oregon International Air Show at Hillsboro Airport just outside of Portland, Oregon featured a Heroes of the Pacific tribute to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the beginning of the Pacific War during World War Two. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour, Hawaii on December 7th, 1941 kicked it all off and brought the United States into the war.
The Heroes of the Pacific demonstration included a rare bird and the only flying survivor that was present during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour (it is believed 8 civilian aircraft were in the sky on December 7th, 1941 when the attack occurred and 3 were shot down by Japanese aircraft). This was a 1941 Interstate Cadet (N37266) that is today known as “The Pearl” and is operated by the Lost Aviators of Pearl Harbor LLC out of the Heritage Flight Museum in Burlington, WA.
The Interstate Cadet was on a student training flight that morning in 1941 piloted by Instructor Cornelia Fort who narrowly avoided a collision with a Japanese torpedo bomber, then avoided an air to air strafing attack, landed, then got out of the way of an air to ground strafing attack! The aircraft had numerous bullet holes but it, Cornelia and the student pilot managed to survive! Cornelia Fort later became one of the first women to join the Women’s Auxiliary Flying Squadron (WAFS) in 1942 to ferry aircraft to USAAF bases in the United States. Sadly she died at just 24 in a mid-air collision over Texas in 1943 flying a Vultee BT-13 Valiant trainer (the first female pilot to die in wartime service for the United States, she made her mark on aviation history in both an enthralling and sad way).
Following this 1941 incident the Interstate Cadet was grounded and put in storage for the duration of the war (civilian flyers were grounded during that time in Hawaii). It remained in Hawaii for many years before eventually ending up on the mainland but became neglected, was in a poor state and basically became scrap. Recovered, it was restored to flight in 2012 and is now a great piece of unique aviation history!
Back to the air show, “The Pearl” flew with the Commemorative Air Force – Southern Californian Wing US Navy Grumman F6F Hellcat and Imperial Japanese Navy Mitsubishi A6M3 Zero (partially rebuilt in Russia in the 1990’s using as many parts as possible from wrecks recovered in New Guinea, it was sent to the US where the restoration was completed and fitted with a Pratt & Whitney R1830 engine rather than an original Sakai engine) and the Erickson Aircraft Collection General Motors FM-2 Wildcat of the US Navy. There was also a replica Imperial Japanese Navy Mitsubishi A6M2 Zero (a Tora! Tora! Tora! movie variant built from a T-6 Texan) but it unfortunately had to pull out of the display after takeoff due to some sort of mechanical safety issue.
The pilots put on a display of simulated attacks and some great formation passes to entertain the crowd. Yes the poor little Interstate Cadet was chased down by the Mitsubishi A6M3 Zero but naturally the Zero got its own in the end courtesy of its old nemesis the Grumman F6F Hellcat!