Saburo Sakai became a living legend in Japan during World War II. Pilots everywhere spoke in awe of his incredible exploits in the air.
Sakai enjoyed a singular and most cherished reputation among fighter pilots. Of all Japan’s aces, Saburo Sakai is the only pilot who never lost a wingman in combat. This is an astounding performance for a man who engaged in more than two hundred aerial melees, and it explains the fierce competition, sometimes approaching physical violence, among the other pilots who aspired to fly his wing positions.
The reader will doubtless be surprised to learn that Saburo Sakai never received recognition by his government in the form of medals or decorations. The awarding of medals or other citations was unknown to the Japanese. Recognition was given only posthumously. Where the aces of other nations, including our own, were bedecked with rows of colorful medals and ribbons, awarded with great ceremony, Saburo Sakai and his fellow pilots flew repeatedly in combat without ever knowing the satisfaction of such recognition…