By the beginning of World War II in the Pacific, the Imperial Japanese Navy had ten aircraft carriers, advanced naval planes, and some of the most highly trained aviators in the world. Opposing pilots feared the A6M2 Zero fighter, and few Allied ships that were attacked from the sky survived without strong antiaircraft defenses and fighter cover. However, the Japanese naval air arm was not wholly homegrown. It had received help from Great Britain.
Much of the assistance came courtesy of the Sempill Mission—officially known as the British Aviation Mission to Japan—formed and led by William Forbes-Sempill, a Scotsman who later inherited the title of lord from his father. An aviation pioneer during the Great War, he and other veteran fliers, such as Frederick Rutland and Edwin H. Dunning, were instrumental in the evolution of aircraft carrier operations.
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