Colonel Rex T. Barber
Flying a P-38 Lightning on April 18, 1943, Rex Barber shot down the Mitsubishi Betty bomber carrying Japanese naval strategist Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, Commander in Chief of the Combined Fleet and architect of the raid on Pearl Harbor. Barber later flew with the 14th Air Force under General Claire Chennault. Led by Major John W. Mitchell, the 432-mile low-level intercept mission was the longest successful fighter intercept mission flown during World War II. The United States discovered Yamamoto’s plan to inspect the naval base at Bougainville in the Soloman Islands by breaking the Japanese radio code. With an endorsement by President Roosevelt, Secretary of the Navy Frank Know issued the order to intercept Yamamoto’s party and destroy it at all costs. The United States kept the mission a secret until after the War so that the Japanese would not know that the U.S. had broken their top naval code. Shot down and injured over enemy territory near the Yangtze River while commanding the 449th Fighter Squadron, Barber evaded capture and returned to Allied territory in two months with the aid of China. He spent eight months in a California hospital recuperating. In January 1945, Barber returned to duty with 412th Fighter Group, 29th Fighter Squadron, testing the Lockheed P-80 Shooting Star. He flew jet fighters in the Korean War and retired as a Colonel after a full Air Force career. By the end of WWII, Barber had five confirmed aerial victories and three probables.