Who Shot Down Yamamoto?

Who Shot Down Yamamoto?


Having been a participant in the Yamamoto mission, I

read your article with great interest and found it to

be very accurate except in one small detail: the

30-foot altitude and a major disagreement with its

conclusion about [1st Lt.] Rex Barber and [Capt.] Tom

Lanphier, who were both very good friends of mine

["Magic and Lightning," March, p. 62



In the 13th Fighter Command report "Subject: Fighter

Interception," it stated we flew at 30 feet and, in

another place, we flew 10 to 30 feet above the water.

In truth, John Mitchell briefed us to maintain 50 feet

of altitude, which I and my team mates did all the way

to Bougainville. Ten to 30 feet above the ocean is

ridiculous in that if one engine quits, only the most

skillful of pilots could prevent crashing into the

ocean before they could safely convert to single

engine flying.


After Japanese records revealed that only two Betty

bombers were shot down, not three, and no Zeros were

shot down, Tom wrote an unpublished book (I have a

copy) in which he claimed that only he should have

full credit for shooting down Yamamoto's plane. Up to

that time, Rex was willing to accept half credit, but

after Tom let Rex and [Maj.] John Mitchell read it,

they were in strong disagreement from then on.


My personal interest started the day after the mission

when I asked Tom about the Betty bomber he said he had

shot down. He told me that after he turned into the

three Zeros on the right side of Yamamoto's plane

(which in my mind was fabulous in that it gave Rex an

unimpeded path to Yamamoto's plane), he shot at the

oncoming Zeros and, as they passed, he made a

180-degree turn after which he saw a Betty bomber at

about 90 degrees to him and at some distance. He fired

his guns using lead, and the Betty's right wing came

off and the Betty rapidly descended to a crash.


In 1988, the Nimitz Foundation at Fredricksburg, Tex.,

held its first symposium with its subject "The

Yamamoto Mission." There were seven of us from the

mission, plus Yanagua, the only survivor of the six

Japanese Zero pilots. Through an interpreter, he told

the audience that no Zeros were shot down, five

landing at Kahili and one at Ballalae, and then at

about two o'clock the six took off, joined up, and

flew back to Rabaul. After the talks, through an

interpreter, he told me he was the only one still

living because, in a fight with an F6F, he had his

right hand hit, which had to be amputated and he could

not fly any more. The other five were killed in combat

later on. When he saw a P-38 about to attack

Yamamoto's airplane (because they had had their radios

removed to lighten the plane), he was unable to warn

Yamamoto's pilot. He flew ahead and fired his guns in

the hope that his tracers would warn the pilot, but to

no avail. After the Betty was fired at, Yanagua stated

it crashed after 20 to 30 seconds. (I have a copy of

his sworn statement as to this fact.) Another book has

a part of Admiral Ugaki's diary in which he said he

saw the attack and that after Yamamoto's plane was

hit, it took only 20 seconds before it hit the ground.


There is no way that the P-38G models that we flew

with no aileron boost could make a 180-degree turn and

fly to the fray in the cited 20 to 30 seconds.

However, in Tom's unpublished book, he states that he

followed Yamamoto's Betty bomber to near its crash

site. [He] gave a very accurate description of the

scene, and also how he had shot down Yamamoto's plane

for the second time (of course, not mentioned by him

was that it was the second time), which brings up the

question: Should future review boards give him credit

for shooting down one-and-a-half bombers? Without

question, that would be ridiculous. It is my strong

opinion that Tom never fired one round at any Betty

bomber. Also, after Yanagua and Admiral Ugaki

confirmed they had seen a P-38 shoot down Yamamoto's

plane and said so, only Rex should be credited with

this victory because their statements and Rex's are

practically identical.


Maitland, Florida



Who wrote the above? It doesn't say who the author is?





Marion J Chard
Proud Daughter of Walter (Monday) Poniedzialek
540th Engineer Combat Regiment, 2833rd Bn, H&S Co, 4th Platoon
There's "No Bridge Too Far"

Just saw this browsing the Papa Art section. I believe the author is Douglas S. Canning based on the following:


Maj Todd O. USMC, Retired
Grandson of LTC John O'Brien

Thanks Todd. Always wondering about the authorship of things we all find on the net...


An aside...I see this was posted by my dearly lost friend, Papa Art. Man it's hard to comprehend his passing... :(

Marion J Chard
Proud Daughter of Walter (Monday) Poniedzialek
540th Engineer Combat Regiment, 2833rd Bn, H&S Co, 4th Platoon
There's "No Bridge Too Far"

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