Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Barber of Prineville

I'm a few days late to this, but Thursday April 18 was the 70th anniversary of the shooting down of Admiral Yamamoto (it was also the 71st anniversary of the Doolittle raid). My dad knew Rex Barber, the man who shot down Yamamoto, so I knew some of the controversy over it, to wit, that one of the other pilots in Operation Vengeance claimed responsibility for it. The Air Force originally gave full credit to the other guy, Thomas Lanphier, but then when the wreckage and eyewitnesses supported Barber's account of what happened, they gave them both 50% credit -- even though all the evidence completely repudiated Lanphier's story. Barber was fine with this until he found out Lanphier was writing a tell-all account where he claimed he shot down Yamamoto by himself and so that he should get full credit. Historians give full credit to Barber for it, partially because Lanphier's account was physically impossible with the P-38s of the time, since they didn't have aileron boost. The Wikipedia entry for Operation Vengeance has an interesting section on the controversy and it says that these last two points, Lanphier's tell-all account and its physical impossibility, were first related in 2006. My dad, who died in 2005, had told me all about it in the 1990s. It wasn't until 2003, two years after Barber died, that the Air Force officially gave Barber full credit. Anyway, a historian published a story about Barber in the Portland Oregonian on the anniversary of Operation Vengeance, and it's worth a read.

No comments: