Barber, Rex T., 1917-2001

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Colonel Rex T. Barber (May 6, 1917 – July 26, 2001) was a World War II fighter pilot from the United States. He is best known as a member of the top secret mission to intercept the aircraft carrying Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto in April 1943. Barber received his commission as a U.S. Army officer and his pilot's wings on October 31, 1941. He joined the 70th Pursuit Squadron, which arrived at Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands, in December 1942. Flying a Bell P-39 Airacobra, he scored his first victory by downing a Japanese bomber on the 28th. Upon transfer to the 339th Squadron, he began flying P-38 Lightnings and claimed two Zero fighters on April 7. On April 18, Lieutenant Barber figured prominently in the Yamamoto interception, also known as Operation Vengeance. Intelligence sources had learned that Yamamoto would be flying in a "Betty" bomber on an inspection tour of Japanese bases in the northern Solomon Islands. Historian Donald P. Bourgeois credits Barber with the sole kill of Yamamoto's aircraft. In 1991, Barber and Captain Thomas George Lanphier, Jr. were officially credited with half a kill each in Yamamoto's bomber after the Air Force reviewed the incident. Lanphier also claimed to have shot down a Zero fighter during this mission, although Japanese records show that no Zeros were lost. After his tour of duty ended in June 1943, then-Captain Barber requested a return to combat. Late that year, he joined the 449th Fighter Squadron in China, still flying P-38s. He claimed three further Japanese planes probably destroyed and damaged, but he was shot down on his 139th mission, bailing out near Kiukiang on April 29. He was rescued by Chinese civilians, who treated his injuries and escorted him to safety five weeks later. At the end of the war, Barber attained the rank of major and commanded one of America's first jet squadrons. He retired as a colonel in 1961.
Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Barber, Rex T. Rex T. Barber papers, 1985. U.S. Army Heritage & Education Center
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Official Military Personnel File of Rex Barber. 1940-1968. National Archives at St. Louis
Relation Name
associatedWith Lanphier, Thomas G., Jr. person
associatedWith Mitchell, John W. person
memberOf United States. Air Force corporateBody
memberOf United States. Army Air Corps. Fighter Command, 13th. corporateBody
associatedWith Yamamoto, Isoroku, 1884-1943 person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Oregon OR US
Culver OR US
Subject
Targeted killing
World War, 1939-1945--Campaigns
Operation Vengeance, 1943
World War, 1939-1945--Personal narratives
Occupation
Mayors
Pilots
Soldiers
Insurance agents
Justice of the peace
Activity

Person

Birth 1917-05-06

Death 2001-07-26

Male

Americans

English

Information

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