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WWII Pilot Rex T. Barber Dies at 84

July 27, 2001

TERREBONNE, Ore. (AP) _ Rex T. Barber, a World War II fighter pilot who spent most of his life seeking sole credit for shooting down the bomber carrying the mastermind of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, has died at 84.

Barber, who had been a mint and hay farmer in recent years, died Thursday.

Barber was one of 16 pilots in specially equipped long-range P-38 Lightnings who were dispatched 400 miles on April 18, 1943, to intercept Adm. Isoroku Yamamoto, commander in chief of the Japanese Imperial Navy, over the Solomon Islands in the Pacific. American forces had broken a Japanese code to learn his flight plans.

Though the American Fighter Aces Association gave sole credit to Barber, the official U.S. Air Force record said that Barber shot off the tail of the Betty bomber carrying Yamamoto and set it on fire. According to the Air Force record, pilot Tom Lanphier blasted the plane before it plunged into the jungles of Bougainville Island.

Urged by Barber and his supporters, authorities reviewed the record several times, with no change in the official account. A federal appeals court in 1996 ruled against Barber’s challenge of the record.

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