The “history” column in the April 18 issue lists this Highlight: “In 1943, during World War II, Adm. Isoroku Yamamoto, commander-in-chief of the Japanese Combined Fleet, was killed as his plane was shot down by U.S. fighters while approaching Bougainville in the Solomon Islands.”
While that is true, what is not widely known is Yamamoto was the architect of the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, and the pilot who shot him down was the late Col. Rex T. Barber, a native of Culver, flying a P-38 Lightning during the top secret “Yamamoto Mission.” He was awarded the Navy Cross for the mission and later became an “Ace.”
Most historians agree that Barber, then an Army Air Force lieutenant, single handedly shot down the “Betty Bomber” carrying Yamamoto. In “Roosevelt’s Secret War: FDR and WWII Espionage,” historian Joseph Persico states that Japan’s loss of Yamamoto was akin to our nation losing Gen. Dwight Eisenhower. Yamamoto’s death had a profound effect on the Japanese high command and public — they were no longer invincible.
The famed “Doolittle Raid” on Tokyo occurred exactly a year (as listed in “history”) before the “Yamamoto Mission.” The late Army Air Forces Staff Sgt. Jacob De Shazer of Madras was a crewmember on one of the 16 B-25 Mitchell Bombers. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and Purple Heart for the mission.
Central Oregon is home to two humble WWII airmen who had a defining impact on WWII a long way from home.