Rex T. Barber
was one of 16 fighter pilots who participated in the famous - and then Top Secret - "Yamamoto" mission, which helped turn the tide of World War II against the Japanese.
Born in Culver, Oregon, in 1917, Barber attended Linfield College in McMinnville, then Oregon State College in Corvallis, majoring in Agricultural Engineering.
With the war looming, Rex Barber - like thousands of other patriotic young Americans - left school late in 1940 to join the U.S. Army Air Corps, earning his pilot's wings and his commission as a second lieutenant.
Lt. Barber was aboard a ship halfway to Hawaii when the Japanese struck Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.
Early in 1942, Barber's unit, the 70th Fighter Squadron, arrived on Fiji, where they trained under the guidance of "...the most wonderful commander I ever had," Major John W. Mitchell. Taking command of the new 339th Fighter Squadron on Guadalcanal Island late in 1942, Mitchell brought Rex Barber and other top fighter pilots with him.
The Yamamoto Mission
On April 18, 1943, Lt. Barber and 15 others under Major Mitchell's command took off from Guadalcanal. Their daring mission was to intercept and shoot down Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, Commander in Chief of the
Combined Fleet of the Japanese Imperial Navy - the man who planned and led the Pearl Harbor attack.
After more than two tense hours of flight at wave top level over 435 miles of open ocean, the 16 Lockheed P-38 Lightnings engaged Yamamoto's flight of two bombers and six escort fighters. Barber boldly pulled in only 100 feet behind Yamamoto's aircraft. Slowing his fighter at extreme personal risk, he raked the Japanese bomber with fire, killing Admiral Yamamoto and most of of his key staff. For his heroism, Lt. Barber earned the Navy Cross.
Barber then volunteered to fly against the Japanese in China. He flew 28 combat missions in P-38s until he was shot down in April, 1944, over enemy territory near the Yangtze River. Despite debilitating injuries that plagued him the rest of his life, he evaded capture for two months with the aid of Chinese guerrillas who then returned him to friendly territory.
Rex Barber's impressive wartime record
of 138 combat missions includes five confirmed aerial victories and three "probables," making him a "Fighter Ace."
After the war, Colonel Barber began testing the new Lockheed P-80 Shooting Star jet fighter. One day he piloted one under the old Crooked River Bridge and the railroad bridge visible to your left, just west of here. He retired from the U.S. Air Force in 1961 as a full
colonel and returned to Oregon where he lived out his days in service to his family, his community, and the country he loved.
Office of the Governor State of Oregon Proclamation
Oregon native Rex T. Barber was a celebrated combat ace during World War II, flying 138 wartime combat missions while showing remarkable courage; and
Rex t. Barber's attack unit successfully intercepted the bomber carrying Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, Commander of the Japanese Combined Fleet and strategist behind the attack on Pearl Harbor, and Admiral Yamamoto's plane was shot down by Rex T. barber; and
Rex T. Barber, with nearly inconceivable flying skill, safely returned to base with 104 bullet holes in his plane; and
In all of the aerial combat of American fighter missions, Rex T. Barber's determination to press his attack and destroy the airplane carrying Admiral Yamamoto is unequaled, having changed the course of history; and
The downing of five enemy planes and his countless combat missions over China and the Pacific earned Rex T. Barber the Navy Cross, two Silver Stars, the Purple Heart, and numerous other military decorations; and
Mr. Barber, after leaving military service, returned to Oregon, was elected Mayor
of Culver, and served as a volunteer firefighter, Justice of the Peace, and Little League baseball coach; and
Mr. Barber's distinguished military career and community service serve as examples to us all and are well worthy of recognition;
I, Theodore R. Kulonggoski, Governor of the State of Oregon, hereby proclaim April 18, 2003, to be
Rex T. Barber Day
And recognize the newly-constructed bridge on Highway 97 over the Crooked River in Jefferson County as the Rex T. Barber Veterans Memorial Bridge to honor all who sacrificed so much in service to our country, and encourage all Oregonians to join in this observance.
Theodore R. Kulongoski, Governor - Bill Bradbury, Secretary of State
Life in central Oregon
was anything but exciting early in the 20th Century. When the Oregon Trunk Railroad pushed up the Deschutes River in 1912, it was Rex Barber's father, William C. Barber, who laid out the town of Culver next to the family homestead.
As a boy on that family farm, Rex Barber was fascinated by stories of aerial combat in World War I. He knew then that he wanted to fly.Farm life shaped Rex's personality, working the soil and enjoying nature, but also building a love of intense competition that would remain throughout
A tribute to the Armed Forcesthat have defended theUnited States of America
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