"Bogies, 11 o'clock high!" shouted Lt. Doug Canning, breaking a two-hour radio silence. Maj.
John Mitchell had led sixteen P-38s of his 339th Fighter Squadron from Guadalcanal's
Henderson Field to Bougainville on 18 April 1943 to intercept the Betty bomber carrying
Japanese Combined Fleet commander Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto. Now, after flying 400 miles
at 50 feet above the water, navigating by pure dead-reckoning, the flight sighted two Betty
bombers escorted by six Zeroes descending toward Ballale Island. Maj. Mitchell and twelve
Lightnings climbed to provide high cover while Capt. Tom Lanphier and Lts. Rex Barber, Frank
Holmes and Ray Hine, the designated 'attack flight,' turned to intercept the bombers. As they
climbed toward the Bettys, Lanphier saw three Zeroes diving to defend the bombers and turned
sharply into the lead fighter, leaving Barber to continue the attack on the bomber. Curving in
behind the lead bomber, Barber raked the descending Betty from wingtip to wingtip. Thick black
smoke began to stream from the right engine and the bomber snapped to the left. Moments later
it sliced into the jungle, the crash site marked by a rising column of black, oily smoke. Turning
toward the coast, Barber finished off the second Betty now under attack by Frank Holmes, and
downed a Zero that had belatedly joined the battle from nearby Kahili Airdrome. Shortly after,
Mitchell called Mission Accomplished!
24" x 30"
Available in the following editions
Signed by nine of the P-38 pilots who participated in the Yamamoto mission