This Day in Aviation History
April 18th, 1943
A squadron of P-38 Lightnings shoot down two Mitsubishi G4M bombers, one had Admiral Yamamoto on board.
To boost morale following the defeat at Guadalcanal, Yamamoto decided to make an inspection tour throughout the South Pacific. On April 14, 1943, the US naval intelligence effort, code-named “Magic”, intercepted and decrypted a message containing specific details regarding Yamamoto’s tour, including arrival and departure times and locations, as well as the number and types of aircraft that would transport and accompany him on the journey. Yamamoto, the itinerary revealed, would be flying from Rabaul to Balalae Airfield, on an island near Bougainville in the Solomon Islands, on the morning of April 18, 1943.
U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox to “Get Yamamoto.” Knox instructed Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Ernest J. King of Roosevelt’s wishes. Admiral King telephoned Admiral Chester W. Nimitz at Pearl Harbor. This mission would be Top Secret and Urgent. Admiral Nimitz consulted Admiral William F. Halsey, Jr., Commander, South Pacific, then authorized a mission on April 17 to intercept Yamamoto’s flight en route and shoot it down. A squadron of USAAF Lockheed P-38 Lightning aircraft were assigned the task as only they possessed the range to intercept and engage. Select pilots from three units were informed that they were intercepting an “important high officer” with no specific name given.
On the morning of April 18, despite urgings by local commanders to cancel the trip for fear of ambush, Yamamoto’s two Mitsubishi G4M bombers, used as fast transport aircraft without bombs, left Rabaul as scheduled for the 315 mi (507 km) trip. Sixteen Lightnings intercepted the flight over Bougainville and a dogfight ensued between them and the six escorting Mitsubishi A6M Zeroes. First Lieutenant Rex T. Barber engaged the first of the two Japanese transports which turned out to be T1-323 (Yamamoto’s aircraft). He targeted the aircraft with gunfire until it began to spew smoke from its left engine. Barber turned away to attack the other transport as Yamamoto’s plane crashed into the jungle….
Wikipedia, Isoroku Yamamoto:
YouTube, Japanese Admiral Yamamoto Shot Down by P-38s!
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