Thomas George Lanphier, Jr.

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Thomas George Lanphier, Jr.
Born November 27, 1915
Panama City, Panama
Died November 26, 1987(1987-11-26) (aged 71)
La Jolla, California
Cause of death
Cancer
Resting place
Arlington National Cemetery
Known for Claiming to have shot down the plane carrying Admiral Yamamoto and subsequent controversies
Children Patricia Lanphier Mix; Judith Lanphier Strada; Janet Lanphier; Kathleen Lanphier; and Phyllis Lanphier
Parents Thomas George Lanphier, Sr., Janet Lanphier

Thomas George Lanphier, Jr. (November 27, 1915 – November 26, 1987) was a colonel and fighter pilot during World War II who was first solely, then partially, then determined not responsible for shooting down the plane carrying Admiral Yamamoto, the commander in chief of the Imperial Japanese Navy.[1]

Biography[edit]

He was born on November 27, 1915 in Panama City, Panama to Thomas George Lanphier, Sr.[2] He married Phyllis of Boise, Idaho and had the following children: Patricia Lanphier Mix; Judith Lanphier Strada; Janet Lanphier; Kathleen Lanphier; and Phyllis Lanphier. He studied journalism at Stanford University and graduated in January 1941.[1]

He completed his pilot training at Stockton Army Air Field, California on October 30, 1941, and was assigned to the 70th Pursuit Squadron, 35th Pursuit Group at Hamilton Field in Novato, California.[1]

Until December 1942 he served in Fiji then his squadron was moved to Guadalcanal and he joined the 347th Fighter Group. He scored his first aerial victory on Christmas Eve in 1942 when he shot down an A6M Zero. Lanphier was promoted to captain in March 1943. The next month he destroyed three A6M Zeros over Cape Esperance on April 7, 1943. By the end of his tour, he flew 97 combat missions out of Guadalcanal in P-39s and P-38s.[1]

Following World War II, he was one of the founding members of the Idaho Air National Guard, eventually retiring as a Colonel.[3]

Yamamoto Mission[edit]

Main article: Operation Vengeance

Allied codebreakers determined the route and time schedule of the Mitsubishi G4M bomber carrying Isoroku Yamamoto by breaking the purple code and Lanphier was selected for the mission to shoot it down. The mission was a success with both of the "Betty" bombers being destroyed. Officially, the after-action report gave Captain Lanphier and his wingman First Lieutenant Rex T. Barber each half-credit for the kill. In 2003, Barber was officially credited with the sole kill after an inspection analyzed the crash site and determined the path of the bullet impacts, thereby validating Barber's account and invalidating Lanphier's claim.

After the war he worked as an editor of the Idaho Daily Statesman and the Boise Capital News while continuing to serve as an officer and fighter pilot in the Idaho Air National Guard. He was then appointed special assistant to the Secretary of the Air Force, and then special assistant to the chairman of the National Security Resources Board. From 1951 to 1960, he was vice president of the Convair division of General Dynamics in San Diego, California.[1]

Death[edit]

He died Thursday, November 26, 1987, in San Diego, California, of cancer. He was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.[1][2]

Legacy[edit]

During World War II, Colonel Lanphier was credited with downing nine Japanese planes, damaging eight on the ground, and sinking a destroyer. He received the Navy Cross, Silver Star and Distinguished Flying Cross.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f McFadden, Robert D. (November 28, 1987). "Thomas G. Lanphier Jr., 71, Dies. U.S. Ace Shot Down Yamamoto.". New York Times. Retrieved 2007-07-21. "Thomas G. Lanphier Jr., the World War II fighter pilot who shot down the Japanese airplane carrying the architect of the attack on Pearl Harbor, died Thursday at the San Diego Veterans Administration Hospital at La Jolla, Calif. He was 71 years old." 
  2. ^ a b "Thomas George Lanphier, Jr. Captain, United States Army Air Corps; Colonel, United States Air Force". Arlington Cemetery.net. Retrieved 2011-11-17. "Thomas George Lanphier, the World War fighter pilot died Thursday, Nov 26, 1987, in San Diego, California, of cancer. He was 71. He was born on November 27, 1915 in Panama City, Panama to Thomas George Lanphier, Sr., a West Point graduate and World War I veteran. He married Phyllis of Boise, Idaho." 
  3. ^ Idaho Air National Guard

External links[edit]