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Honoring a Hero

Governor holds special ceremony for the late Rex T. Barber

by: Contributed - Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski, second from right, presents Margaret Barber the official proclamation honoring her late husband, Rex Barber, during a special ceremony Friday at the Capitol. To Margaret’s left is Rex Barber Jr. and to the governor’s right is Rex Barber III. The ceremony marked the 60th anniversary of the mission in which Rex Barber Sr. shot down Japanese Admiral Yamamoto.

   April 23, 2003 — Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski hosted a special ceremony Friday in the Capitol to sign a proclamation declaring the Highway 97 bridge over the Crooked River the "Rex T. Barber Veterans Memorial Bridge."
    The late Rex T. Barber, who grew up in Culver, is famous for shooting down Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, the mastermind behind the Pearl Harbor attack, during a secret mission in the South Pacific in World War II. The signing of the proclimation Friday marked the 60th anniversary of the epic kill, and capped a two-year effort by several veterans groups to have the bridge named after the storied flying ace.
    Barber's wife, Margaret, son, Rex Barber Jr., and grandson, Rex Barber III, also were on hand during the ceremony with the governor and Senator Bev Clarno.
    A formal ceremony to dedicate the bridge will be held July 26.
    The Legislature recently approved the naming of the bridge with the following proclamation:
    Senate Joint Resolution 38
   Whereas Rex T. Barber, a retired United States Air Force Colonel born in Culver, Oregon, now deceased, was based at Fighter II Airfield, Guadalcanal, in April 1943 when he was chosen to participate in a dangerous, top secret mission in his P-38 Lightning; and
   Whereas American military intelligence had broken the Japanese code and had learned that Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, the commander of the Japanese combined fleet and strategist behind the attack on Pearl Harbor, was flying to Bougainville in the Solomon Islands to inspect troops at the Japanese naval base; and
   Whereas Rex T. Barber took off from Guadalcanal in the early morning hours of April 18, 1943, flying his P-38 Lightning in a sixteen-plane unit, led by Major John Mitchell, and the unit flew for 435 miles at no more than 50 feet above the ocean to avoid detection on a mission to intercept and shoot down the plane carrying Admiral Yamamoto; and
   Whereas Rex T. Barber's attack unit successfully intercepted Admiral Yamamoto's plane and, after a brief but fierce air battle, Admiral Yamamoto's plane was shot down by Rex T. Barber and crashed in flames in the thick jungle on Bougainville, killing Admiral Yamamoto and his crew; and
   Whereas Rex T. Barber and all but one member of his unit safely returned to a hero's welcome at Fighter II, and although the fog of war and the mists of time have caused confusion as to which pilot in the attack unit shot down Admiral Yamamoto's plane, recent research proves that Rex T. Barber should be given 100 percent credit for the heroic feat; now therefore,
   Be It Resolved by the Legislative Assembly of the State of Oregon:
   That the Oregon Transportation Commission is directed to name the newly constructed bridge over the Crooked River on U.S. Route 97 the "Rex T. Barber Veterans Memorial Bridge."