Barber Bridge dedication on Aug. 9
Crooked River bridge a memorial to Culver flying ace
By Holly M. Gill
The late Rex T. Barber, former Culver resident and World War II hero, will finally receive recognition for his accomplishments when the new Crooked River Gorge bridge is formally dedicated as the Rex T. Barber Veterans Memorial Bridge on Saturday, Aug. 9, at 10 a.m.
Barber, who died two years ago, distinguished himself in both his military and civilian careers. Although he is most famous for shooting down Japanese Admiral Isoroku, who masterminded the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Barber has received many other awards. Those include the Navy Cross, two Silver Stars, the Purple Heart, numerous Air Medals, the Army Commendation Medal, the Presidential Unit Citation, theater and campaign medals, decorations from four foreign countries, and the Veterans of Foreign Wars Gold Medal of Merit.
After he retired from the military with the rank of colonel in 1961, he farmed, worked in insurance, and eventually became the mayor of Culver for nine years. He also served as justice of the peace, volunteer fireman for 16 years, elder at the Culver Christian Church, and Little League coach and sponsor, and was active in the VFW.
For many years after World War II, there was controversy over which member of the 13th Air Force actually brought down the plane carrying Yamamoto, but thanks to the persistance of Barber's comrades in the 13th Air Force and others, Barber is now solely credited with the kill.
After examining the wreckage of Yamamoto's Betty bomber, "Six military research organizations have ascribed sole credit to Rex, including the American Fighter Aces Association, the Confederate Air Force and the VFW in awarding him their prestigious Gold Medal of Merit," according to Lee Flegel, member of the 13th Air Force Veterans Association.
To facilitate the naming of the bridge, in the spring, the Oregon Legislature passed a resolution directing the Oregon Transportation Commission to name the bridge after Barber. In April, Gov. Ted Kulongoski signed a proclamation declaring the U.S. Highway 97 bridge over the Crooked River the "Rex T. Barber Veterans Memorial Bridge."
The dedication and unveiling of a bronze plaque to honor Barber will take place at the Peter Skene Ogden State Park, adjacent to the bridge.
The dedication will feature flyovers of both vintage and modern aircraft, classic car and fire equipment displays, an information desk on veteran's benefits and entitlements, and a kiosk displaying Central Oregon military history and the Rex Barber story.
The hour-long dedication will feature George Chandler of Pratt, Kan., the air ace who inherited Barber's twin-engine Lockheed P-38 on Guadalcanal, as master of ceremonies. Chandler is president of the Second Yamamoto Mission Association, which has worked tirelessly to have Barber's accomplishments fully recognized, noted Flegel.
Among those speaking will be Sen. Bev Clarno on Barber family recollections; Chan Yeh, executive member of the Sino-American Aviation Heritage Association from Sunnyvale, Calif.; Bob MacRostie, manager of Deschutes Valley Water District, on Barber's impact on Culver and Central Oregon; and Rex Barber, Jr.
The event is open to the public.