"MISSION
ACCOMPLISHED"

BY ROY GRINNELL

Each print signed by John Mitchell, Rex Barber and seven other pilots of the Yamamoto Mission

Limited Edition of 1,250

Size: 24" x 30"

Price: $275


American Fighter Aces
Series II

"Bogies, 11 o'clock high", shouted Lt. Doug Canning, breaking a two-hour radio silence. Major 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.

Major 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 "Zeros" 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 afterward, Mitchell called "Mission Acomplished!" and fifteen Lightnings turned toward Guadalcanal. lt. Ray Hine, last seen skimming over the water with smoke trailing from his engine, did not return from the mission and was never found.