April 18, 1943 - US aircraft shoot down and kill Adm. Isoroku Yamamoto (right) in Operation Vengeance. Utilizing intercepted and decoded Japanese radio traffic, US forces learned on April 14, 1943 that the Commander-in-Chief of the Japanese Combined Fleet, Adm. Isoroku Yamamoto, would be making an inspection tour of the Solomon Islands. Included in the message were details including times and the composition of the admiral's escort. Moving quickly, the Commander-in-Chief of the US Pacific Fleet, Adm. Chester Nimitz secured authorization from Washington and planning began to intercept Yamamoto's flight. This task fell to Maj. John Mitchell's 339th Fighter Squadron based on Guadalcanal. Flying P-38 Lightnings fitted with drop tanks, Mitchell's men successfully intercepted Yamamoto's flight over Bougainville on the morning of April 18. In the ensuing dogfight, the admiral's plane was shot down killing him. One of the most impressive long-range interceptions of the war, the mission was marred by controversies over security breaches and who actually shot the admiral down. Despite this, the mission boosted American morale and deprived the Japanese of one of their best leaders.
Photograph Courtesy of the US Naval History & Heritage Command