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First Name: Thomas

Last Name: Lanphier

Birthplace: Panama City, PAN

Gender: Male

Branch: Air Force (1947 - present)

Middle Name: George

Date of Birth: 27 November 1915

Date of Death: 26 November 1987

Rank: Colonel

Years Served:
Thomas George Lanphier, Jr.

•  World War II (1941 - 1945)


Thomas George Lanphier, Jr.
Colonel, U.S. Air Force

Thomas George Lanphier, Jr. was born on 27 November 1915 in Panama City, Panama to Thomas George Lanphier, Sr., a West Point graduate and World War I veteran. He studied journalism at Stanford University and graduated in January 1941.

World War II

Lanphier completed his pilot training at Stockton Army Air Field, CA, on 30 October 1941, and was assigned to the 70th Pursuit Squadron, 35th Pursuit Group at Hamilton Field, Novato, CA. In December 1942 he served in Fiji when the Squadron moved to Guadalcanal and joined the 347th Fighter Group. He scored his first aerial victory on Christmas Eve 1942 when he shot down an A6M Zero over the island. Lanphier was promoted to Captain in March 1943. On 7 April 1943, he destroyed three A6M Zeros over Cape Esperance. By the end of his tour, he had flown 97 combat missions out of Guadalcanal in P-39s and P-38s. His other combat victories included, among other targets, a Japanese destroyer which he strafed with his cannon and sank.

Yamamoto Mission

Captain Lanphier was selected for the top-secret long range low altitude mission, Operation Vengeance, to intercept Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto's transport aircraft while he was travelling on an inspection tour. Allied codebreakers had determined the route and time schedule of the "Betty" bomber carrying Yamamoto. The P-38 "Lightning" aircraft was selected for the interception mission due to its extreme range from Guadalcanal. The mission was a success with both of the "Betty" bombers being destroyed. Officially, the after-action report gave Captain Lanphier and his wingman Lt. Rex T. Barber each half-credit for the destruction of the plane carrying Yamamoto. It was only after Lanphier's death that an organized campaign began to nullify his half-credit for the victory and award full credit to his wingman.

The Japanese did not announce Yamamoto's death until a month later, and the U.S. did not award Lanphier his 1/2 credit until five months later because his brother, a Marine Corps fighter pilot, was a prisoner of war. Lanphier was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and was awarded the and many other awards.

Medals and Awards

Navy Cross
Silver Star Medal
Distinguished Flying Cross


During World War II, Colonel Lanphier was credited with downing nine Japanese planes, damaging eight on the ground, and sinking a destroyer.

Post-Military Life

After the war, he worked as an editor of the Idaho Daily Statesman and the Boise Capital News. He was then appointed Special Assistant to the Secretary of the Air Force, and then Special Assistant to the Chairman of the National Security Resource Board. From 1951-60, he was vice president of the Convair Division of General Dynamics in San Diego, CA.


He married Phyllis of Boise, ID, and had the following children: Patricia Lanphier Mix; Judith Lanphier Strada; Janet Lanphier; Kathleen Lanphier; and Phyllis Lanphier.

Death and Burial

Colonel Thomas George Lanphier, Jr. died of cancer on 26 November 1987 in San Diego, CA. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, VA.

Honoree ID: 2731   Created by: MHOH




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