Friends of the 475th
Lt. Colonel Thomas G. Lanphier, Jr.
Thomas George Lanphier, Jr., was born in Panama City, Panama on 27 November 1915. He graduated from Leland Stanford University in January 1941, and joined the Army Air Corps for flight training. He received his wings at Stockton Field, California on 31 October 1941, and was assigned to the 70th Pursuit Squadron, 35th Pursuit Group. Until December 1942 he served in Fiji when the squadron moved to Guadalcanal and joined the 347th Fighter Group.
Lieutenant Lanphier flew 97 combat missions out of Guadalcanal in P-39s and P-38s. He scored his first aerial victory on Christmas Eve 1942 when he shot down a Zeke over the island. Promoted to captain in March 1943, he destroyed three Zekes over Cape Esperance on 7 April.
Selected for the top-secret mission to intercept Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto while on one of his inspection trips to Japanese held Bouganville, Lanphier was temporarily attached to the 339th Fighter Squadron. On 18 April he led the four P-38s that made up the "attack flight" of the 16 plane formation. Intercepting the Betty bomber carrying the Japanese admiral over the southwest coast of Bougainville, Lanphier broke into three attacking Zekes as Lt. Rex Barber pressed the attack on the bomber. In the ensuing combat, Lanphier claimed both a Zeke and the Yamamoto Betty. Barber also claimed the Betty, and each was subsequently given a half-credit for the bomber.
Promoted to lieutenant colonel in February 1945, Lanphier served as director of operations of the 72nd Fighter Wing, Second Air Force until late 1945. Leaving active duty following the war, he was editor of the Idaho "Daily Statesman" and the Boise "Capital News". He was promoted to colonel in the Air Force Reserves in 1950 and from 1951 to 1960 was vice president of Convair in San Diego. He died there from cancer on 26 November 1987.
TALLY RECORD: 5 1/2 Confirmed
DECORATIONS: Navy Cross, Silver Star with one Oak Leaf Cluster, Distinguished Flying Cross with one OLC and the Air Medal with 5 OLCs