I have heard from an Israeli friend of mine that some maintain that the Talmidim of Rebbi Akiva zs'l didn't all die in a plague, but rather they were killed by Roman soldiers because they had participated in the Bar Kochva rebellion. And apparently the current view of their death by plague developed from censored works of the Medieval times. Is there an validity to this claim?
The Gemara clearly says that 24,000 Talmudim of R' Akiva died " because they didn't show respect to each other". Your Israeli friend told you that the way Hashem chose to kill them was by them fighting for Bar Kosiba. He obviously got this from the Gemora that says that Rabbi Akiva, at one point thought that Bar Kochba was the Meshiach.
But look at the Rest of the Gemara says that the Chachomim told Rabbi Akiva " Grass will grow from your cheeks before Bar Kochba is the Meshiach". And so it was.(that the Romans cruched Bar Kochbas' Revolt, and with them the physical and spiritual morale of the people.) Rabbi Akiva himself changed his mind about Bar Kochba.
But can you imagine him feeling so strongly about Bar Kosiba that he would send ALL 24,000 Talmudim to fight, and to stop learning Torah?
Bar Kochba's revolt was specifically because The Roman Kingdom passed laws against Studying & Practicing Torah.
Rabbi Akiva whom after all his Talmudim being killed, was Moser Nefesh to give Simicha to 5 Older Talmudim, (for which he ultimately died a horrific tortured execution, as one of the עשורה הרוגי מלחיות) So Torah won't be forgotten from Klal Yisral. Also...the Rabbanim were traditionally against Roman Revolts, since it just provoked the Romans further, proving to them that the Jewish people need to be assimilated into Roman culture all the more which eventually caused the explosion, at least officially ,of all Jews from the land of Israel and the country of Judah.