|Pilot 2nd Lt. John "Johnny" H. Mangas, O-725327 (MIA / KIA) Portland, OR
MIA January 8, 1943
Mangas enlisted in the U. S. Army Air Force. During P-38 flight training at Hamilton Field in May to June 1942, nicknamed "Johnny". During the summer of 1942, pilot Richard I. Bong flying under Golden Gate Bridge and was caught, grounded and was to face a court-martial for the infraction. During November of 1943, when Bong was home on leave, he confided to his family that he did not fly under the Golden Gate Bridge, but was turned-in for buzzing the house of a pilot friend who had just been married. Bong thought he would have faced court-martial and been kicked out of the Army Air Corps had it not been for the fact that on the very same day, three other pilots flew under the Golden Gate Bridge: John Mangas, "Mitchell" and John O'Neill who were also caught and grounded.
Sent overseas to New Guinea. On his second day in the Pacific Mangas was on patrol at 32,000', his left engine quit and made a force landing. On landing, his hydraulics in the landing gear failed, causing a belly landing. Mangas was unhurt in the crash.
On December 27, 1942 Mangas took off piloting P-38F 42-12653, one of four P-38s scrambled in a four-plane flight including 2nd Lt. Richard I. Bong and Captain Tommy Lynch and 2nd Lt. Kenneth Sparks. Over Dobodura they intercepted 35 enemy planes. This was the first aerial combat by the P-38 Lightning in the South West Pacific Area (SWPA). Seven enemy planes were claimed, with Mangas credited with one. Two other four-plane flights of the 39th FS joined the melee claiming another six victories. For his gallantry during the mission, Mangas earned the Silver Star. Afterwards, this aerial battle was reported in the American press.
On January 6, 1943, Mangas took off piloting P-38F 42-12653 and claimed his second aerial victory attacking enemy fighters defending a convoy roughly 50 miles off Gasmata over the Huon Gulf. In total, Mangas was credited with two aerial victories.
Built by Lockheed Aircraft Corporation (LAC) in Burbank. Constructors Number 222-7099. Delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as P-38F-5-LO Lightning serial number 42-12665. Disassembled and shipped overseas to Australia and reassembled.
On January 8, 1943 in the morning took off from 14 Mile Drome (Schwimmer) near Port Moresby piloted by 2nd Lt. John H. Mangas on an escort mission no. 1 over Lae and returned safely from the mission. Due to pilot shortages, Mangas volunteered to fly another mission.
In the afternoon took off again from 14 Mile Drome (Schwimmer) piloted by 2nd Lt. John H. Mangas on escort mission no. 3 over Lae. The formation included sixteen P-38s to fly top cover for B-17 Flying Fortresses from the 43rd Bombardment Group (43rd BG) bombing a Japanese convoy unloading at Lae.
Over the target, the formation was intercepted by the Japanese fighters including Japanese Army Air Force (JAAF) Ki-43 Oscars from the 11th Sentai plus Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) A6M Zeros from the 582 Kōkūtai (582 Air Group) and 252 Kōkūtai (252 Air Group). During the air combat, the 39th Fighter Squadron claimed seven victories, including Richard I. Bong who claimed his fifth aerial victory and became an ace. Mangas was last seen continuing to make firing passes at enemy planes, and disappeared into the clouds near dusk. At 6:20pm, his flight leader Lt. Hoyt Eason called on the radio for all pilots to form up and return to Port Moresby. When this aircraft failed to return it was officially listed as Missing In Action (MIA).
After 6:20pm when Mangas failed to rejoin the formation flight leader Lt. Hoyt Eason remained in the area for another 15 minutes and attempted to locate him, but saw no planes airborne and returned to Port Moresby concluding Mangas was shot down. Other pilots in the squadron were in disagreement about precisely where Mangas was lost, some claimed over land or others believed he crashed into Huon Gulf.
Mangas was officially declared dead on January 8, 1946 and posthumously promoted to the rank of 1st Lieutenant. He earned the Silver Star, Purple Heart, posthumously. He is memorialized at MAC on the tablets of the missing.
Gary Smith (nephew of Mangas)
"John Mangas was the first P-38 lighting pilot lost in combat in the Pacific area."
USAF Serial Number Search Results -
P-38E-2-LO Lightning 42-12665
39th Fighter Squadron mission report
January 8, 1943
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - P-38F Lightning 42-12665
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - John H. Mangas
1Lt John H Mangas (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - Lieut John Henry Mangas (photos, memorial marker)
The Times "Final Flight: Family keeps memory of World War II pilot John Mangas alive"
39th Fighter Squadron Association - 2nd Lieutenant John H. Mangas by Gary Smith
The Oregonian "Missing Man flyover honors P-38 pilot lost in the Pacific" May 25, 2006
Thanks to Gary Smith for additional information
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February 14, 2021