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  P-38F-5-LO Lightning Serial Number 42-12665  
USAAF
5th AF
35th FG
39th FS

Pilot  2nd Lt. John H. "Johnny" Mangas (MIA / KIA) Portland, OR
MIA  January 8, 1943
MACR  none

Pilot History
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 been court-martialed 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 South-West 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, the P-38 Lightning aerial combat in the South West Pacific.  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.

Aircraft History
Built by Lockheed Aircraft Corporation (LAC) in Burbank, California. Delivered to the U. S. Army. Disassembled and shipped overseas and reassembled.

Mission History
On January 8, 1943, took off from 14 Mile Drome (Schwimmer) near Port Moresby on an escort mission no. 1 over Lae and returned safely.   Due to pilot shortages, Mangas participated in mission no. 3 during the afternoon. One of six P-38s that took off from 14 Mile Drome (Schwimmer) on a mission to provide a top cover escort B-17 Flying Fortresses bombing a Japanese convoy unloading off Lae.

Over the target, intercepted by the Japanese fighters including Ki-43 Oscars from the 11th Sentai and A6M Zeros from the 582 Kōkūtai, and 252 Kōkūtai. During the air combat, the 39th Fighter Squadron claimed a total of 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 18:20, flight leader Lt. Hoyt Eason called on all pilots to form up and return to Port Moresby.  When Mangas failed to return from the mission, he was officially declared Missing In Action (MIA).

Search
During the mission, when Mangas failed to join the formation at 18:20, flight leader Lt. Hoyt Eason remained in the area for 15 minutes and attempted to locate Mangas, but saw no planes airborne in the area and returned to Port Moresby. He concluded Mangas was shot down.  Other pilots in the squadron were in disagreement about weather Mangas was lost over land or into the Huon Gulf.

Relatives
Gary Smith (nephew of Mangas)
"John Mangas was the first P-38 lighting pilot lost in combat in the South-West Pacific area."

References
39th Fighter Squadron mission report January 8, 1943
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - P-38F Lightning 42-12665
The Times "Final Flight: Family keeps memory of World War II pilot John Mangas alive"

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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Last Updated
April 12, 2018

 

Tech Info
P-38

MIAMIA
1 Missing

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