'Missing man' flyover honors P-38 pilot lost in Pacific
by Jerry F. Boone The Oregonian  May 25, 2006

For the past 63 years, Lt. John H. Mangas has been missing in action over the Pacific Theater.
But the young combat flier hasn't been absent in the hearts of the family and friends he left behind.
Mangas will be honored Monday in a traditional "missing man" formation flyover during Memorial Day ceremonies in Beaverton.
No one can say for sure how Mangas died, and those who know aren't around to tell the story.
The Portland-raised flier enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps about a month before the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, setting in motion America's entry into World War II.
He learned to fly at the old Swan Island airfield and was trained in California by the military to pilot the P-38 Lightning. At the time, the Lightning was the most advanced fighter plane in the U.S. arsenal, though it was new and untested in combat against the Japanese.
Mangas was quickly assigned to the 39th Fighter Squadron deployed to defend Australia. The aerial fights were frequent and fierce, with the P-38s usually heavily outnumbered by the Japanese. But the nimble plane proved its worth in the air wars, and the 39th scored 54 enemy kills in just 12 days to become the hottest unit in the Pacific Theater.
During his time with the 39th Fighter Squadron, Mangas flew with Dick Bong, Tommy Lynch and Ken Sparks, each destined to become a combat legend. By the end of the war, the four pilots were credited with 73 aerial victories and Bong became the most successful combat pilot in the nation's history.
On Jan. 8, 1943, Mangas was on his second mission of the day, providing escort and cover for B-17 bombers pounding a Japanese ship convoy at Lae Harbor, New Guinea, when he disappeared into the clouds.
He was the first P-38 pilot lost in combat over the Pacific, and it was assumed that his plane went down over enemy-held territory.
Family members, who settled in Beaverton, say that after Mangas disappeared, they received a letter from a crew member on a B-17. The crewman wrote that Mangas came to the aid of his stricken bomber, fighting off Japanese attackers and shooting down at least two enemy planes and saving the B-17 and its crew, before being shot down himself.
Two months after he went down, the family received the pilot's Silver Star medal, but they always thought the young fighter pilot never received the recognition he deserved.
"We want to change that. It has taken too long to honor this young hero," says Bob Caufman, the Beaverton American Legion member who adopted the city's Memorial Park as his personal project.
Monday's ceremony will include two flyovers, giving those on the ground a look at how America's air power has changed since World War II. The 142nd Fighter Wing will pass overhead in F-15s, while the formation to honor Mangas will feature a trio of vintage Stearmans.
You have to wonder which would impress Mangas most.
The rumble of the Stearmans.
The thunder of the F-15s.
Or the fact that after all these years, someone still cares enough about what a young flier did halfway across the globe to honor his sacrifice.