When I was a kid I was lucky enough to know and spend time with my grandfather, John Paul Manning. Grandpa John was one of those “larger than life” characters that seemed to know everything about everything, knew everyone, and had done everything. He was a father and grandfather, a farmer, a high school band teacher, and a skilled craftsman. Today I want to pay tribute to him as a B-25 Mitchell pilot in the U.S. Army Air Corps.
Grandpa John began his flying career at Santa Ana Army Air Base in California where he attended basic officer training, was selected for a pilot slot, and completed initial pilot ground training.
His next stop was Gardner Field near Taft, CA where he completed Basic Flying Training in the Stearman PT-17 and the Vultee BT-13 (pictured below). Chuck Yeager attended Basic Flying Training at this same airfield and would have been finishing up when Grandpa John arrived on base.
With a fresh set of wings, 2Lt John Manning was off to Douglas Army Airfield in Arizona to complete training in the latest and greatest bomber, the North American B-25 Mitchell. It was just prior to his time at Douglas that he would marry my grandmother, Coy Christensen, and make a drawing of nose art for his B-25 called “The Real My Coy”.
Upon completion of B-25 training at Douglas, Lt Manning moved his young family to Enid, OK where he would finish out his military career as a B-25 instructor pilot and 1Lt at Enid Army Airfield.
He didn’t talk much about his days flying when I was a kid, but since his passing we are finding out a lot more about his time as a bomber pilot.
We found letters he wrote to my grandmother while he was stationed in Enid and learned about his frustrations and experiences teaching the Chinese students who showed up in Enid without much being able to speak a whole lot of English.
Flying was a lot less regulated back then, and we found out he used to fly over my grandmother’s farm house in Idaho and drop her little love notes attached to parachutes he made from handkerchiefs. I’m pretty sure he never filed a dropped object report with the FAA!
Grandpa John passed away several years ago from cancer, but his strong spirit and loving memory will live on. So here’s to you, Grandpa John. Thank you for your example, your love, and your service to our country. We miss you!
Submitted by Rick Burgon