World War II pilot and Portland native honored 73 years after he - KPTV - FOX 12

World War II pilot and Portland native honored 73 years after he was killed in action

Posted: Updated:
1st Lt. John Mangas (KPTV) 1st Lt. John Mangas (KPTV)
Sen. Ron Wyden presents the Distinguished Flying Cross medal to Mangas' nephew, Gary Smith. (KPTV) Sen. Ron Wyden presents the Distinguished Flying Cross medal to Mangas' nephew, Gary Smith. (KPTV)
HUBBARD, OR (KPTV) -

A Portland native who was a pilot in World War II has finally been honored in his home state, nearly 73 years after his death while in action.

"The bomber missions were failing and I think that John saw that and he went in as last man back," said Gary Smith of his uncle, 1st Lt. John Mangas. 

Mangas was known as a daredevil.

"He and a friend of his were going to jump off the St. Johns Bridge," said Smith. 

Now, the Portland native will be known as a war hero, 73 years after he was killed in action over New Guinea.

"In Oregon, it is never too late to honor a hero," said Sen. Ron Wyden, who presented the Distinguished Flying Cross medal to Smith, Mangas' nephew, at Lenhardt Airpark on Sunday.

It is an honor that was many years in the making for Smith, who spent more than five years poring over research to prove that his uncle died a hero for his country. Smith said he went over and over the facts, trying to find key information lost that Mangas was shot down by enemy planes.

While the loss of the 22-year-old was a hit to the Mangas family back in Portland, Smith said his uncle flew with the best.

"He flew with legends … The top gun and it's not Tom Cruise, it's Richard Bong with forty aerial victories, and Johnny flew with him on his first mission in New Guinea," said Smith. 

While Smith did most of the work, he said this honor would not have become a reality if it weren't for the support of Wyden. 

This isn't the first time that Wyden has helped the Mangas family. Smith said nearly 40 years ago the senator helped his grandmother receive recognition for her service as a military nurse in World War I.

Powered by Frankly
FOX 12
Powered by WorldNow CNN
All content © 2017, KPTV-KPDX Broadcasting Corporation, Portland, OR . All Rights Reserved.
For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy, and Terms of Service, and Ad Choices.