World War II memories live on

By Shane Evans
November 17, 2006

Meghan Hurley

Some of the bravest and most respected people in our country, because of their resounding contributions and their efforts over seas, are the veterans of World War II.

Brad McManus, a member of Cabrini’s board of trustees is a veteran of World War II. A native of Philadelphia, McManus chose to enlist in the Air Force in 1941 to serve his country. He graduated from flight school on Dec. 12th, 1941, five days after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

Early in 1942, soon after he started his active duty, McManus and an entire B-17 escort group crash-landed over Greenland.

“I decided to put my wheels down, and when I landed the nose gear collapsed and the plane went over on it’s back at about 60 or 70 miles an hour,” said McManus of this thrilling ordeal. “I was buried in ice, with the cockpit in the ice. Luckily it didn’t catch fire, because there wasn’t enough fuel in the tanks. I dug my way out and we ended up spending 10 days up there.”

This was only the start of the war for McManus, as he would eventually fly 85 combat missions in the European theater based out of Honington Air Base in England. His role with the Air Force was an escort on bombing missions over Germany, which were some of the most dangerous missions in the war.

McManus was also part of the historic D-Day invasion, which took place on June 6th, 1944, and was to him, the most memorable part of the war for him.

“It was enormous process,” said McManus. “I can’t tell you how many thousands of hours the Air Corps put up over that fleet. We got out at 3:30 in the morning in the driving rain and took off for the beachhead to give the Navy cover while they were landing. That invasion was surrealistic and so huge and so magnificently organized.”

The D-Day invasion was the beginning of the end for Nazi Germany, and the War itself as it only lasted another year or so before armistice was declared. McManus found himself out of combat at that time and he returned to the U.S. a hero.

“The people were very friendly,” said McManus. “Even today, I have noticed that people have gained an interest or reverence for World War II. I guess it’s getting old and they sort of understand. But there is a lot of attention being given to World War II.”

Since World War II, the United States has been involved in four other major conflicts, Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf War and now in Iraq and McManus pointed out a glaring difference between each of the conflicts and how their soldiers were treated upon returning home to this country.

“The other episodes have only had a partial commitment from country,” said McManus. “The commitment we had during World War II was total. There was nobody that wasn’t in it one or way or another. There was a feeling or a generality about it that people took comfort in that fact that, ‘here we go, we’re in this together.’ Today, that’s just not part of our structure. There was an enormous spirit. It was the last time the country operated as one. It was truly special, and I wonder if we’ll ever have it again.”

Besides the totally unity of the country back then and the lack thereof today, McManus believes that the world’s view of the United States has been altered drastically since VE Day in 1945.

“At the end of World War II, the stature of the United States was unquestioned. We did it, we rebuilt Germany, we rebuilt Japan and we walked away from it with admiration and respect. When we got into this thing we’re in now, we’re hated. It’s sad to think that all of the wonderful things that this country has done and will continue to, that we are now despised.”

Even 60 years later, McManus still keeps up with members of his squadron and as recently as six years ago, McManus and the other pilots under his command (He was a squadron leader for part of the war) raised $250,000 to replace a set of amazing stained glass windows in a church that were destroyed during one of their bombing runs over France.

At a ceremony in the small village, McManus and his squadron presented the town with the entire $250,000, even though the damages only reached $190,000. In 2001, after the attacks on the World Trade Center, that small town in France sent the $60,000 to the city of New York, returning the amazing generosity that McManus’ squadron had bestowed on them.

Being a World War II veteran is something to be extremely proud of, and McManus is surely that. An astonishing man at the ripe age of 88, McManus is a person to be treasured and respected to the ultimate degree because of how he served this country and the legacy in which he carries through his Philadelphia grown veins.

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Shane Evans

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