Interview of George C. Manasco
Shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor, George C. Manasco learned that freedom was not something that was guaranteed to a person when they were born in America. The attack opened his eyes to the reality that war was upon America. He decided that he would not stand by and allow his freedom to be in jeopardy, so he went to his local draft board and enlisted in the service. Government records show that he enlisted in the state of California on September 28, 1942.
After achieving a high score on the entrance exam, Mr. Manasco was selected to join the United States Air Force, where he trained to become a fighter pilot. Near the end of his training it was discovered that he was color blind and that he could not distinguish red from green, the two most important colors used in landing planes. The government decided that, although Mr. Manasco would not be allowed to be a pilot, he would still be a valuable teacher who could train fighter pilots. The following interview was conducted by his granddaughter Bridget in February 2004.
1. Why did you decide to join the service?
“I decided to join the service, because my country was in danger. The dominant forces such as the Germans were lined up and ready to take over our country. Had men like me not decided to help, we might be under German rule today, walking around speaking in German. They didn’t call it a world war for no reason, it was real, and I felt as though I needed to help defend our freedom.”
2. What are your most memorable events of the war, or what stories do you have from the war?
“I remember during Basic Training when a pilot came in for a landing and instead of making a smooth landing, he crashed. It was the job of all of the soldiers to pick up all of the smaller pieces of the plane. I went to pick up a glove, and a hand fell out of the glove. After that, the war became more real to me, because I knew that I had to pay attention and make sure I knew exactly what I was doing so that I didn’t crash or make a mistake.
Another memorable experience is when I was in Lake Charles, Louisiana, training men. The government decided that everyone needed to go over and attack Japan. I was still going to have to go over, despite my color blindness; I would fight, but just not fly planes. We were in the staging area, when the announcement came of the victory of Hiroshima. This meant that I didn’t have to go overseas. They took my brother-in-law’s crew ship and turned it around in the middle of the Pacific. I remember this still, because it was a sign that we were winning. We were making progress and freedom was going to be restored.”
“I felt like any American would and did. I was scared and wanted to rally in the defense of my country. No one was sure that they wouldn’t come and take California, where I lived, because that was the next closest place to Japan.”
4. Were you disappointed about not going overseas? What did you get to do and see in America?
“I was a little disappointed about staying in America, but I got to see all of the 48 continental states, and I was given the opportunity to teach men about fighting in planes, and I knew that what I was teaching them would have an impact on the war, and their survival.”
5. What was the best part of staying in America?
“I got to meet your grandmother. We were at a USO show, and there was a plant in the audience that was supposed to come up and be part of a skit she was doing. She forgot to wear her glasses that day, and I was the one sitting next to the plant in the audience. She pointed at me, and I went up to the stage, and now we have been happily married for over 50 years.”
6. What kind of lessons did you teach to the pilots?
“I taught them about using a proximity fuse for rockets that were used as bombs on airplanes. Before, the rockets did not have much aim, but with the use of these fuses, the planes were able to hit their targets without having to be so precise. I also made sure that every pilot learned that there was no practice. That this was real, and that their test was flying over Japan and dropping out bombs. I had to teach them about reality.”
7. What did you learn?
“I learned about what is real in life. I learned not to be so self-centered or so worried about the small things. I learned that money and power weren’t what was important in life, but the things that were important were freedom and family.”
8. How did you feel about the events of September 11th compared to those of Pearl Harbor?
“I felt a lot of the same feelings I felt after Pearl Harbor after September 11th. I knew it was a wake up call just as it was in 1941. It was a wake up call that freedom wasn’t in truth free. It was different on September 11th though, because they weren’t just attacking military targets now, but slaughtering innocent civilians. Both events were scary.”
9. What is your definition of freedom?
“The right to do whatever you think is right. It is not being controlled by people who want to dominate you, and make you into something you are not. If you don’t have freedom, you don’t have anything.”
10. Was there ever a time when you were scared?
“Sure, anyone who says they weren’t scared was lying to you. Before I found out that I was color blind and I wouldn’t be going overseas, or at least to fly planes, I was scared that I would constantly be shot at. Everyone deals with fear in their own way though, I knew that other mean were putting their lives on the line for me, and I knew that I had to do my job to attain freedom for them too.”