top of page

Lt. John Mancke Biography-2

manecke - 449th bomb group logo.jpg
manecke - flying horsemen logo.jpg

Nazi Propaganda Film:

The Capture of  716th

Squadron's B-24 


449th Bomb Group: The Flying Horsemen

The 449th Bomb Group was composed of four Squadrons stationed at Grottaglie Airfield, Italy — the 716th, 717th, 718th, and 719th, all flying B-24 Liberator heavy bombers. John was the navigator in pilot Don Lessig's crew (716th Squadron).

The 449th Bomb group's website, is a comprehensive archive of The Flying Horsemen -- their history, personnel, aircraft, missions, and reunions:

"The 449th flew its first combat mission on 8 January 1944. Between January 1944 and its last mission on April 26, 1945, the 449th flew a total of 254 combat missions against axis targets in central and Eastern Europe.

Many of the 449th missions were to the most heavily defended targets in Europe: e.g., Bucharest, Vienna and Ploesti...  From the time they arrived in Grottaglie until they departed at the end of the war, the 449th lost a total of 135 aircraft.... Personnel losses of the 449th included 393 crew members killed in action, 359 shot down and captured (POW) and 186 who were shot down but evaded capture." 

manecke - 716th reunion photo.jpg

August 7, 2014:

Last Reunion of the Flying Horsemen....

This Reunion video features John Manecke's friend Albert Ilizaliturri -- both members of the 716th Squadron 

Book no.1

Pvt. Paul R. Thomer Biography-1

Thomer - formal portrait.jpg
thomer - watch dial and ww2 band 2.jpg
thomer - inscription 2.jpg

Paul Thomer's Watch Returned to His Family - Sept 2023

On Sept 9, 2023, Pvt. Thomer’s watch was returned to his daughter Deborah and her four siblings, exactly 80 years after Paul purchased it. They will treasure it as a tangible memory of their courageous Dad. Semper Fi.

Pvt. Paul Thomer -- 1942 Guadalcanal Marine & His Watch

Private Paul R. Thomer (1923–1992) fought at Guadalcanal as a member of the famed 1st Marine Division. Paul was from Pittsburgh PA, and enlisted in the Marines in January 1942.

The 1st Marine Division sailed from San Francisco in June, and landed on the island of Guadalcanal on Aug 7, 1942. This was the first major US amphibious landing of World War II. The invasion ignited a ferocious struggle with Japanese forces, marked by seven major naval battles, numerous clashes ashore, and almost continuous air combat through December 1942.

The fighting at Guadalcanal took a terrible toll; the 1st Division suffered 650 killed in action and 1,278 wounded, with a further 8,580 contracting malaria and other diseases. As one Marine recalled, ”the Division suffered 100% casualties, with the dead, wounded, and those sick from malaria, dengue fever, jungle rot, malnutrition and combat fatigue… “.

Battle-weary and in poor health following the Guadalcanal campaign, the men of the First Marine Division were shipped to Melbourne Australia for nine months recuperation in January 1943. “They were greeted with warm hospitality; these 15,000 young American men found a home away from home”.

On Feb 10, 1943, Paul Thome  purchased a steel-cased wristwatch from a local Melbourne jewelry store, and had it engraved “Paul R. Thomer ~ U.S.M.C. ~ 343824 ~ Australia ~ 2-10-43”.

The 1st Division returned to  combat in the South Pacific in October 1943, leading the December offensive at Cape Gloucester, New Britain. “The action they found there has been described as the toughest man has ever endured.” In July 1944, the 1st Division returned to the US for stateside duty. Paul was honorably discharged in 1945.

In 1954, Paul married Frances Mary LaRoche in Pittsburgh; in 1962, they moved to California. Paul and Frances had five children – two sons and three daughters.  Paul died on February 16, 1992, and is buried with Frances in the San Fernando Mission Cemetery in Mission Hills, CA.

Book no.1
bottom of page