A look back in our history

My research in the Gazette archives has revealed that in 1942 scores of American workers gave up the Thanksgiving holiday to speed victory. Family members celebrated Thanksgiving at their benches in a manufacturing plants and many worked at tool cribs of plane factories.

I found an article months ago and was saving it for Veterans Day. Regretfully, I forgot about it until a few days ago. The first part of this column is a Gazette article I believe written by Bert Shore, although no byline was included, and the remaining information I found in researching Martin Mahannah.

Because we will celebrate Thanksgiving this week, I hope the following words will remind us to be thankful for our extraordinary community, and our wonderful families and friends.

Augusta Daily Gazette

Tuesday, June 16, 1942

(Upon learning the death of Augustan Martin Mahannah, the community’s first recorded WWII casualty)

Martin Mahannah And Others

Years ago a young boy in high school accepted the dare of some friends, so the story goes, and jumped out of a high window to land on the ground below with a rebound so characteristic of American youth, unscratched and unhurt. A short time later he joined the daring ranks of the Marine corps, and about two years ago a new field of adventure, the air, opened to him.

The boy- it is still difficult to remember him as a second lieutenant- was Martin Mahannah. Now comes word that Martin Mahannah has been killed in action on some distant front. His case brings to this city the first casualty of the war. Others have been reported missing in action, but since hope springs eternal in the human breast their loss refuses to be recognized until proven.

Several weeks ago, Martin Mahannah was here, full of life, anxious to proceed to what ever Destiny held for him. He had progressed from the stage of the high school window jump, but basically the same elements had been polished and refined to the useful purposes of defending the nation. It is presumed that it was his deadly little plane with its baby bombs, with his massive frame tucked tightly into the cockpit that turned the Japanese away from Midway or the Aleutian Islands. It is possible that he roared down to another dare and paid with the supreme sacrifice. Those who knew him well express a confidence that he succeeded and realized the glee of his success before the blackout came.

The war has come home. More will follow him. Augusta must prepare for that. Augusta also must redouble its efforts to do its part. Augusta must remember Martin Mahannah and the others who will follow him, in the years to come. Augusta must work toward a future where young boys who jump from high school windows may later be shocked when their own sons do the same thing.

Meanwhile, how peaceful must rest the soul of this young man. He sleeps today relieved of his duties. The seas swing softly over him. The flags fly in his honor. The men who follow him do so in his memory. The high school window stands guard for him and boys of tomorrow.

Martin Mahannah was the son of Jefferson and Gertrude Mahannah. He was born on Sept. 25, 1919, and was raised with his two older siblings in Augusta.

Martin enlisted from St. Louis, Mo. on Feb. 2, 1940. He was sent to San Diego for boot camp at the recruit depot, and after completing his training was sent to Headquarters Company, Second Battalion, Eighth Marines.

Mahannah completed the training to qualify as a fighter pilot, and received his wings and a commission in 1942.

Second Lieutenant Mahannah was fresh out of flight school when he arrived at his first duty station with VMF-221 on Midway Island. He was assigned to fly an obsolete F2A-3 Brewster Buffalo (Bureau Number 01559) with the squadron’s Third Division; Mahannah was the wingman of Second Lieutenant Charles Kunz.

On June 4, 1942 Mahannah followed Lieutenant Kunz into the air, but once involved in the dogfighting, the two were separated and fought their own battles. Mahannah was shot down by a zero fighter.

On June 9, 1942 one of Midway’s patrol boats spotted a body that had washed up on the reef. The remains were identified as those of Martin Mahannah.

Lieutenant Mahannah was awarded a Navy Cross for his part in the battle.

The official citation read: “The President of the United States of America takes pride in presenting the Navy Cross (Posthumously) to Second Lieutenant Martin E. Mahannah (MCSN: 0-9397), United States Marine Corps (Reserve), for extraordinary heroism and distinguished service in the line of his profession while serving as a Pilot in Marine Fighting Squadron TWO HUNDRED TWENTY-ONE (VMF-221), Marine Air Group TWENTY-TWO (MAG-22), Naval Air Station, Midway, during operations of the U.S. Naval and Marine Forces against the invading Japanese Fleet during the Battle of Midway on 4 June 1942. Delivering a dauntless and aggressive attack against a vastly superior number of Japanese bomber and fighter planes, Second Lieutenant Mahannah aided in disrupting the plans of the enemy and lessening of the effectiveness of their attack, thereby contributing materially to the success of our forces. As a result of his courageous and daring tactics and because of the circumstances attendant upon this engagement, there can be little doubt that Second Lieutenant Mahannah gallantly gave up his life in the service of his country. He displayed the characteristics of an excellent airman in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.”

Augusta’s son Martin Mahannah was lost in battle that day in June, 1942, but he is not forgotten. We remain ever thankful.