A down side to interviewing aging war veterans is that if you put one off, you might miss the opportunity completely.
That was the case with Carl Manone, a retired educator who was a Hellertown High School grad and a bombardier on a B-29 Superfortress during World War II.
A colleague at The Morning Call, columnist Bill White, put me on to Carl last summer. Bill had known Carl for years but hadn’t seen him in quite a while. Carl had emailed a story he wrote, three-and-a-half single-space pages.
His title was “Tokyo destroyed – 16.6 square miles incinerated in most horrific aerial bombardment in history: an introspective account by Carl Manone, pathfinder and lead bombardier on Crew 4001, Earthquake McGoon.”
Bill forwarded the account to me, suggesting it was a ready-made story for my Morning Call series, “War Stories: In Their Own Words.”
A few days later, Bill and I got a message from Carl that reflected the aim of many vets to get the facts right.
“Since sending you my B-29 article, I’ve been double-checking my grammar and data,” he emailed. “I’ve discovered a few errors – a major one being the weight of the plane. It should read 135,000 lbs. instead of 68,000.”
He attached a corrected copy.
I got back to Carl about a month later, saying a good time for his account to run in the newspaper would be March 9, 2012, which would be the 67th anniversary of the mission he wrote about. I asked if we could get together early in 2012.
Another month passed, and I didn’t hear back from him. Then on Nov. 19, I got an email from Carl’s wife, Dani, who said he had been hospitalized for eight weeks and was now in rehab.
“It’s a long road with lots of detours along the way,” she wrote. “But Carl is always a soldier at heart, so I’m hoping that he’ll keep marching on.”
The March anniversary passed and I didn’t hear from the Manones.
A few weeks ago I found out that Carl died March 14 at age 88. I had blown my chance to interview him about the daring low-level B-29 raid on Tokyo that he had helped lead as a 21-year-old first lieutenant in the Army Air Forces. An interview could have been weaved into his written account, complementing it.
Morning Call reporter Adam Clark wrote a story that ran May 8 saying that Carl was to be buried that day at Arlington National Cemetery.
Carl’s story need not be buried with him. I have it, and I can still get it into the newspaper so that readers can appreciate what he did on the B-29 nicknamed Earthquake McGoon and that there will be a permanent record of his experience.
That’s the least I can do to honor the memory of a flier whose decorations include two Distinguished Flying Crosses for heroism.