Read the June 16, 2009, story that looks into questions surrounding Mr. Manoian’s claims to have been a paratrooper on D-Day.
Are you married?
I was married for 22 years. Had three kids.
How did you end up here (in Sainte-Mère-Église)?
I used to visit every year in June. Spend three weeks or so. I liked the way of life, eventually. In those days it was nice and quiet. Now the town is too commercial, too many (expletive) souvenir shops. They sell more (expletive) postcards in one day in this town now than they did in a whole year before.
After five years they started accepting me as one of them.
It took five years, huh?
Oh, yeah, ‘cause the Normans, they watch you: “Maybe he’ll stay one year or so, then he’ll leave.” But I didn’t. I stayed and I’m still here. They’re very good to me, the French. I respect them around here. Paris, I wouldn’t give you two cents for. Parisians, you know — “How much money you got in your pocket?”
So you’re one of the fellows who jumped out of an airplane and into this place?
Oh yeah, by error. My company was Company A (1st Battalion, 505th Parachute Regiment, 82nd Airborne). Objective La Priere, take the bridge and hold it. By error I landed here in Sainte-Mère-Église. I ended up in the cemetery in the back of the church. But my company was at the bridge. I arrived two days later. I was stuck here, and I attached myself to Company G to help protect Sainte-Mère-Église from the Germans. Once it was cleaned out, they were trying to get back in.
How was your landing?
According to our regimental records, it was about 1 a.m., 1:15 a.m. (on June 6), and no lights. The only light was a building burning over there.
Were you scared?
I’m not sure if the plane got hit or if the pilot was trying to take diversive action, but the plane shook and I fell backwards. Otherwise I would have landed at La Friere with the rest of the company. When I got straightened out and went out the door … Hey, 20 or 30 seconds later, and you’re in a plane, you can go four miles. That’s how far it is from the bridge to here where I was supposed to land.
Did you get shot?
Oh yeah, 17th of June, 1944, the first time. Left hand, both legs. Four days later, I’m in a hospital on the beach at Utah Beach, a German plane came over and bombed and strafed the beach, and I get hit again. Right hand, right arm, head. Next day they put me in the duck to go out on a hospital ship to England. Whoopee — a nice vacation. Until the 13th of September. I healed up, went back to my outfit and we jumped into Holland four days later.
How have the D-Day ceremonies changed over the years?
Bigger and bigger, and it’s a pain in the neck for me. Because you get more and more publicity, more and more tourists are coming in. The prices have gone up. Every time I change my money, I’m losing 25 percent. Plus the beers have gone up. Everything, cigarettes. I’m not ashamed to admit the fact that I bring all my own cigarettes from America.
Got any message for today’s soldiers?
The airborne soldiers nowadays, I see them every year. I go to Fort Bragg for certain reunions with my old regiment and division. In our day they had to rush us all through because they needed them. These kids now are better trained, better equipped, more intelligent than we were. Everything is better and I’m happy for that. I respect it.
Interview by Charlie Coon.
Title: Retired Airborne sergeant who 62 years ago parachuted into Sainte-Mère-Église, France
Europe readers: Know someone whose accomplishments, talents, job, hobby, volunteer work, awards or good deeds qualify them for 15 minutes of fame? How about someone whose claim to glory is a bit out of the ordinary — even, dare we say, oddball? Send the person’s name and contact information to firstname.lastname@example.org.