Heros usually don’t need to pump themselves up.
From the Boston Herald:
An Army veteran who has masqueraded as a D-Day paratrooper for decades is due to receive France’s highest military award, although records reveal the 84-year-old Lowell native didn’t jump into Normandy on June 6, 1944.
Howard Manoian’s gripping accounts of landing behind enemy lines with the elite 82nd Airborne Division have been widely reported by the Herald, The Boston Globe and other newspapers.
National Archives records provided to the Herald by military researchers show Manoian does in fact deserve recognition as one of the many thousands of young American soldiers who put their lives on the line on D-Day – not as a paratrooper, but as a member of a less glamorous chemical warfare unit that came ashore on Utah Beach and ran a supply dump.
“The military records leave no doubt that he never served in Normandy as a paratrooper,” said researcher Brian Siddall of Ithaca, N.Y., citing numerous reports and payroll records listing Manoian in the 33rd Chemical Decontamination Company throughout 1944.
Siddall, 47, nephew of the 82nd’s Cpl. Quent Siddall, who was killed on D-Day, said, “To give the award to someone who has misrepresented his service for the past 30 years diminishes the value of the award.”
Though queried by the Herald and the researchers regarding discrepancies in Manoian’s past accounts, the French government still plans to award the Legion of Honor to the retired Derry, N.H., cop. Manoian is to be honored today at the Airborne Museum in Ste. Mere-Eglise, said Troy Darr, a spokesman for a U.S. military task force planning today’s 65th anniversary events.
Alexis Berthier of the French Consulate in Boston said the Grand Chancellery of the Legion of Honor is aware of the issue. But he said, “Mr. Manoian will receive the Legion of Honor based on the confirmed and established elements of his service, not on the contested ones. It is established that Mr. Manoian participated in the Normandy campaign and was wounded in action on French soil.”
Reached by phone in his home near Ste.-Mere-Eglise, Manoian acknowledged serving in the chemical unit, but stood by his paratrooper claim: “I was in basic training in the Chemical Warfare Service. After that I went into the paratroopers. The French government did a lot of research on me. They cleared everything.”
D-Day paratrooper David Bullington, 88, of Dyesburg, Tenn., whose name appears in the 82nd’s official records, said he only met Manoian years after the war and Manoian told him three different versions of where he landed.
“You don’t land in three different places in one jump and walk away,” Bullington said. Noting that he lost a lot of friends that day, Bullington added, “I don’t like to see someone claiming to be a paratrooper to grab a little bit of glory for doing what real paratroopers did in Ste. Mere-Eglise. It’s a slap in the face.”
In numerous interviews – even when challenged by the Herald this week – Manoian has said he was shot and hit in both legs by shrapnel June 17, 1944, while searching a house. But records show he was evacuated to England that day after fracturing his middle finger, returning to duty only in November 1944 – precluding his claim of a combat jump in Holland on Sept. 17, 1944.
In Ste. Mere-Eglise bars, Manoian, wearing a scarf purportedly made from his D-Day parachute, is feted as a hero. A plaque marks a spot in the local cemetery where he claims he landed. But Howard Melvin, a 505th regimental sergeant major, before his death in 2002, relayed his suspicions about Manoian’s story to former Herald reporter Tom Farmer, who had interviewed Manoian in 2001. Siddall’s later search uncovered the chemical unit records.
Farmer, who notified French officials, said, “It saddens me that this is a legitimate D-Day veteran who served his country with courage, but for some reason felt compelled to embellish his record to re-create himself as a paratrooper.’