By Tim Flack, U.S. Army Garrison Japan Public AffairsSeptember 4, 2019
CAMP ZAMA, Japan (Sept. 4, 2019) -- U.S. Army Japan officials recently welcomed a 91-year-old distinguished visitor whose unusual 24-year military career spanned more than four decades.
Luther R. Manus, a retired Army first lieutenant, voluntarily provided a Leadership Development Program presentation Aug. 29 at the Camp Zama Community Club during a personal "dream trip" return to Japan with his wife, Connie.
It was the first time he had been in Japan since leaving in 1949. Drafted into the Army in March 1946, he enjoyed a colorful on-again, off-again career until his official retirement in April 1971.
In addition to the U.S. Army Japan presentation at Camp Zama last week, the Manus family also visited Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan, where they toured USS Chancellorsville--a Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser--with U.S. Naval Forces Japan Command Master Chief Steve Snyder.
They also spoke to students at Zama Middle High School about the importance of continuing education and how financial aid can help in the journey.
Manus said he had long yearned to return to Japan, a place that burned in his memory. Even though he didn't realize it at the time, Manus said serving with the Occupation Forces in Japan helped develop his sense of empathy and humanity. He remembers a war-torn country striving to rebuild. He remembers sadly walking past a starving homeless man on the streets. He remembers dirt roads and a proud people. He said it took years to realize how important his experience in Japan was in developing the leader he would become.
While speaking at the USARJ forum, he stressed that he "had to learn this thing called leadership" when traversing the ranks from enlisted to officer and back to enlisted again. He also spoke of motivation, integrity and respect during his session.
Manus vividly remembers being at basic training and seeing a black officer walk down the street with shiny captain's bars and a "fancy mustache." He said that officer, then-Capt. Stanford R. Hicks, and the other officers and noncommissioned officers of the ordnance training battalion were true leaders, men who were coming back from World War II.
"Some of the black sergeants still had those upside-down stripes that they used to use with that formal uniform they had years back," he said. "And of course those made your eyes pop out, and when you saw one of them you kind of bowed down to them because that respect they had that was so commanding."
Manus can still rattle off the names of his leadership, from his company commander to his squad leader. He said they impressed him to the point that their names are emblazoned in his mind like they were carved in granite.
Manus said that when he was drafted, he was given an option. Take the shorter tour, and go where you are sent. Or, take the three-year option, and pick the theater: Pacific or Europe.
"My uncle had been in the Pacific theater and he had told me about the mosquitoes, and the hot weather, and the jungles ... and he encouraged me to go to Europe instead of the Far East," Manus said.
He said he volunteered to enlist for three years and chose Europe. After basic training, however, he was sent west to California. And then to Hawaii, the Philippines, and finally, Japan. He joked that at every stop he would point out that he was going in the wrong direction, and people would tell him to ask about his orders to Europe when he got to the next stop.
When he arrived at the Ikego Ammunition Depot, near today's Yokosuka Naval Base in 1947, he was surprised to learn his commander was Col. Oscar Ramnes, a southerner from Macon, Georgia.
"This was going to be purely hell," he said, imagining working as a black troop under an officer from the Deep South.
What he found, though, was the complete opposite, "an officer and a gentleman," and "a humanitarian at the same time."
Manus said his unit had a mediocre football team, but that Ramnes wanted the championship.
The colonel decided to go outside the norm to get it. He went to the 22nd Ordnance Battalion at Yokohama and convinced the colonel there to send a detachment of white Soldiers to bolster their all-black squad.
"This happened about the time that Harry Truman was signing the desegregation of the military," Manus said. "So he was way out in front."
Manus said the black and white troops found Ramnes to be such an inspirational leader that they bonded and formed the team he wanted.
"We won that championship in 1948," he said. "And you may not believe this, but we scored 292 points, the opposition scored 18, and no team scored more than six at a time."
After his tour in Japan, he was back in the United States and out of the military trying to finally finish his high school degree when he struck up an unlikely friendship with an Irish-American teacher, a man who continued to push Manus for more while providing a different sort of motivation.
Manus was arguing with the teacher about the need for different kinds of classes when the man stunned him.
"The problem with you colored people is you don't want to give up nothing to get something," the teacher told him.
Manus said that off-the-cuff comment angered him, but it also made him want to prove the teacher wrong. It wasn't until later, however, that he realized what the teacher did.
"He had been challenging me all of this time and I was not smart enough to know that the challenge was being put there," he said. "But I accepted it."
Manus finished high school within six months, and in January 1950, he entered college. In June 1950, the Korean War broke out.
"I wasn't afraid to go to Korea," he explained. He said he was upset because he had been convinced to go to college, and now this would interrupt that. Someone explained that he could join the Reserve Officer Training Corps, which would give him a deferment. But more importantly, it offered him the path to becoming an officer.
As the military downsized after the Korean War, he lost his rank--first lieutenant--and became enlisted again. That was how he ended up serving as a first sergeant years later during the Vietnam War, he explained.
He shared a story from Vietnam that he said illustrates the need for leaders to listen to their subordinates. He was walking the perimeter of his base, and one of his troops along the fence line near the officers' club said he had seen something suspicious.
Manus' answer was simple: "You know what my order is ... if it moves after dark, shoot it."
The Soldier shot, and when they investigated the next morning, they found the dead enemy with a grenade still in his hand. Manus figured the enemy had planned to toss the grenade into the officers' club. It was an important lesson on trusting the men and women who work for you, he said. True leaders must put the health, welfare and morale of their troops first, he added.
Manus thanked those in attendance at the leadership forum for allowing him to sit and "rattle his saber."
Maj. Gen. Viet Luong, U.S. Army Japan commander, thanked Manus for taking the time out of his vacation to speak to the Soldiers. Luong called the event inspiring.
"I think we're better people for having heard you," he said. "We should all be thanking you for your continued contribution to our profession."
Luong concluded the event by presenting Manus with the "Order of the Bushido," for emulating the eight virtues of the bushido: righteousness, courage, benevolence, respect, sincerity, honor, loyalty and self-control. Mrs. Manus was also honored with a certificate of appreciation.
Manus said he found it a bit ironic to be sitting in a room of Soldiers in Japan, telling them about leadership.
"I have been preaching to the choir because all of you are leaders," he said.