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He Still Remembers Johnny Duante

February 07, 1986|BEVERLY BEYETTE | Beverly Beyette

Johnny Duante, are you here?

From Lynchburg, Va., comes an appeal from R. Howard Mahanes, DDS, who is trying to locate Duante, a onetime Angeleno and former B-24 crewmate. In 1944 they survived eight days on the Sulu Sea south of the Philippines, their one-man rafts lashed together, at one point dodging Japanese fighter fire.

Mahanes, 65, and a reunion committee have located more than 200 former members of the 23rd bomber squadron, 5th bomber group, 13th Air Force, including four men from his bomber crew, for a reunion planned June 4-6 in Williamsburg, Va. But he has not been able to find Duante.

In a telephone interview from his dental office in Lynchburg, former Tech. Sgt. Mahanes, who had written to The Times seeking help in locating Duante, remembered his former assistant radar man as "a handsome young man (now about 62), a friendly person always with a big smile." He remembers that he was a devout Catholic and that he lived with his mother on South Broad Street in Los Angeles.

He remembers, too, that Duante was "quite an artist. He did a lot of painting on the (flight) jackets and on the noses of the airplanes. I think he was an artist for the studios out there (in Los Angeles)." But that's all he knows. Mahanes has tried without luck to trace his former crewmate through the military--"I didn't know his serial number."

Mahanes and Duante were more than just strangers briefly thrown together in wartime by fate. They shared a life-or-death adventure that began when their B-24 was shot down Nov. 1, 1944 on the first U.S. bombing run on the Philippines. Eventually, they floated back to the Philippines.

Mahanes said of Duante, "If I hadn't had him on the raft with me, I don't think I'd have made it. When one of us got the blues, the other cheered him up. We were both shot several times, we got sunburned awful bad, and we were right weak."

He last saw Duante on Christmas Eve, 1944, as both of them were boarding a hospital ship on the island of Biak. Anyone with information on Duante's whereabouts may contact Mahanes at 4700 Fort Ave., Lynchburg, Va. 24502.

The Best Defenses

Maria Doest has a Dutch-Chinese father, a French-American Indian mother and a fourth-degree black belt in the Okinawan martial art, shorin ryu. She has taught weaponless self-defense techniques to the contemporary urban vigilantes, the Guardian Angels, in Houston and now she is teaching the basics to women, the elderly, the handicapped and schoolchildren.

Doest, 35, has been fascinated by karate since she was a child, her interest whetted both by television and by her mother's insistence that she study ballet instead. Her formal instruction began when she was 22 but her fascination was largely with styles until, in 1976, a friend's daughter became a rape victim.

Her interest shifted to teaching women techniques for breaking an assailant's hold without going through all of the traditional karate steps--techniques such as applying pressure to the joints of the wrist so the wrists lock and other ways of forcing an assailant to use his own strength against himself.

A resident of Los Angeles for two years, Doest, a karate instructor in Granada Hills, offers self-defense classes in cooperation with rape crisis hot lines throughout the area and the Los Angeles Commission on Assaults Against Women. She is also making instructional videos for free distribution to those who teach self-defense techniques to the physically disabled, the elderly and the deaf.

"People who are in wheelchairs, we teach them to use their wheelchairs as weapons," she said, "and if they are on crutches, how to gain balance if they have to use one of their crutches to block with. If a blind woman is in a rape situation, she cannot identify her attacker. But if she strikes him in the nose, then scratches his face, the skin under her fingernails would be evidence. At the same time she's protecting herself, she's also gathering evidence."

With a grant from the L.A. Commission on Assaults Against Women, and in cooperation with the Didi Hirsch Community Mental Health Center, Doest will offer a one-year child abuse prevention program in the city schools. For younger children, she said, the focus will be on "good touch, bad touch," while older children will learn "how to get out of a wrist grab, (how to give) a kick to the shin."

Doest's basic advice for women being attacked: "If you can run, run. If you can use an object, which I call a weapon of opportunity, do so. If you have to physically defend yourself, think eyes, ears, nose and throat, kicks to the shins, stomping your heel on the top of the foot, and then (go for) the groin."

Doest, who is 5 feet 5, 130 pounds, still competes "to keep in shape" and recently took third place in the Southern California women's karate championships.

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