The future general Manjian was named in honor of his grandfather. Panos Sr. was born in the Cilician village of Vakifli. He cultivated oranges and persimmons on the southern slopes of the Musa Dagh Mountain before the first Armenian pogroms began, even prior to the revolution spearheaded by the Young Turks. When he learned of the attacks on Armenians, the farmer took his double-barreled hunting gun and went to volunteer in the militia of the legendary “fedayee” Kevork Chavush, who took it upon himself to defend his compatriots’ right to live on their land.
The grassroots national liberation movement produced some results, but Sultan Abdul Hamid II and his regime relented for just a short while. In May 1915, the residents of Musa Dagh learned of the cruel anti-Armenian strategy of the new Ottoman authorities: by order of the governor (kaymakam), all residents of the villages around Musa Dagh had seven days to leave their homes and join the caravans bound for Syrian deserts. Those who failed to fulfil the order would be executed.
For 53 days the villagers of Musa Dagh, who only had 150 rifles among them, heroically rebuffed the attacks of the Ottoman Army, whose units were far larger and better equipped.
“Almost all of the men in our family died in battle,” says general Manjian. “When the rebels ran out of food, ammunition and the strength to resist, the defense committee came to a very difficult decision: the men would put up one last fight against the Turks and die in battle, while the women and the children would jump off the cliffs to their deaths in the sea. My grandfather was ready to bid his wife and sons farewell, when the scouts reported having spotted a French military vessel nearby.”
The sailors of the French cruiser Guichen received a messenger onboard, who told them of the heroic resistance taking place on top of the mountain. French Vice Admiral Louis Dartige du Fournet
, in charge of this and other vessels, ordered for the Armenians to be evacuated. The operation lasted two days. On September 14, the Manjian family, along with other defenders of Musa Dagh who had been miraculously rescued, arrived in the Egyptian town of Port Said and were placed in a refugee camp. “While the women and children settled in the camp, the men volunteered to continue fighting against the Ottomans,” Manjian says. “My grandfather joined the Armenian Legion that fought on the side of the Triple Entente. He continued to fight against those who deprived him of his home and killed his brothers.”
After the Ottoman Empire’s defeat, southern Cilicia fell under French control. The Armenians of Musa Dagh returned to their homes and began to rebuild their sacked villages. Panos once more began cultivating oranges and tending sheep. In 1921, Andranik, the future father of Panos Jr., was born.