Reviews and Comments

“A favorite place in Steel Beach, the eye-opening memoir by Jeff Lee Manthos, occurs in the middle of the book, when the writer is asked by his superior officers if "your country can rely on you to deliver a nuke"--a bomb against America's enemies. Manthos has just finished reading books about the life of Gandhi, and he was deeply affected by the idea of nonviolent resistance. But Manthos was also a warrior, pledged to defend his country--no matter what the obstacles. The reader experiences the discomfort of conflicting ideas with the author. After much soul-searching, Manthos decided he could not go through with it and confessed to his superior, a chief petty officer, "I'm confused, Chief." "Son." the Chief replied, "if you are not confused, you don't understand the situation." This is the kind of ridiculous reality that Manthos brings to page from beginning to end, as he recounts his life as a naval aircrewman during the Vietnam War from 1972 to 1976. The book is written in straightforward, clean, honest prose, uncovering daily life in a combat zone in a way that is just as relevant and important today in relation to the war in Iraq as it was to military personnel decades ago.”

Lee Gutkind, author and judge, 2007 Oregon Book Awards, founder and editor of the journal Creative Nonfiction

Also From Lee Gutkind: Steel Beach makes a connection with the reader "in a way that remains memorable and establishes trust."

“In Steel Beach, Jeff Lee Manthos doesn’t tell us about his life as a Naval helicopter crewman in the aftermath of the Vietnam war, he shows us. He guides us along to the extent we’re awash in the pungent odor of jet fuel, and know the heart-racing apprehension of flying far out over the expanse of unforgiving ocean. We struggle beside him in the classroom, and sweat alongside him through rigorous training to become a highly trained rescue crewman aboard the Navy’s impressive Sea King helicopter. He places us among the high drama and tension on the dangerous carrier deck, and makes us feel the bone-jarring catapult in the cramped, stifling spaces below deck. And throughout his superbly written, masterful blend of personal insight, we share the exuberance of his youth, and his ride on the rollercoaster of young love. One does not have to be particularly fond of aviation or military life to become absorbed in Steel Beach; Manthos’s love of writing is clearly evident, making his memoir appealing to all. Steel Beach makes the reader eager for more from the pen of Jeff Lee Manthos.”

Wayne Mutza, military aviation historian and author

“It isn't often that one reads about carrier helicopter crew operations. Even more unusual is information about helicopter squadrons in the immediate Vietnam post-war era. Interestingly enough, aircraft carriers always deployed the helicopter as the first aircraft in the air and the last to land for serving in air operations as both plane guard and SAR for the fixed-winged community.

Author Jeff Manthos was a helicopter aircrewman during this period, deployed to the South China Sea, Indian Ocean, and Persian Gulf. The flight deck was truly the center of activity for him as well as the rest of the Air Wing. Given rare time off from long hard days of flight operations at sea, aircrews congregated on the flight deck for sun and relaxation. As a result, the flight deck was often referred to as "Steel Beach."

The new book by the same name tells of the author's years in the U.S. Navy, with an emphasis on his time as a member of Helicopter Squadron Four (HS-4), which earned the name "Black Knights" for achieving around-the-clock and all-weather ASW (antisubmarine warfare) capability.

The bulk of Steel Beach was written from memory. Manthos also had memorabilia to draw on, but perhaps most valuable were his letters home, saved by his mother and not discovered until after her death. With more than 300 SAR, ASW, medevac and logistics missions in the Sikorsky SH-3 Sea King helicopter, Manthos's experiences are certainly worth relating. His is a remarkable journey."

Robert S. DeGroat, book reviews, Flight Journal magazine, June 2008.

“Imagine it's 1972. You're sipping your morning coffee and flipping through the newspaper to the draft lottery section…and discover your birthdate is "number 1" in the draft call-up. That's how Steel Beach begins and from page one I was hooked. I couldn't put the book down until I'd read it cover-to-cover. Throughout this memoir, Jeff Manthos does an excellent job of combining honesty, humor and riveting details, ultimately giving the reader a captivating glimpse into the life of a naval aircrewman. While reading this book there were several times when my heart was pounding with anticipation over what would happen next. I wouldn't classify this book as humor, however, one particular section had me laughing so hard the tears streamed down my cheeks. I approached my husband (a U.S. Army Soldier) and tried reading that section to him, but I was laughing so hard he couldn't understand me. Finally, I handed him the book and through my fit of laughter, pointed out which pages to read. He did and had the same reaction—gut-wrenching laughter. Although Steel Beach is focused on Manthos's life in the military, the prose is written in an easy-to-understand fashion, making it ideal for readers that are military enthusiasts and those unfamiliar with the military. I give Steel Beach a five-star rating because: a) it held my attention from beginning to end; and b) it made me laugh until I cried.”

Kim Wilson, author

Steel Beach “is a smooth memoir of the author’s military experiences . . .”

Marc Leepson, Books in Review, The VVA Veteran magazine, July/August 2007

“For everyone who thought a Navy seaman's job was simply swabbing the deck, Jeff Manthos can beg to differ, and he does so in great style. In his ship-shape and fine-tuned memoir,  STEEL BEACH Jeff takes the reader inside the world of Vietnam-era aircraft carriers and rescue helicopters with sailors risking their lives for each other and their country every day. I swear, I was tasting salt on my lips and smelling engine oil on my skin by the time I finished this book, but it was so much more than just that. Watching the journey of a boy becoming a man is an intense ride and a great read you won't want to miss.”

Jody Seay, award-winning author; creator, producer, and host of the TV show, Back Page.


(typewriter photo courtesy RichardPolt)

Current News

February 2024
Jeff recently sold one of his favorite violas to a deserving young player in the Corvallis area. He has completed this year's viola entry for the annual Thomas Metzler contemporary American violin and bow maker exhibition and sale in Glendale, California in March.
He will also be placing one of his Sanctus Seraphin model violins in The Denver Violin Shop, near where he studied viola performance in the late 1970s, at the University of Northern Colorado. He currently has a 16.5" viola of his own design available. This instrument is bold in model and sound, with a delightful range of tonal colors.
He is also pursuing his studies of the Arabic oud, an ancient, 11 stringed instrument which predates the lute and guitar. Fretless like the violin family of instruments, it is plucked like a guitar. It has a unique sound more familiar to the Middle East and has cultural expressions from Iran to Greece, Armenia, Turkey, north Africa and beyond. Jeff seeks to find his own voice with this challenging instrument.
January 2023
Jeff has recently sold a viola he made in 1992 that had returned to his shop. He finished a 16.5” viola of his own design and will complete a violin based on his 1747 Sanctus Seraphin pattern soon. Both the 16.5” viola and violin will be entered in the 6th annual instrument exhibition and sale at the Tom Metzler violin shop in Los Angeles, California, in late March. The exact date and link the exhibit will follow soon.
August 2021
Jeff is currently working on a 16 1/4" viola based on an Andrea Guarneri (1623-1698) pattern. Jeff is using northwest woods aged over 25 years in this instrument.
April 2021
Jeff has recently completed his cancer treatments and is back in remission once again. Over the winter he completed a 17″ Maggini model viola and is currently finishing a 15 1/2″ Studio Model viola of his own design. Jeff is working with a woodcutter in Slovakia to obtain large, one-piece viola backs with dramatic figure and character for future works. He will also be visiting a regional woodcutter this summer to hand select interesting woods.
July 2020
Jeff's book Steel Beach is now available as a Kindle e-book at Amazon's Kindle Store.
Steel Beach e-book
June 2020
Jeff was recently diagnosed with a lymphoma relapse and is undergoing chemothereapy treatments to get it under control. Details will be forthcoming on his Living with Cancer page. He has completed the Betts model violin and will finish the Seraphin model violin soon. He will be taking temporary leave of his workbench until he's past chemotherapy and able to concentrate and do the quality of work he expects of himself.
March 2020
Jeff recently completed a 16 1/8" viola, which is entered in the Metzler Violin Shop's Fourth Annual Contemporary American Makers Exhibition, in Glendale, California. Photos of this viola can be seen in the instrument picture gallery. Jeff is also finishing up a Studio Model violin patterned after the Betts Stradivari of 1704, and will have a violin on his popular Sanctus Seraphin model ready this summer.
September 2018
The Oregon Folklife Network invited Jeff to join a discussion panel on musical traditions being practiced in the area. It will be held at Troubadour Music in Corvallis on Friday September 7th at 7:30 pm.
August 2018
Jeff was recently commissioned to write a short piece for the nationally distributed Vietnam Veterans of America magazine. It will appear on the Parting Shot page in the upcoming issue.
April 2018
Northwest Musical Instrument Exhibit: Saturday and Sunday, April 28th & 29th, 2018 Marylhurst University, Lake Oswego, Oregon.
Feburary 2018
Jeff will be entering his latest viola in the Thomas Metzler Violin Shop's contemporary instrument exhibition and sale taking place in Los Angeles, March 23-26. Violas will be played by a member of the L.A. Philharmonic at 4 p.m. on March 25th
July 2017
The 17" Maggini modeled viola is sold and Jeff recently finished a 15" viola of his own design and it is now available. He also has his Sanctus Seraphin patterned violin from 2006 back in his shop. This violin was exhibited in the Library of Congress that year as part of the American Federation's participation in "The American violin, from Jefferson to jazz" event.
September 2016
Jeff recently sold a violin based on a 1704 Stradivari as well as a 15 7/8" viola of his own design. He has started two new violas, one on the popular 15 7/8" pattern and one on his 16 1/8" pattern. He expects them to be completed by spring.
April 2016
Northwest Musical Instrument Exhibit: Saturday and Sunday, April 30th & May 1st, 2016 Marylhurst University,
near Portland, Oregon. Map
March 2016
Jeff just completed a 17" viola based on a Maggini pattern from the late 1500's.
Inquire for price and availability.
April 2015
Instrument Show Northwest Musical Instrument Exhibit: Saturday and Sunday, April 25th & 26th, 2015 Marylhurst University, near Portland, Oregon.
January 2015
Jeff was interviewed by the University of Oregon's school of jounalism for their series Northwest Stories: Violin Maker Jeff Manthos Violin Video link
Jeff is completing a 16 1/2" Da Salo model viola which will be available soon. His next instrument is a 15 3/4" viola on his own pattern, which will be ready by late spring.

Contact information

Street: 2635 SW Fairmont Drive
City/State: Corvallis, OR 97333
Phone: 541-754-7645