Medal of Honor – SSGT Archibald Mathies

MEDAL OF HONOR RECIPIENT– On February 20, 1944 SSGT Archibald Mathies was killed in action.

Mathies 2Staff Sgt. Archibald Mathies was an airplane mechanic-gunner and flight engineer during World War ll, and also the last of four to receive the Medal of Honor in the European theater. Born in Scotland in 1918, Mathies immigrated with his parents to Pittsburgh, Penn. Working as a coal miner, Mathies enlisted on Oct. 1, 1941, a few months before the U.S. officially entered the war. Mathies experienced two years of training at several bases before departing for England Dec. 8, 1943. He was assigned to the 8th Air Force Replacement Depot Casual Pool, and subsequently attached to the 1st Replacement and Training Squadron. Essentially his job was to service the aircraft in air and on the ground, providing major support to the pilot and crewmembers. During his second bombing mission on Feb. 20, 1944, it appeared as if fate was against him. On the run-way, a jeep recklessly swerved in front of the bomber causing it to veer off and become stuck in mud. Because of this delay, Mathies and his crew were forced into a back-up bomber and now in the rear end of the formation–better known as the ‘The Rear-End Charlie.’ Mathies’ aircraft was attacked by a squadron of enemy fighters near Leipzig, Germany. With deadly forces creating rising havoc, the co-pilot dead, pilot and radio operator wounded unconscious, and the plane itself being held together by threads and a prayer, Mathies stepped up to render aid to his fallen crew. Hurrying from manning his gun to the now bloody cockpit, Mathies used his limited piloting knowledge to take over the controls and save the aircraft from a fatal nose dive. With the plane stabilized, Mathies and the remaining crew made it back to the airbase in Glatton, England, but there wasn’t a soul on board that was experienced enough to land the aircraft safely. A commander on the ground observed the plane’s condition and ordered everyone on board to parachute out and ditch the plane. Mathies refused to leave the pilot who was unconscious but still alive–no Airman left behind. Mathies 3The rest of the crew jumped to safety as Mathies and Lt. Walter Truemper stayed on board with the wounded pilot, trying to figure out how to land. They attempted to land three times, but on the last go around, the plane bounced off the runway and crashed, killing all three men. Both Mathies and Truemper were honored posthumously with the Medal of Honor for their heroic efforts. As an aircraft mechanic and a gunner with little to no flying experience, Mathies stepped up and answered the call of duty. Thinking of everyone but himself and with ambition to save his wounded crew member, Mathies paid the ultimate price for his country. Nobody remembers the names of the guys who jumped ship when they were ordered to, but the nation shall forever know the name of Archibald Mathies, the guy with a bloodstream of valor and gallantry who refused to leave an Airman behind. MEDAL OF HONOR CITATION* For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at risk of life above and beyond the call of duty in action against the enemy in connection with a bombing mission over enemy-occupied Europe on 20 February 1944. The aircraft on which Sgt. Mathies was serving as engineer and ball turret gunner was attacked by a squadron of enemy fighters with the result that the copilot was killed outright, the pilot wounded and rendered unconscious, the radio operator wounded and the plane severely damaged. Nevertheless, Sgt. Mathies and other members of the crew managed to right the plane and fly it back to their home station, where they contacted the control tower and reported the situation. Sgt. Mathies and the navigator volunteered to attempt to land the plane. Other members of the crew were ordered to jump, leaving Sgt. Mathies and the navigator aboard. After observing the distressed aircraft from another plane, Sgt. Mathies’ commanding officer decided the damaged plane could not be landed by the inexperienced crew and ordered them to abandon it and parachute to safety. Demonstrating unsurpassed courage and heroism, Sgt. Mathies and the navigator replied that the pilot was still alive but could not be moved and they would not desert him. They were then told to attempt a landing. After two unsuccessful efforts, the plane crashed into an open field in a third attempt to land. Sgt. Mathies, the navigator, and the wounded pilot were killed.
Article courtesy of U.S. Air Force: No Airman left behind: The Archibald Mathies Story By Senior Airman Reggie Manning, 341st Missile Wing Public Affairs / Published February 22, 2012 USAF
*The Medal of Honor Citation mistakenly calls Mathies a ball turret gunner.