An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Home : News : Article Display
NEWS | Aug. 23, 2023

36th IS NCO helps track down last missing Medal of Honor

By Tech. Sgt. AJ Hyatt 363d Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Wing

On Feb. 20, 1944, Staff Sgt. Archibald Mathies, from the 510th Bombardment Squadron, 351st Bombardment Group, 8th Air Force, was serving as engineer and ball turret gunner on an aircraft that was attacked by a squadron of enemy fighters with the result of the copilot being killed outright, pilot wounded and unconscious, the radio operator wounded and the plane severely damaged. According to the citation, 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. Mathies and the navigator volunteered to attempt to land the plane. Other members of the crew were ordered to jump, leaving Mathies and the navigator aboard. After observing the distressed aircraft from another plane, 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, 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. Mathies, the navigator, and the wounded pilot were killed.
Mathies was honored posthumously with the Medal of Honor for his heroic efforts, and it was presented to his mother, Mary Mathies.
Fast-forward to April 2023, U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Andrew Lewis, a Target Vulnerability Studies Noncommissioned Officer in Charge from the 36th Intelligence Squadron at JB Langley-Eustis, was attending Non-Commissioned Officer Academy at Gunter Annex, Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala. Near the end of NCOA, the students were given a tour of the only museum dedicated to enlisted contribution of the military in the Department of Defense – the Enlisted Heritage Research Institute (EHRI).
One of the main elements of the tour was the EHRI possesses four of the eight enlisted Medal of Honor recipient medals in Air Force History. Seven of the eight were accounted for while the last MoH for Staff Sgt. Archibald Mathies was unlocated, according to an EHRI tour guide.
“I reached out to the EHRI and requested to help track down Staff Sgt. Archibald Mathies Medal of Honor location or at least the story of what happened to it over the last seven decades,” said Lewis. “I was saddened to hear that his MoH was unlocated, but the sleuth in me could not resist investigating its whereabouts.”
After NCOA graduation, Lewis couldn’t stop thinking about the missing Medal of Honor. He started to use his powers of research on Google to learn as much as possible. He started to look up Staff Sgt. Mathies memorial documents, burial place, hometown, and relatives at the time of his death across the internet.
“Tech. Sgt. Lewis is a knowledge seeker,” said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Aimee Thomas, 36th IS first sergeant. “He has a passion for all things military and people related, so it did not surprise me to find out that he made it his goal to track down the last unaccounted for Enlisted Medal of Honor. He did not do it for the attention, he did it because it was the right thing to do, to ensure that Staff Sgt. Archie Mathies legacy and story would live on.”
Lewis was able to identify a roster of Staff Sgt. Mathies’ family members and their locations across the continental United States. His plan was to reach out to them to learn more about Mathies and inform them of the magnitude of his accomplishments and selfless sacrifice.
“I discovered that the MoH was given to Mathies’ mother, Mary, who is buried in Finleyville, Pa.,” said Lewis. “From there, I used some family tree mapping tools online to find associated relatives and then narrowed down a list of folks that I reached out via my personal social media.”
The social media route didn’t have much success, so Lewis resorted to looking for phone numbers to call.
The 36 IS NCO finally got in touch with a 76-year-old nephew of Staff Sgt. Mathies, Mr. David Mathies, who ended up being the right person to talk to.
“I scheduled a phone call with him [David Mathies] to let him know that Staff Sgt. Mathies’ legacy lives on and that his sacrifice underpins the definition of leadership and our Air Force core values,” said Lewis. “I asked him if he knew the location of the MoH, which is where he told me that it was at the WWII Museum in New Orleans.”
Lewis quickly called the museum to confirm the MoH’s location and notified EHRI that the last enlisted MoH is in New Orleans, on loan from the Mathies’ family.
“We would like to thank Tech. Sgt. Lewis for taking the time to help EHRI in tracking down the MoH for Archibald Mathies,” said the Air Force Enlisted Heritage Research Institute. “His investigative work allowed us to know the location of all eight enlisted Medal of Honor’s.”
“History is my unyielding passion. I put ‘enlisted historian’ as my #1 job when I was joining the Air Force, but I have never actually met one,” said Lewis. “I changed my undergraduate from history to something more STEM-centric, but I still try to immerse myself in history as much as possible in my personal life. I believe that history is the strongest teacher and greatest reminder that the freedoms we enjoy today are paid by heroes like Staff Sgt. Archibald Mathies. It was a privilege to be able to connect some missing Air Force heritage.”
The biggest reward for Lewis was receiving a book from Mr. Mathies entitled “Valor at Polebrook: The Last Flight of Ten Horsepower,” which contains dozens of eyewitness account of the incident. 10 Horsepower was the name of the Aircraft that Staff Sgt. Archibald Mathies died in. 
“I think one of the powerful takeaways from this is that Staff Sgt. Archibald Mathies wasn’t thinking about promotions or awards or what the potential ramifications of trying to land a plane with the pilot wounded. He could have jumped out and saved himself,” said Lewis. “It seems rare that Airmen think like that anymore. His decision did not have sweeping benefits for himself, but his legacy of taking care of people even at the detriment of his own life, I feel, is the standard for ‘Service Before Self’. I think the modern version of that is more, ‘Service for Yourself.’ It makes me reflect on how I can lead without a personal agenda or need for my actions to warrant a reward. As long as I’m doing the right thing even when it does not benefit me, I think is something that respects Staff Sgt. Mathies and show faithfulness to a proud heritage.”