”A soldier of the great war, an air pilot, who lost his life in France, was Alexander F. Mathews, only son of the Lewisburg, West Virginia, banker.
He was born August 23, 1895, and was educated in the Greenbrier Presbyterian Military School and graduated in 1914 from Culver Military Academy of Indiana, with the rank of First Lieutenant. He also spent a year in Purdue University, and in 1915 entered Cornell University.
He was one of the young men of university training and technically equipped who volunteered at the very beginning of the war when America entered the struggle. He volunteered for the aviation service in March, 1917, was in training at Miami, Florida, and in July 1917, ordered to France.
He was commissioned First Lieutenant of the American Air Force on September 29, 1917, and was then sent to England for special training with the Royal Flying Corps. On April 1, 1918, he returned to France, and though an American aviator was assigned to duty with the Eighty-fourth Squadron Royal Flying Corps.
Having downed 3-1/3 enemy machines, he lacked only a fraction of the work required of an “Ace”. On the night of August 24, the day after his twenty-third birthday, he was killed by a German bomb dropped during a raid over the section on which he was engaged. His death was instant. His captain wrote as follows:
‘I have known Alex ever since he joined the squadron and have done a great deal of work with him over the lines, and there was nobody I would sooner go into a scrap with. He was an excellent pilot and was very keen, and had become one of the tried and trustworthy pilots who are the backbone of a fighting squadron. A chap like Alex is awfully hard to replace, for although only with us for five months he has been in dozens of fights and was a very experienced and scientific Hun fighter.'
The body of Lieutenant Mathews was subsequently returned to America, and was laid to rest in the National Cemetery at Arlington.”
History of Greenbrier County
J. R. Cole
Lewisburg, West Virginia 1917
ALEXANDER F. MATHEWS
There is a sense in which one might say that it would be easy to write a sketch of the life of Alexander Mathews. He was born August 23, 1895. He was for several years a student in our G. P. S. In 1910 he entered Culver Military Academy and graduated as first lieutenant in 1914. He spent one year at Purdue University and in 1915 entererl Cornell University, from which institutimi he volunteered for the aviation service in March of 1917.
He was trained at Miami. Fla., and in July, 1917, was ordered to France. He was commissioned First Lieutenant of the American Air Force on September 29.1917, and was sent to Eng-land from France with the Royal Flying Corps for special training. He returned to France, April 1, 1918, and was assigned to duty with the 84th Squadron, Royal Flying Corps, on active service at the front. On the night of August 24th-he was 23 years old the day before-he was killed by a
German bomb dropped during a raid over the sector on which he was engaged. His death was instant, and as his captain writes, “He suffered no pain at all.”
As has been said, it is easy to write such a sketch as the above, to give the dates and the essential facts in the short life of Alexander Mathews, but to write worthily of the life he really lived and the glorious death he died is quite another matter. Unless we are dull enough to count time by figures on a dial, Alexander Mathews did not live a short life.
Measured by any worthy standard he has rounded out a career which grips eternity. He lived more in these short years than the average man could live in a century. He lived in friendship and in activities, in sympathies an4 in noble endeavor. It may be that one would look at his years in school-it mav be that another would dwell on his experiences in this modern crusade against the atheism and brutality of Germany.
But wherever one placed the emphasis Alexander Mathews will be found to have touched the round of life at all points. He lived intensely, he lived happily. His range of friendship was almost without limit. He had his friends among the rich and the cultured, among the laboring men who knew nothing of the schools. His interests were as varied as his friend-ships.
Athletics, the Y. \1. C. A.. his books, this world war-in countless directions Alexander's mind and heart were busy. His place here in Lewisburg is secure as long as the youngest of us keeps memory and his place in the affection of schoolmates ~nd fellow soldiers is equally secure.That Alexander Mathews died for the safety of the future is no little thing.
God does not forget such a life, nor will we. He might have sought an easier place, a safer spot for the bodily life that throbbed so powerfullv within him. But Alexander never thought of self. He spent two nights and a day with a group of his Culver friends rescuing the endangered citizens of flooded Logansport and those who told the story said that Alexander forgot to eat so long as there was a single soul yet to rescue. That was typical of him. His hand and his brain worked together to make him a tried and trustworthy pilot in dozens of air battles with the treacherous Hun, but there was also a noble heart that ‘vent with that hand and brain and that was after all the explana-tion of the true and beautiful life he lived. We stand in silentsalute before such a record. Beyond the stars toward which he flew, Alexander Mathews lives with the God who is the God of all high souls and of all unending lives of service.
The letter from his Captain is as follows:
“It is my sad dutv to write and tell you how your son, Alex, was killed last night.
“Alex and several other officers from this squadron went last night to a concert given bv another squadron close by.
“The night was very fine with a clear moon, and the Hun seized the opportunity to carry out a bomb raid.
“When the first bomb fell Alex and others left the hangar where the concert was being given and took shelter near a hedge-the next bomb dropped right among them, and Alex and another officer were killed outright, and suffered no pain at all.
“I can't tell you how” much we miss Alex and what a shock it was to all of us. I have known Alex. ever since he joined the squadron and have done a great deal of work with him over the lines, and there was nobody I ‘,vould sooner go into a scrap with. He “vas an excellent pilot and “‘as very keen all had become one of the tried and trustworthy pilots wllo are the backbone of a fighting squadron. A chap like Alex is awfully hard to replace. for, although only, with us for five months. he had been in dozens of fights and was a very experienced and scientific Hun fighter.
“Personally I have lost a good friend. and my one consolation is that Alex did not suffer at all.
“Believe me, sir, vou have my deepest sympathy. and the sympathy of all the pilots of the squadron who knew him and were his friends. I am. Sincerely
CARL F. FALKENERG,
Captain R. A. F.
MATHEWS, ALEXANDER F
- 1ST LT ATT ROYAL AIR FORCE 84TH AERO SQUAD AEF AIR SERVICE
- VETERAN SERVICE DATES: Unknown
- DATE OF DEATH: 08/25/1918
- DATE OF INTERMENT: 03/24/1921
- BURIED AT: SECTION WH SITE 4417
- ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY
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Michael Robert Patterson was born in Arlington and is the son of a former officer of the US Army. So it was no wonder that sooner or later his interests drew him to American history and especially to American military history. Many of his articles can be found on renowned portals like the New York Times, Washingtonpost or Wikipedia.
Reviewed by: Michael Howard