H. SPENCER MATTHEWS, JR.
REAR ADMIRAL US NAVY (Ret.)
Died on Tuesday, September 24, 2002. He was the first Naval Aviation Pilot (NAP) to be promoted to flag rank in the Navy.
Born in Clarksville, Arkansas, on May 5, 1921.
Following two years in the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), he enlisted in the Navy on April 15, 1940. After “boot camp” training at Great Lakes Naval Training Center, Illinois, he was transferred to the Navy's fighter training Squadron FIVE at Pensacola, Florida, (Saufley Field).
In October 1940 he and his squadron were transferred to Miami, Florida, where they opened Naval Air Station, Opa Locka, Florida. Having won a state high school typing contest (120 wpm on a manual typewriter) he served as a yeoman striker until just before Pearl Harbor when he became aviation mechanics mate. His greatest promotion in his 33 years of naval service was when he sewed on that “crow” as AMM3c in August 1941.
In November 1942, he commenced enlisted flight training in the 12th Bn. at the University of Georgia. He graduated number one in his class at the University of over 500 aviation cadets and about 40 enlisted pilot trainees. He received his wings of gold as a naval aviation pilot (AP1c) on August 15, 1942. Two weeks later he was promoted to Ensign. He completed operational training in the PBY-1 and the PB4Y-1 (Navy version of the B-24). In operational training he received a Navy Commendation for being the first student to complete the celestial navigation course with the perfect grade of 4.0.
After the end of the war in Europe he became a test pilot at the Naval Air Test Center, Patuxent River, Maryland. While there he became Naval Jet Aviator number 110. He was a graduate of the first test pilot class at Patuxent River in 1947. After a tour in VP-5, flying PV-2s and P2V-1s he attended Tulane University in New Orleans. During his 22 months (six semesters) he received his B.S. degree, Phi Beta Kappa, and was awarded the Annual Glendy Burke Award as the most outstanding student in the field of mathematics, his major. He attended the Naval War College for one year in 1957-58, and in 1965 spent a summer at Oxford University in England. In 1951-2, he attended the Naval Postgraduate School, General Line Course where he graduated first in his class of 505 naval officers.
He flew 50 combat missions in Europe in the PB4Y-1, was the assistant air boss on a CVE Salerno Bay during Korea, and served five combat tours in the Vietnam War (three aboard carriers on Yankee Station in the South China Sea, one as the commanding officer of an amphibious ship and one in country as Rear Admiral as the deputy commander of U.S. Navy Forces Vietnam and as the Vice Chief of the Vietnamese navy.
In 1953 the Admiral transferred from patrol planes to carrier aircraft. As the executive officer he commissioned VA-76, 1955, in Air Task Group (Wing) 202. In 1955 and 1956 he was “Top Gun” at the Fleet Air Gunnery Unit (FAGU), El Centro, CA. His squadron VA-76, was in Air Group ONE on the first deployment of the Navy's first “Supercarrier”, USS Forrestal (CVA-59).
During his naval service the Admiral commanded: Attack Squdron 113, flying A4D-2s, (1957-8), Carrier Air Group TWO abord USS Midway (CVA-41), USS Hermitage (LSD-34), USS Independence (CVA-62), as a Rear Admiral the Naval Aviation Basic Training Command at Pensacola, FL, and as the deputy commander of Naval Forces in Vietnam and Vice Chief of the Vietnamese navy, commanded all USN and Vietnamese Riverine foreces in the “brown water navy” in Vietnam.
From Vietnam he was transferred to the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations where he became the first head of the Aviation Training Divisions and aircraft carrier division, where he was responsible for the major introduction of Flight Simulators into training commands and the fleet. He retired from the Navy in August 1973, after over 33 years naval service.
During his 33 years service the Admiral, while enlisted, was a plane captain on the O3U-1, F4B-4, F2F and F3F, F2A, BTD, BT2D. TBD. NJ-1 and SBC-3&4. As a naval aviator, he flew the N2S, SNV, SNJ, P2Y, PBY-1, PB4Y and 2, Spitfire (England), F8F-1, BT2D-1, YP-59A (1st navy jet), AD, F2H (Banshee), F9F-8, FJ-4B. F4H-1 Phantom, A4D, and his last carrier landing was in the F4H-1 Phantom at night aboard USS Midway in WESPAC, in 1963.
His 36 medals and awards include: the Distinguished Service Medal (v), the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star (v), 11 Air Medals, both the JCS and Navy Commendation Medals, and 12 Foreign Medals, including the highest awards given by South Vietnam and Cambodia.
The Admiral almost avoided being in an aircraft accident during his service, but not quite! His Army command helicopter (warrant officer pilot) crashed into the Mekong River in Vietnam when the engine failed on take off from one of his fire bases in the Delta of Vietnam.
After leaving the Navy in 1973, the Admiral ran a congressional office (offices in D.C. and Florida) until 1979. He was a consultant to Martin Marietta Corporation from 1979 to 1991. He was the president of four small companies he founded in D.C., Florida and Louisiana. He served on the Board of Directors on two corporations, The Naval Mutual Aid Association, a trustee on the U.S. Naval Academy Foundation, and was on the boards of four charitable foundations.
The Admiral lived in Falls Church, Virginia. He is survived his wife, Diane Ford Matthews; daughters and sons-in-law, Kathryn and Graham Lovering of Cornwall, England; Patricia and James R. Miller of Annapolis, Maryland, and Anne and Marios Karpis of Atlanta, Georgia; step-daughter and her husband, Allison Ford and Michael Spagna of New Haven, Connecticut; grandsons, Calvin Matthews, Jonathan Matthews, James Russell Miller, Aaron Davies, Christos Matthew Karpis and Alexander Spencer Karpis; and sisters, Lynn Dempster, Alice Gardner, Jo Marie Sikes, and Juanita Edwards, all of Sikeston, Missouri.
Memorial services will be held with full military honors on November 4, 2002 at 1 p.m. at Fort Myer Chapel, Arlington, Virginia. Inurnment will follow at Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the U.S. Naval Academy Foundation, Athletic and Scholarship, 25 Maryland Ave., Annapolis, MD 21401.
MATTHEWS, H. SPENCER, JR.
REAR ADMIRAL US NAVY (Ret.)
On Tuesday, September 24, 2002, H. SPENCER MATTHEWS, JR., of Falls Church, VA. He is survived his wife, Diane Ford Matthews; daughters and sons-in-law, Kathryn and Graham Lovering of Cornwall, England; Patricia and James R. Miller of Annapolis, MD, and Anne and Marios Karpis of Atlanta, GA; step-daughter and her husband, Allison Ford and Michael Spagna of New Haven, CT; grandsons, Calvin Matthews, Jonathan Matthews, James Russell Miller, Aaron Davies, Christos Matthew Karpis and Alexander Spencer Karpis; and sisters, Lynn Dempster, Alice Gardner, Jo Marie Sikes, and Juanita Edwards, all of Sikeston, MO. Memorial services will be held with full military honors on November 4, 2002 at 1 p.m. at Fort Myer Chapel, Arlington, VA. Inurnment will follow at Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, VA. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the U.S. Naval Academy Foundation, Athletic and Scholarship, 25 Maryland Ave., Annapolis, MD 21401.
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