Continuing this month's pre-Memorial Day series on Congressional Medal of Honor winners, here is another citation copied directly from the U.S. Army Center for Military History's web site. (More about this site here.) I continue to recommend the CMH site to all. I have simply been reading Medal of Honor citations randomly, picking the first one that deeply impresses me, and posting that one here. (Note: All the citations are deeply impressive. My selection process is truly random. It's that easy to find an awe-inspiring story.)
So here is the tale of Archibald Mathies (probably "Arch" or "Archie" to his friends), who was approaching his 26th birthday when these events occurred:
*MATHIES, ARCHIBALD (Air Mission)
Rank and organization: Sergeant, U .S. Army Air Corps, 510th Bomber Squadron, 351st Bomber Group. Place and date: Over Europe, 20 February 1944. Entered service at: Pittsburgh, Pa. Born: 3 June 1918, Scotland. G.O. No.: 52, 22 June 1944. 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.
"They would not desert him." What more can be said of such men? How can we possibly do justice to their memory? My best attempt at an answer is that we can honor their sacrifices for our country by also sacrificing some of our own lives-- not by dying, but by living for this country and what it stands for. By voting, obeying the law, getting politically involved and encouraging others to do the same. It seems to me that every time one of us does one of those things, we've honored men like Archibald Mathies.
Visit the CMH site. It'll make you a better American.