John Duane Mattie was born on July 23rd, 1915. He was raised in the coal mining town of Beaverdale, Pennsylvania during the Great Depression. He joined the Army Air Corps (later to become the United States Air Force) as an Aviation Cadet, on September 29th, 1942.
As one of 10 children, he was one of 5 brothers to serve in World War II at the same time. His oldest brother Mac was a paratrooper in the Army, his brother Steve a member of the US Navy. Gus served as a tail-gunner in the B-17 over Germany, and his brothers Yordy and Dave both served in the Marines.
In 28 years of service to his country, he amassed over 8000 hours of flying time. He was stationed in 5 different countries. His travel throughout the world was extensive in both his military and civilian life. He moved his wife and family 47 different times.
Early in 1942, he was assigned to Class 42-1 at Luke Field in Arizona for Air Corps Advanced Flying School flying the BT-13. It was here where he would learn the advanced fighter tactics that would serve him well in aerial combat over Germany.
Ground crew pull wheel chocks from "My Buddy", as the crew chief sits on the wing to help guide Lt. Mattie to the runway. The Mustang is fitted with 75-gal wing tanks to escort heavy bombers deep into Germany as depicted by unit artist Nathan Glick.
John learned to fly many different aircraft throughout his career. He was qualified to fly the P-38 Lightning, and was one of the first pilots in the USAF designated to fly the F-86 Sabre jet in combat during the Korean War. But he is most well known for his prowess as a fighter pilot in the famed P-51 Mustang. Most of his time flying the P-51 was with the 354th Pioneer Mustang Group. This was the first Air Group to fly the Mustang in combat over the skies of Germany.
On February 21st, 1944 he was shot down. Due to the extensive research of Thierry Kleinprintz, a noted Air War Historian, it has been determined that he was most likely shot down by the famous German Fighter Ace, Heinz Bär. John Mattie was a Prisoner of War at Stalag Luft-1 in Barth, Germany for over 15 months. His prisoner serial number was #2837. It was here where he made a few daring escape attempts, but that is a story for another time.
He retired on January 1st, 1967 with a distinguished career in the Air Force. His last tour of duty was with the Alaskan Air Command in Anchorage.
His personal decorations include the Purple Heart, and the Air Medal with two Oak-Leaf Clusters. His highest decoration was the Distinguished Flying Cross which he earned for acts of heroism while escorting long range bomber missions in to enemy territory over Germany.
In 1967, he moved his family to Wilmington Delaware, where he started a second career as an Elementary School Teacher and a Certified Public Accountant for small business owners.
In 1978, he moved to Tollhouse California. This was to be one of his best decisions of all time. It is here where he became a farmer and valued member to the small community in the foothills of the Sierra Mountains. It was also here where he made many new friends and for over 28 years was a revered leader in the community.
John, a devout Catholic, became active in the Church as did his wife Edna, and was instrumental in starting a building fund that resulted in the construction of the Infant Jesus of Prague Church in Tollhouse California. He was always generous with his time and labor to family, friends, and anyone in need. A more humble and honest man would be hard to find.
John Mattie passed away on February 13th, 2007 at the age of 91. He is famous for his aerial combat in the skies over Germany and the sacrifices he made as a Prisoner of War. He flew combat missions in the Korean War. But if you ever asked him what his most valued treasure was, he would tell you that it was his Family. He is survived by his wife of 64 years, Edna Mattie and his children, Janet Doris, Jeanne Patrican, Kathy Schneider, Barbara Mertz, Michael and Chris Mattie.