JACK WARREN MATHIS (1921 ~ 1943). Medal of Honor recipient Jack Mathis was born on September 25, 1921, in San Angelo, Texas, and grew up in nearby Sterling City. He enlisted in the Army on June 12, 1940, and served in an artillery unit at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, until he learned that his brother Mark enlisted in the Air Corps.
Mathis transferred into his brother's unit and began aviation cadet training at Goodfellow Field in San Angelo. Both were trained as bombardiers and commissioned as Second Lieutenants upon graduation. Jack Mathis was assigned to the 303rd Bombardment Wing of the Eighth Air Force in England, where he flew 14 missions.
On March 19, 1943, Mathis was lead bombardier on a mission over Vegesack, Germany. As lead bombardier it was his responsibility to direct the bombing of the entire squadron. An exploding round of antiaircraft fire sent shrapnel into Mathis' plane, shattering his right arm and severely wounding his right side and abdomen. Despite being mortally wounded, Mathis propped himself over the bombsight, located the target and dropped his bombs. He died still at his post, but had directed the mission's bombing with great precision, and for his actions that day was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.
Mark Mathis was on base when the plane carrying his brother's body landed after the mission. At his own request, Mark Mathis was transferred into Jack Mathis' crew to replace him as bombardier. When the crew completed its tour of duty, Mark Mathis stayed in combat and was killed in action over the North Sea in May of 1943. Jack Mathis is buried in Fairmont Cemetery in San Angelo, Texas, and his Medal of Honor is on display at Wright Patterson AFB, Ohio. The sports and fitness center at Goodfellow AFB in San Angelo was named in his honor in 1966. Mathis Municipal Airport in San Angelo was named in honor of both Mathis brothers in 1988.
Bibliography: "Above and Beyond: The Medal of Honor in Texas," Capitol Visitors Center, State Preservation Board of Texas. Handbook of Texas Online, Texas State Historical Association, University of Texas, http://www.tsha.utexas.edu/handbook/online/articles/MM/fmava.html. September 26, 2005. Hell's Angels: 303rd Bomb Group Association, http://303rdbg.com/h-moh.html, November 15, 2005. Wings of Valor II, http://www.homeofheros.com/wings/part2/05_mathis.html, October 12, 2005.