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THE RARE BREED
Recognizing Area Veterans Of World War II

Russell Matthes In Decisive
Campaigns Of War In The Pacific


Turret Gunner Russell Matthes

Russell Matthes was a Blessing High School student, five days into his 17th year of age, when Pearl Harbor plunged America into the war.

Born in Bay City on Dec. 2, 1924, Russell was the son of Arthur and Ruth Braden Matthes. After graduating from Blessing High School in 1942, he attended John Tarleton College at Stephenville until enlisting in the Naval Air Corps later that year, starting a wartime service career of three years, three months and 14 days.

After training at a number of bases stateside, Matthes shipped out to the Pacific Theater in early 1945. As a turret gunner on a PBM flying gunship (which also capable of carrying bombs for depth charges, he was in the Saipan, Tinian, Okinawa and Philippines campaigns, among the toughest and most decisive battles in the closing chapters of the war.

When Japan surrendered, Matthes' squadron was transferred from the USS Norton Sound to the USS Cumberland Sound to go into Japan. His plane flew across Japan, taking aerial photographs for intelligence purposes and also looking for prison camps. A camp at Kobe was found and the crew dropped all the canned food from the plane's galley.

About 50 years later, Matthes was fishing off Palacios with a friend, who had brought along his friend, Bob Underwood, from Fort Worth. During discussion, Underwood mentioned he was a survivor of the Bataan Death March and had been at the Kobe prison camp for 3 1/2 years when the war ended.

"When I told him our plane had been the one to drop that canned food, he jumped up, ran over and hugged and kissed me," Matthes recalls.

Matthes' squadron was aboard the Cumberland Sound in Tokyo Bay when the treaty to end the war was signed.

In mid-September, 1945, Matthes' plane, carrying high level U. S. representatives and Japanese scientists, was the first to land in the waters surrounding Hiroshima, where the first atomic bomb had been dropped.

On Thanksgiving Day, 1945, the Cumberland Sound pulled anchor and with hundreds of sailors, Marines and soldiers aboard, headed for Seattle, Wash., where it arrived on Dec. 7, four years to the day after Pearl Harbor. Later that year, Matthes received his discharge, with the rank of Ensign. Two Air Medals were among the medals and ribbons he was awarded.

Back home, he attended Baylor University in Waco and later Baylor Dental School in Dallas. On March 5, 1948, he married Juanita LeTulle in Bay City, and later opened his dental practice. He has also performed church missionary work in Africa, Korea and in other countries.

Russell and Juanita, who live in Bay City, are the parents of three children, son Jim, employed by Dow Chemical; daughter Melinda (Mindy) Matthes, a dentist at Round Rock; and daughter Cynthia (Cindy) Friedrich of Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, where her husband works for Halliburton. There are also six grandchildren and one great-grandchild.


RUSSELL MATTHES, 2002


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