"Amidst the uncertainties of war, every soldier is entitled to one
certainty...that he will not be forgotten or abandoned."
WHAT REALLY HAPPENED TO MAJOR PETE MATTHES?
My brother, Pete, was drafted into the military while attending the University of Toledo graduate school in 1966. He applied to Officers Training School and graduated as a Second Lieutenant from Craig AFB in November 1968. He was assigned to Naha AFB on Okinawa until September 1969 when he was transferred to Ubon AFB, Thailand. On the evening of November 24, 1969, while conducting a forward-air-controller mission, his C-130A aircraft was hit by enemy artillery and crash-landed with seven other crew members in Xekong Province, Laos. All eight crew members were listed as MIA. In 1978 he was declared killed in action and promoted to Major.
After Operation Homecoming in 1973, the fate of 2264 US personnel, including Pete, remained unknown. Although Nixon, Carter, and Ford all dismissed the possibility that any American POWs had survived, public outrage and distrust of our Government escalated as intelligence information to the contrary continued to mount. In 1991, Colonel Millard Peck, Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency Office of POW/MIA Affairs, resigned because of "a mindset to debunk" information about live POWs and suggested that a "cover-up maybe in progress." The Senate approved a Resolution from Sen. Bob Smith(NH) which created a Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs. Their mission was to determine if any POWs remained behind and to insure the fullest possible accounting of all missing Americans. President Clinton said "Let me assure you of my personal commitment to secure the fullest possible accounting of those still missing and unaccounted for from the war...The family of that pilot deserves our best efforts to determine his fate."
In January 1993 the Central Joint Mortuary Affairs Office (CJMAO) informed me that Pete’s crash site had been located and the area would be excavated and any remains sent to Hawaii (CILHI) for identification. Then, in May, I received information from a person in California whose father is also MIA. During an April 27, 1993 NBC DATELINE interview, Sen. Smith revealed that Pete’s secret pilot authenticator code(GX2527) was detected from a June 1992 satellite photo outside Dong Vai prison in North Vietnam. Smith(Co-Chairman of the Senate Committee) and special investigator Billy Hendon (former Congressman from N. Carolina) also stated on the Larry King Live Show (April 15,1993) that without a doubt many American POWs still remain in captivity either in Vietnam or have been moved to China or Russia for ‘safe-keeping.’
In November of 1993, CJMAO informed me that the tooth of one crew member had been 'identified' by CILHI and it was recommending a group burial of all eight crew members. No evidence was found which could be linked to Pete. In addition, enemy records of the shooting incident recorded only five American pilots were killed. In spite of my written objections to the Secretary of the Air Force and the unexplained (GX2527), the commingled remains were buried in Arlington on November 28, 1995. Many other cases are being resolved in this manner. Burials are continuing today. In December,1995, Senator Smith said "...it is my firm belief that the President and key administration officials deliberately misled the American people ... on the POW/MIA issue."