Wallace Matthews was born to a California rancher in August, 1914. He attended Chico State College where he played football and thereafter acted in movies in Hollywood for two years. The height of his movie career was as a double as Little John in “Robin Hood” with Errol Flynn.
In 1938, he joined the Army Air Corps as a second lieutenant and flew various trainers until graduation. With the war breaking out, he was assigned to the Ferry
Command, gaining experience in delivering over a dozen types of aircraft around the world. He then was selected to fly transports in the ATC (Air Transport Command). Quickly elevated to VIP missions, he was selected to command flights of many high-ranking generals in critical positions including Douglas MacArthur and Dwight Eisenhower.
At war’s end, he left the military active service and was selected as Chief Pilot to start SAS (Scandinavian Airlines System). Living in Stockholm and charged with commencing SAS’ first long-haul operations in DC-4’s, he chose a cadre of highly-experienced U.S. DC-4 captains as his core of the new airline’s pilots. They then trained the Scandinavians to eventually take over the flight operations.
With the break out of the Korean War, Matthews was recalled to service in the now USAF once again as a VIP captain in the newly formed
VIP squadron at Andrews AFB in Washington. Within the first year there, he was selected as General Dwight Eisenhower’s personal DC-6 pilot at Supreme Allied Headquarters-Europe, stationed in Paris, France. He remained there until Eisenhower retired to run for President. Matthews was then selected for USAF Command and Staff College in Montgomery, Alabama, a one-year course for rising officers with command potential. Successfully graduating, he was appointed to a senior position in a transport squadron in the newly-minted “Military Airlift Command” (previously known as MATS), based at McGuire AFB, New Jersey with C-118 (DC-6) aircraft.
With MAC about to transition to the jet age, Matthews was selected to command MAC’s first jet squadron, to be equipped with C-135 (B-707) aircraft. Following a long and successful tour in that position, Matthews was selected for a senior staff position at MAC headquarters at Scott AFB, Illinois. After three years there, he was selected to a senior position with MAC at Warner Robbins AFB, Macon, Georgia. With the increase in involvement of the U.S. forces in Vietnam, he was selected as USAF’s Assistant Deputy Chief of Plans on the commander of all forces General William Westmoreland’s staff in Saigon (MACV) and promoted to full Colonel.
During his one-year tour in Vietnam, the last five months would show his son Douglas, fresh from graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy, being stationed in the
nearby Mekong delta as a gunboat captain. A high point of that period to be sure was his invitation by young Matthews’ then commander (the legendary USN Captain Paul Grey of Bridges of Toko-ri fame) to attend a decoration ceremony in the delta. Matthews presented his son with the Bronze Star for Heroism.
Following his Vietnam tour, Matthews was selected as Air Attaché to the American embassy in Helsinki, Finland. Completing his four-year tour, he retired a highly-decorated officer with over 20,000 flight hours to live in Atlanta, Georgia. He passed away there in 1998. He is survived by his wife and five children.