Joseph Andrew Matejov

United States Air Force
02 February 1952 - 05 February 1973
East Meadow, New York
Panel 01W Line 115



Purple Heart, Air Medal, National Defense, Vietnam Service, Vietnam Campaign

The database page for Joseph Andrew Matejov

26 May 2001

To Joseph A. Matejov and his family

I've worn your bracelet proudly for the last 16 years. The sacrifice you made will NEVER be forgotten. YOU will never be forgotten. I think of you daily and wonder.

May God bless you and hold you near.

I would like to hear from anyone who knew
Joseph Matejov.

Linda Orzel
E-mail address is not available.

03 Dec 2002

To family and friends and veterans alike:

I am John G Hatem, MSGT, USAF (Ret), and I was in South East Asia at the time of Sgt Matejov's being shot down. About 11 years ago I retired to Maryland and took my older brother to The Wall and we were looking for bracelets from our NY area - Westbury (W T Clarke HS) or East Meadow (where my brother had gone for a while). I saw none from Clarke, but found Sgt Matejov's and have worn it every day since then. I have been asked why I still wear it and say "He and they are still there".

A friend from high school, Army PFC Thomas P Jackson, was killed in action, and I never found his bracelet, but I have a printout of him also on my dresser, each man having their own statute of the 3 Soldiers for their own. To all my love and prayers. A Vet who remembers and always will.

From a USAF Viet Nam Vet and bracelet holder,
John G Hatem
916 Hamburg Drive, Abingdon, Md 21009

08 Jun 2003

Dear Joe,
I wear your bracelet, too, and think of you every day.
Thank you for your sacrifice. I promise to never forget.
I can't wait to meet you someday .. in the wild blue wonder.

-Sarah Alexander
USAF Veteran 1994-1998
Cape Cod, MA

2 Sep 2004

For 15 years
I have carried a name
within my heart.

I am grateful
for his service
for his sacrifice.

May his name
not just be etched in stone
but also on the hand
of Almighty God.

Sarah Kuglin
E-mail address is not available.

24 Oct 2004

Joe, I was with USAFSS/ESC from 1975-85, NSA from 75-80 and the 6924th ESS from 81-85. I've worn your bracelet since before 1990, it's now 2004. While at NSA I worked with Terry M. and Jerry M. on the SEA problem. Come home soon.

John Aquaro III
Robbinsville, Nj

8 Apr 2005

I went to a local fair in the summer of 1990 and came across a booth run by a couple of Vietnam veterans. I had just signed up for the U. S. Air Force delayed enlistment program. I stopped to look, and talk to the men. The majority of the booth space was comprised of MIA/POW braclets. The red aluminum bracelet I was wearing was very close to breaking so I looked through the ones for an enlisted person close to where I was from (Binghamton, NY) and that was when I first saw the name Joseph A. Matejov. Other than when I was at work and unable to wear it I always have it on and think of Joseph all the time. When I attended Airman Leadership School in 1998 I was required to give a speech. The Instructor suggested it be about something important to us. I spoke about Joseph and expanded to the overall topic of all POW/MIA personnel. I have worn this braclet for almost 14 years and it is starting to crack. I am trying to find a way to buy a new one and would really like to send this one to the Matejov family.

Jason E. Robinson
Technical Sergeant, USAF

16 Apr 2006

My brother Michael Arciola was killed in Iraq last year. I wear a bracelet in his honor. While in Washington recently, to visit Michael at Arlington, I went to the Wall. I knew about the bracelets that were sold there and felt the need to have one. Michael and Joseph will always be with me. I think of them every time I hear the clink of the bracelets. To Joseph's family: Know that you are not alone.

Casey Arciola
E-mail address is not available.

From The Virtual Wall:
Private First Class Michael A. Arciola, 20, of Elmsford, New York, died February 15, 2005, in Al Ramadi, Iraq, from injuries sustained from enemy small arms fire. PFC Arciola was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 503d Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division, deployed from Camp Casey, Korea. He is buried in Site 8105, Section 60, Arlington National Cemetery.

06 Aug 2006

My wife has come across Sgt Matejov's bracelet at her work. She works at a hotel in Savannah, Georgia, and states that this bracelet has been there for over a year. We would love to return it to its rightful owner as I am sure they miss it. It you have any info about this please contact me.

Brian Weser

Notes from The Virtual Wall

On February 5, 1973, about a week after the signing of the Paris Peace Agreement, an EC-47Q electronic warfare collection aircraft (tail number 43-48636) was shot down over Saravane Province, Laos, about 50 miles east of the city of Saravane. The aircraft belonged to and was crewed by the 361st Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron, but the collection crew "back-enders" were from the 6994th Security Squadron:
  • Capt George R. Spitz, pilot, 361st TEWS
  • 2Lt Severo J. Primm III, co-pilot, 361st TEWS
  • Capt Arthur R. Bollinger, crewmember, 361st TEWS
  • 1Lt Robert E. Bernhardt, crewmember, 361st TEWS
  • Sgt Dale Brandenburg, systems operator, 6994th Sec Sqd
  • Sgt Joseph A. Matejov, systems operator, 6994th Sec Sqd
  • Sgt Peter R. Cressman, systems operator, 6994th Sec Sqd
  • SSgt Todd M. Melton, systems operator, 6994th Sec Sqd
The aircraft was on a radio-direction-finding mission, attempting to locate North Vietnamese tanks moving south on the Ho Chi Minh Trail. The last radio call from Baron 52 indicated that he was taking anti-aircraft fire. What happened next is a matter of some conjecture.

From the report:

"Over five years later, Joe Matejov's mother, Mary Matejov, heard columnist Jack Anderson, on "Good Morning America", describe a Pathet Lao radio communique which described the capture of four "air pirates" on the same day as the EC-47Q carrying her son was shot down. No other plane was missing that day. Anderson's information indicated that reconnaissance personnel had 40 uninterrupted minutes in which to survey the crash site.

"The report of the reconnaissance team, which was not provided to the families for over five years, showed that three bodies, which were thought to have been higher ranking officers because of the seating arrangement, were found strapped in seats. Four of the men aboard the aircraft were not in or around the aircraft, and the partial remains of the eighth man (Bernhardt) was recovered. No identification was brought out from the crash site, and no attempt was made to recover the three bodies from the downed aircraft.

"There were specific reports intercepted regarding the four missing men from the aircraft missing on February 5, 1973. Radio reports indicated that the four were transported to the North Vietnam border. None of the four were released with the other American POWs later in the spring."

Hobson, in "Vietnam Air Losses", puts a slightly different slant on matters. He writes that the wreckage was located on 07 Feb and three US Air Force rescuemen were lowered to the crash site on 09 Feb 73. The rescuemen sighted at least four bodies but were able to recover the partial remains of only one airman (Bernhardt). The rescuemen could not remain on the ground long enough to extract and hoist the remains of the others to the hovering helicopter overhead. Hobson states that a joint Lao-US team excavated the site in 1993, recovering human remains and eight parachute "D" rings, one for each of the eight parachutes taken aboard the C-47. Although individual remains could not be identified, it was clear that none of the eight crewmen had parachuted to safety and there was no physical evidence indicating that any had survived the crash and post-crash fires.

While the family members of some crewmen refused to accept the DoD finding that all eight men had died in the crash, the comingled remains of these men were given a group burial in December 1995.


Monday, May 27, 2002
Tony Bridges

Russ Marsh has worn the bracelet on his right wrist every day for more than five years. Time has worn away the color in some places, leaving bare aluminum shining through. Its scratched surface bears a sparse, yet telling message:

Sgt. Joseph A. Matejov. USAF. 2-5-73. Laos. NY.

It's an MIA bracelet, one of thousands worn by individuals across the country to commemorate U.S. servicemen declared missing in action in the Vietnam War. Marsh's father came home after three tours of duty in Southeast Asia; his son wears the bracelet for those who didn't return.

"Nobody ever thinks about these guys," said Russ Marsh, himself a Navy veteran. "Somebody has to do it."

Mary Matejov, mother of the man whose name Marsh bears on his wrist, said Friday she's grateful that people still remember those who were lost overseas. Although the government says it found her son's remains in 1993, she doesn't think he ever made it out of Laos.

Most MIAs from WWII

According to the Pentagon's POW/MIA office, more than 88,000 U.S. servicemen remain unaccounted for from more than 50 years of American military conflicts. There are soldiers, airmen, sailors and Marines still missing from World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam, the Gulf War and the Cold War.

What may surprise some is that most of the missing --- some 78,000 --- are from World War II.

"Although most people think of MIAs in terms of Vietnam, that's only the smallest fraction," said Larry Greer, spokesman for the POW/MIA office at the Pentagon.

Still, it was the Vietnam War that spurred a student movement in California in the early '70s to produce the MIA bracelets. They were modeled after the handmade bracelets Montagnard tribesmen -- Vietnamese hill people trained as guerrilla fighters by U.S. forces -- gave to Special Forces soldiers as gifts during the war, according to several MIA Web sites.

Most MIA bracelets are made of aluminum, although some of the early ones were polished steel. They carry only the name and rank of the missing, their branch of service, date of disappearance, last known location and home state.

The bracelets aren't as popular now as they were in the mid-1980s, but several companies still sell them over the Internet. Marsh, 36, said his girlfriend was given the Matejov bracelet in New York five or six years ago and passed it on to him.

Mary Matejov, whose four children each served in different branches of the military, said she didn't know anyone still thought of missing servicemen.

"I think it's wonderful that they're still remembered," she said from her Hampton, Va., home. "I'd thought that most people forgot them and went on to other things."

Marsh, though, is rarely without his bracelet, except when he's on the job moving heavy sets around as a stagehand at Florida State University's dance department.

"People ask me almost on a daily basis what it is," he said. "I've wondered what had happened to (Matejov), and I didn't know if there was any way to find out."

Reconnaissance plane crashes

According to the U.S. military, what happened was this:

Matejov was a crew member aboard Baron 52, an Air Force reconnaissance aircraft flying classified missions over Laos. His plane, with eight aboard, crashed near the Laotian-Vietnamese border in February 1973, three days after Matejov's 21st birthday --- and a week after the Paris peace accords were signed.

A few days later, a search-and-rescue team reached the crash site and spent about 40 minutes there. They saw what they thought to be three or four bodies, but the rest of the crew could not be located. They assumed there were no survivors. With enemy forces nearby, the team had to get out quickly, taking with them part of only one body.

It would be 20 years before an American team returned. By then, the Pentagon had a 500-person operation, based in Washington and Hawaii, working to recover the remains of American MIAs.

In 1993, a joint Laotian-American expedition reached the site of the crash. There, searchers found human remains, dog tags and weapons. They also found parachute equipment, which led the team to think no member of the crew had bailed out before the crash, according to government reports.

The searchers collected what was left of the remains and returned them in 1996 to Arlington National Cemetery, where they were buried as the seven remaining crew members of Baron 52.

Family unsure of Matejov's fate

In the years that followed, Matejov's family members, which included his now-deceased father, a military intelligence officer and recipient of the Silver Star, were vocal in their criticism of the government. In several published reports, his family, along with the family members of another crewman, have said they don't think the remains found in 1993 belonged to the crew of Baron 52.

"I think they're covering up way too much," Mary Matejov said Friday.

Matejov, now 77, and her family cite declassified reports that enemy troops captured four American fliers in the area at the time the plane went down; they also point to an opinion from at least one of the original searchers that some of the crew left the plane before it hit the ground.

She's convinced her son was captured and possibly taken to Hanoi to be interrogated by Russian military advisers. She thinks Joseph was executed after his questioning.

"I will never know what happened," she said. "I feel he must be in God's hands now. I pray that he did not suffer."

Meanwhile, Marsh only recently has learned the government no longer classifies Matejov as missing. But, as long as the family disputes the government's claim, he says he will continue to wear the bracelet.

"There are kids out there who've never seen their fathers and wives still grieving for their husbands," Marsh said. "But as long as you keep the memory alive, they're never really dead."

The Tallahassee Democrat
Memorial Day, 2002, issue.
Used with permission.

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With all respect
Jim Schueckler, former CW2, US Army
Ken Davis, Commander, United States Navy (Ret)
Memorial first published on 26 May 2001
Last updated 08/10/2009