Last Known Activity
Leonard E. Matkey was born in Wisconsin in 1922, according to his NARA enlistment records. No census data or parentage have been located.
Matkey enlisted as a private in the Army Air Forces on August 24, 1942 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. His enlistment documents indicate he had completed 1 year of college (unnamed), and was employed as a driver or chauffeur.
He was trained as an aerial gunner, and assigned to a combat unit in North Africa in mid-1943. According to Air Medal awards, he flew at least 50 missions. On January 11, 1943, his crew was assigned to bomb harbor facilities at Piraeus, Greece. The formation neared the target area, but encountered severe weather conditions.
Flying through a cloud bank, the lead element found winds that were excessive, and icing conditions occurred. Two of the aircraft decided to abort, but turned into the path of the second element.
Two of the B-17s collided, tearing the entire tail section from on aircraft, and trapping the tail gunner. The piece of wreckage somehow fell 19,000 feet and landed in a small grove of trees, allowing the gunner to survive. He was immediately captured, however. All other crew members were killed.
The dead were all buried locally, and after the war, retrieved and re-buried in various cemeteries. SSgt Matkey today lies in the Guardian Angel Cemetery in Stevens Point, Wisconsin.
NARA Enlistment Records
SSgt Leonard E. Matkey was performing duty as the ball turret gunner on B-17F # 42-3098, named "Skippy," assigned to the 353rd Bomb Squadron.
Missing Air Crew Report 1832 was issued for this loss. No mission loading list is given, but the crew roster can be obtained from the MACR. The crew on board was:
Cpt Robert W, Goen, Jr. p
1 Lt Henry J. Sudol c-p
1 Lt Bruce E. Hicks nav
1 Lt Robert B. Fasset bomb
SSgt John A. Kemmler eng/tt gun
TSgt Lucio A. Pittoni r/o
SSgt Leonard E. Matkey btg
SSgt Eldon C. Steerman wg
SSgt James A. Raley tail gunner
Ranks and grades as of mission date.
SSgt Raley was the only survivor.