Lt. John Matulavicz was a member of the 89th Fighter Squadron, the Burma Banshees. He flew over 100 missions and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal with at least one Oak Leaf cluster. My father, Phil Adair, was very good friends with "Matool" as he was known and he spoke fondly of him, though he wouldn't speak of the events that lead to John's death. He was the third bunk mate dad lost. While I was usually pretty good at getting details out of him, he didn't want to speak of this tragic event.
Lt. Matulavicz can
be seen in this photo as two flights of the 89th Fighter Squadron prepare for a mission in Burma.
Lt. Matulavicz is seen here with his buddy, Lt. Adair, perhaps this is his ship they are standing in front of. Could the name be Sarah?
From the Squadron Report: It is with deep regret in the real sense of loss that we record the death on October 1 of Lieutenant John Matulavicz "Matool", as he was known all in the squadron, ran off the end of the runway by taking off on a mission on September 30. At the time his plane was carrying wing tanks. Fire immediately broke out and although “ Matool” was able to get out of the plane he was severely burned and died of his injuries the following day in the Ledo hospital. An appropriate letter of condolence was sent to his next of kin and it is the Squadron’s wish that a copy of this letter be appended to this history as appendix number 47.
Major Harrell's heart felt letter to Lt. Matulavicz's parents:
My dear Mr. and Mrs. Matulavicz,
It is with sincere and deep regret that I write you of the tragic loss of your son, John Matulavicz, 1st Lt. Air Corps.
John died on 1 October 1944, as a result of a plane accident which occurred while he was taking off on a mission the previous day. The exact cause of the accident is not known. About all that can be said is that his plane failed to take to the air, ran off the runway and crashed.
I know that there is little I can say to atone for the loss which to you is irreparable but I could not do less than express to you my heart felt sympathy and that of the entire squadron of which John was a member.
John or "Matool " as he was better known to all of us, came with the squadron just a year ago. During the time that he was with us he built for himself an enviable record of distinguished service which reflects not only the highest credit upon himself in the organization but also upon our air forces as a whole. Although of little consolation in your grief you may well be proud of his record and of his service to his country for which he gave his life he could not have done or given more.
In addition to his outstanding abilities as a pilot John has qualities of comradeship and good fellowship rarely found in many in such abundance. His always pleasing and engaging personality and the willingness and the cheerfulness with which he under took every task won him many true and fast friends among us. Each of these to whom his loss is so keenly felt, join with me in this humble tribute to him and sincere expression of sympathy to those who knew him best.