Cover photo for Captain Harold Keith Matthes's Obituary
Captain Harold Keith Matthes Profile Photo

Captain Harold Keith Matthes



December 9, 1922 – June 24, 2018


Keith Matthes, known as “Matt” to his Navy colleagues and Keith to his family and friends, grew up in Beloit, Wisconsin where he met Patricia E. Greene (Pat), his high school sweetheart.  Keith graduated from Beloit Public High School in 1941.  Pat would graduate in 1943.  In 1945, Keith and Pat married and over the next five years formed their family with their son, David K. Matthes (deceased 1970), and their daughter, Pamela A. Matthes.


Keith enlisted in the Navy in 1942 and became an Aviation Cadet in 1943.  He earned his wings on November 4, 1944 and reported to VC-81 and VR-11 as a Pilot.  After World War II, Keith attended Marquette University, but his studies were interrupted by hostilities in Korea and the outbreak of the Korean War.  He served as Section Leader in Fighter Squadron VF-113, attached to the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Philippine Sea.  Keith was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for close air support fights and bombing attacks in the face of anti-aircraft fire, notably during the Battle of Inchon in September 1950.  He also was awarded 5 Air Medals for his service in Korea.  From his flight records of October and November 1950, Keith notes he was “very cold” while flying close air support to UN and American ground troops, including photo escort missions, along the Yalu River as troops marched through Wonsan on their way to the death trap known as the Chosin Reservoir.  Keith’s December 1950 entries in his Aviation Flight Log Book are dominated by strike missions that would aid ground troops in breaking out of the Chosin Reservoir.  In Korea, Keith flew 88 combat missions, of which 73 were offensive strikes where Keith often would be engaged in aerial combat with enemy MIG-15 jet aircraft.


Keith returned to his family in May 1951, where he served, over the next few years, as an All Weather Flight Instructor and a Photo Pilot in VFP-61.  In July 1959, Keith and his family moved to Cookham, Berkshire, England, where he served for three years as a member of the Atlantic Fleet Staff.


Commander Matthes was thrilled to put new entries in his flight log book from 1962 through 1965, while serving as the Executive Officer of Attack Squadron VA-106 and the Commanding Officer of both Attack Squadrons VA-36 and VA-44.


Captain Matthes returned to the Pentagon as the Head of the Strategic Objective Plans Branch (1967) and then as the Executive Assistant and Senior Aide to the Chief of Naval Operations (1968).  From 1969-1972, Keith served as the U.S. Naval Attache to the Embassy in Canberra, Australia, where he and Pat worked as a wonderful team in representing the U.S.  They made many cherished friends in Australia, with whom they continued those friendships well beyond his retirement from the Navy (Joint Chief of Staff assignment) in 1973.  After retiring from the Navy, Keith worked with the CIA to participate in the Glomar Explorer Project, which later became known as Project Azorian.


Keith held a BA degree in Political Science from the University of Maryland, from which he earned the Maryland Medallion for Outstanding Academic Achievement.  He also was a graduate of the Armed Forces Staff College and the Army War College.


Keith loved his family and enjoyed the company of his friends.  His many and varied interests included gardening, woodworking, hunting, fishing, photography, golf and community service.  In 1978, Keith and Pat moved from Alexandria, VA to join Navy friends in Weldon, NC.  Wanting to live closer to family, they moved to Richmond, VA in the early 1980’s, where Keith continued his community involvement and served as a Deacon for the Tuckahoe Presbyterian Church in Richmond, VA for many years.  In 2011, Keith and Pat moved to The Fairfax, a military continuing care community in Fort Belvoir, VA, and resided there with Pat until his death.

Keith will be laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery, although the date has not been determined at this time.  An announcement will be made as soon as his funeral is scheduled.






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