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Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016

Decorated veteran, Matthews, dies at 81

Thursday, September 26, 2002

Spencer Matthews
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Retired U.S. Navy Admiral Spencer Matthews, a highly decorated combat veteran of World War II and the Vietnam War and a native of Sikeston, died Sept. 24, 2002. He was 81.

Matthews enlisted in the Navy before World War II and earned an officer's commission. During the war, he participated in combat missions, flying anti-submarine patrol over the English Channel. He received the Air Medal for this service.

Following the war, Matthews was trained to fly Navy jet fighters. The F-4 Phantom Jet now in the Veterans Park in Sikeston has Matthews' name inscribed. He served as parade marshal for the 1990 Veterans Day parade in Sikeston.

In the late 1950s, Matthews attended Tulane University and graduated Phi Beta Kappa after 2 1/2 years of the four-year program. He was awarded the Glendy Burke Medal for Excellence in Mathematics from the university.

He served four combat tours in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War. This service included the post of executive officer of the attack Aircraft Carrier USS Hancock. Under his command, several combat operations were launched off the Hancock over North Vietnam.

In 1969, between tours in Vietnam, Matthews commanded the aircraft carrier USS Independence during the height of the Cold War. He commanded more than 5,000 sailors and officers on this carrier which was deployed with the Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean.

In 1970, he was Naval commander for the United States and the South Vietnamese Riverine Forces during the invasion of Cambodia. While on a combat operation on the Mekong River, Matthews' chopper lost power and crashed into the river. This operation was the largest Riverine operation in the history of the U.S. Navy.

The South Vietnamese government awarded its highest award, the National Order of Vietnam along with the Gallantry Cross to Matthews in appreciation of his outstanding command performance during the Cambodia invasion. Prior to his tours in Vietnam, the South Vietnamese government had presented him with four other combat decorations.

Following the Vietnam War, Matthews completed his Naval career in the Pentagon, retiring in 1973.

He was born May 5, 1921, son of the late Herbert and Flora Matthews.

His wife, Diane Matthews, survives of Washington, D.C.

Also his is survived by three daughters, Patricia Ann Miller of Annapolis, Md., Dr. Kathy Lovering of London, England, and Ann Karpas of Atlanta, Ga.; and four sisters, Lynn Dempster, Juanita Edwards, Jo Sikes and Alice Gardner of Sikeston.

A memorial service will be conducted for Matthews with full military honors. Burial will take place in the Arlington National Cemetery.

Memorial donations may be sent to:

the Missouri Delta Medical Center Foundation 1008 N. Main St. Sikeston, Mo. 63801.