WWII pilot to be laid to rest

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 2, 2015

An Alabama World War II pilot who was missing for decades after his plane went down on Guadalcanal Island will finally be laid to rest this week with full military honors.

Maj. Peyton Mathis, Jr., commander of the 44th Fighter Squadron, will be buried in his hometown of Montgomery, Sat., Jan. 3. He was 28 years old on June 5, 1944 ,when the P-38J Lightning he was piloting went down over Guadalcanal Island after returning from a mission.

Rescue and recovery attempts at the time of the crash were unsuccessful due to the heavy jungle. It wasn’t until 2013, when local islanders informed Department of Defense crews of a nearby crash site, that the downed P-38 was found, Maj. Mathis still strapped into the cockpit.

When Peyton Mathis III, Maj. Mathis’ nephew, learned his uncle’s lost plane and remains had possibly been found, he contacted U.S. Rep. Martha Roby’s office for help expediting the identification and return process. Maj. Mathis’ widow, Evelyn, is now in her 90s, and the family understandably wanted the remains to be identified and returned as soon as possible.