Rolling Thunder Kentucky honors MIA Air Force pilot

Rolling Thunder Kentucky honors MIA Air Force pilot
Major Alan Paul Matja. Source: USAF

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - The air show and fireworks weren’t the only thunder in town this weekend. Rolling Thunder held a ceremony to remember Major Alan Mateja, who went missing while flying an Air Force plane in 1972.

The ceremony was at Zachary Taylor National Cemetery, where members of Rolling Thunder KY 5 lay a wreath at Major Metja’s marker.

Mateja went missing on April 16, 1972, when his F-105G Thunderchief fighter-bomber jet departed from the Korat Royal Air Force Base in Thailand. It was part of a two-plane missile suppression admission over North Vietnam.

The mission experienced technical problems and was late arriving to the refueling point. Mateja was told to top off his fuel and attempt to reach the mission target area as quickly as possible. After leaving the refueling point, Major Mateja was never heard from again.

A pilot in the area later reported seeing aircraft debris after watching a surface to air missile launch and explode. It never confirmed, but the downed aircraft was believed to be Major Mateja’s plane.

Because the location was in well-defended enemy territory, no search and rescue efforts were attempted. An electronic search was unsucessful, and no remains, wreckage or equipment was ever found.

Rolling Thunder and its members are an organization intended to create awareness and publicize the POW and MIA issue.

“As a community we can never forget about the ones we left behind on the battlefield. Your primary mission at Rolling Thunder is to remember. We are honored that we have the opportunity to bring awareness to the public so they know we will never forget the sacrifice,” Todd Matonich, a United States Navy Veteran and Board Member at Rolling Thunder, Inc. Kentucky Chapter 5 said in a statement.

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