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Staff Sergeant Bruce Mathewson

  • Unit: 1st Marine Division, 2nd Marines, 2nd Battalion, E Company
  • Service Number: 254123
  • Date of Birth: November 14, 1917
  • Entered the Military: August 10, 1936
  • Date of Death: November 29, 1950
  • Hometown: Chalfont, Pennsylvania
  • Place of Death: near Koto-Ri, Korea
  • Award(s): Navy Cross, Purple Heart with Gold Star
  • Cemetery: Plot R, Grave 236. National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, Honolulu, Hawaii
Contributed by Mr. Christopher Johnson
Central Bucks High School - East

Early Life

On November 19, 1917, Bruce Mathewson, Jr. was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He was the oldest of two sons born to Bruce Mathewson, Sr. and his wife, Anna. He lived in nearby Upper Darby, Pennsylvania, at the time of his enlistment. He left high school after the tenth grade. Before enlisting, Bruce worked at the Atlantic Refining Company in Philadelphia. At some time after Bruce’s enlistment in 1936, his parents moved to New Britain Township, in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.

After the expiration of his first enlistment in 1940, Mathewson worked as a machinist at manufacturing firms in the Philadelphia area including Baldwin Locomotive Works in Philadelphia and Autocar Corporation in Ardmore. On September 1, 1941 he married Emma Irene Wonder in Ambler, Pennsylvania. Mathewson and his wife had three children, Emma Irene, Bette Jane, and Earle Bruce. Mathewson’s personnel file indicated that his family resided in Lansdale, Hatfield, and Chalfont, Pennsylvania during his subsequent enlistments.

Military Experience

Mathewson saw considerable action during his career in the U.S. Marine Corps, deploying overseas three different times. After first enlisting in the Marine Corps at age 18, he completed basic training and then was ordered to China in 1937. As part of the 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines, he participated in the defense of the Shanghai International Settlement during the war between Japan and China. Mathewson returned with his unit to the U.S. in January 1940. He was honorably discharged in August of that year.

Mathewson reenlisted in the Marine Corps in May 1942, six months after Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor. Serving now with the 3rd Battalion, 21st Marines, Mathewson rose to the rank of sergeant. Mathewson and the 21st Marines fought as part of operations against the Japanese in Guam in 1944 and Iwo Jima in 1945. He was wounded in action on Iwo Jima, suffering bayonet injuries to his hand after repelling a Japanese soldier who had broken through the lines into his machine gun position.

Mathewson reenlisted in 1946, serving in a variety of posts between World War II and the Korean War. He trained new recruits at Parris Island before transferring to Camp Catlin in Hawaii. At Camp Catlin his duty assignments included driving, troop handling, and military police duty. In 1947, he received a promotion to the rank of staff sergeant.

In May 1950 Mathewson signed up for his fourth stint in the Marine Corps. His reenlistment leave was cut short, though, by the sudden outbreak of hostilities between North and South Korea. Mathewson transferred to the 1st Marine Division in early August as part of the Marines’ rapid buildup for participation in that conflict. Mathewson served as a machine gun section leader for E Company in the 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines. He and his unit participated in the successful Inchon landings and subsequently liberated Seoul. As part of the advance north of the 38th parallel, the 1st Marines held defensive positions around Koto-Ri near the Chosin Reservoir at the time of the Communists’ massive counterattack. On November 29, 1950, Mathewson was killed in action while repelling a Chinese assault on his machine gun position.

Mathewson was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross for his actions at the Chosin Reservoir. According to the citation, he died while charging enemy soldiers who had penetrated the lines and infiltrated the machine gun position Mathewson was commanding. 


Staff Sergeant Bruce Mathewson, Jr., was killed in action in territory that eventually fell into Communist hands. Before their evacuation to the south in December 1950, the 1st Marines buried their fallen comrades in temporary graves. Mathewson was one of these Marines, and he was first interred in Koto-Ri. The Armistice marked the end of fighting in 1953. Mathewson’s body was recovered in 1954 and positively identified in 1955.

Mathewson’s parents’ requested that their son be buried in Hawaii at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in accordance with his own wishes. Mathewson’s Navy Cross had already been sent to his son, Earle, a boy who was only two years old at the time of his father’s death. His son received the flag under which Mathewson was buried as well in 1955. 



“Bruce Mathewson, Jr.” American Battle Monuments Commission. Accessed August 8, 2018.

“Bruce Mathewson, Jr.” National Cemetery Administration. Accessed August 23, 2018.

Bruce Mathewson, Official Military Personnel File, Department of the Navy. U.S. Marine Corps, Record of the U.S. Marine Corps, RG 127, National Archives and Records Administration – St. Louis

KOREAN CONFLICT – Men of the 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, a top a hill overlooking the Han River and Seoul, near Yong Dong Po. Photograph. September 24, 1950. National Archives and Records Administration (127-GK-234). Image.

One of the machine gun positions of 1st Division CP perimeter of defense on top of hill near Division CP at Hungnam, Korea. Photograph. November 7, 1950. National Archives and Records Administration (127-GK-234H). Image.

“Operations of 1st Marine Division in Vicinity of the Chosin Reservoir, North Korea,” Part Two: 28 November to 13 December; Records of the United States Marine Corps, Prints: Marine Corps Activities in Korea, 1775-1958, Record Group 127 (Box 9); National Archives at College Park, College Park, MD.

Pennsylvania. Philadelphia County. 1930 U.S. Census. Digital Images.

Pennsylvania. Bucks County. 1940 U.S. Census. Digital Images.

Special Action Report for period 8 October to 15 December, Second Battalion, First Marines; Records of the United States Marine Corps, Prints: Marine Corps Activities in Korea, 1775-1958, Record Group 127 (Box 31); National Archives at College Park, College Park, MD.

Special Report on operations of the 1st Marine Division in vicinity of the Chosin Reservoir; Records of the United States Marine Corps, Prints: Marine Corps Activities in Korea, 1775-1958, Record Group 127 (Box 9); National Archives at College Park, College Park, MD.

Unit Report, 26 November 1950 to 17 December 1950, First Marines, 1st Marine Division, Korea; Records of the United States Marine Corps, General Administrative Files, Sep 1950-Mar 1955, Record Group 127 (Box 189); National Archives at College Park, College Park, MD.