MATTHEW W. BANCROFT, CAPT, USMC
Matthew Bancroft '94
Date of birth: July 6, 1972
Date of death: January 9, 2002
From USNA '94:
Captain Matthew W. Bancroft, USMC, was born on 6 July 1972, in Milwaukee, Oregon. After graduating from Burney High School in 1990, he attended the United States Naval Academy, graduating with a B.S. in Economics and was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps in May 1994.
In August 1994, Second Lieutenant Bancroft reported to The Basic School in Quantico, VA. Upon graduation in January 1995, he reported to Naval Flight Training in Corpus Christi, TX. Promoted to the rank of First Lieutenant in May of 1996, he earned his coveted wings of gold in October 1996. He then received orders to MCAS Cherry Point where he trained in the KC-130 Hercules.
After completing initial training in the KC-130, First Lieutenant Bancroft reported VMGR-352, MCAS El Toro, California in October 1997. He served as Adjutant, Legal Officer, and Flight Duty Officer. In August 1998, he was promoted to the rank of Captain. While with the squadron, he participated in deployments to Jordan, Kenya, Egypt, and Kuwait, in support of Operations Edge Mallet and Eager Mace.
Captain Bancroft made the move with the squadron from MCAS El Toro to MCAS Miramar. After working in the squadron as a Flight Duty Officer, he then transferred to Marine Aircraft Group Eleven where he served as the fixed wing air coordinator.
Captain Bancroft was a Transport Plane Commander, Post Maintenance Check Pilot, and a Section Flight Lead. He had accumulated more than 1500 total flight hours with 1300 flight hours in the KC-130. He is survived by his wife, Mary Ellen, and their three children, Sean, Christian, and Bailey Madison.
Matthew Bancroft, the Marine pilot who was the first Northern California casualty in the war on terrorism, was remembered yesterday by his 12-year-old stepson as "everyone's hero -- especially to me."
"He was fighting so that we could continue to live in peace," young Christian Johnson, fighting back tears, told 400 mourners inside St. Angela's Church. "He was a wonderful dad, and he helped me with so many things."
Capt. Bancroft, 29, and six fellow Marines perished Jan. 9 when their tanker crashed on approach to a military airfield in southwest Pakistan, a staging area for flights over Afghanistan.
Dry eyes were few inside the stately brick church overlooking Monterey Bay. Bancroft's 9-month-old daughter, Maddie, sat in the lap of her sobbing mother, Mary Ellen, and held a packet of tissues for her. Christian and his 14-year- old brother, Sean, draped arms around their mother on either side.
John Knox, the best man at the Bancrofts' wedding, told the mourners that his friend was "gracious, sincere, compassionate, jovial and very sarcastic."
"When the time came to go (overseas), Matthew said, 'I'll go,' " Knox said. "Two words. So simple, powerful and complete. Do any two words more accurately reflect a Marine?"
Another friend, Mike Balow, said Bancroft loved his family, the San Francisco Giants, his red Pathfinder truck, his hometown of Burney in Shasta County and pickup basketball games. "Your footsteps echo with the heroes who fell at Iwo Jima, Corregidor and Khe Sanh. Semper Fi, Matt. I love you, brother."
Another family friend read a letter from football star Roger Staubach, who had been moved to write the family after learning that Bancroft had regarded him as a hero. "(Bancroft) was the hero," the letter from Staubach said. "He was the hero all of our young people should emulate. I thank you for paying a true hero's ultimate price."
Father Manuel Canal, who presided over the two-hour service, added, "This young man went on a mission that will never end, a mission of peace, justice and love."
Twelve pallbearers, including a Marine honor guard, bore the coffin to the front door of the church, where the white linen draping of the Catholic service was replaced by a U.S. flag.
Then the mourners proceeded under a cold, cloudless sky to San Carlos Cemetery in Monterey, where a Marine detachment fired a 21-gun salute. After a trumpeter blew taps and four jets flew directly overhead in the missing-man formation, a Marine sergeant presented the folded flag and a medal to Mary Ellen Bancroft.
"On behalf of a grateful nation," the sergeant said, saluting, as Mrs. Bancroft clasped the flag to her heart.