Matthew Gene Axelson
Born June 25, 1976
Killed in action, Afghanistan, June 28, 2005
You will be missed.
Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds --- and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of --- wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there,
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air...
Up, up the long, delirious burning blue
I've topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or ever eagle flew ---
And, while with silent, lifting mind I've trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.
John Gillespie Magee, Jr.
Note: During the dark days of the Battle of Britain, Magee crossed the border into Canada to enlist with the Royal Canadian Air Force. Knowingly breaking the law, but with the tacit approval of the then still officially neutral United States Government, he volunteered to fight Hitler's Germany.
Flying fighter sweeps over France and air defence over England against the German Luftwaffe, he rose to the rank of Pilot Officer. On September 3, 1941, Magee flew a high altitude - 30,000 feet - test flight in a newer model of the Spitfire V. As he orbited and climbed upward, he was struck with the inspiration of a poem "To touch the face of God."
Once back on the ground, he wrote a letter to his parents. In it he commented, "I am enclosing a verse I wrote the other day. It started at 30,000 feet, and was finished soon after I landed." On the back of the letter, he jotted down his poem, "High Flight."
Just three months later, Pilot Officer John Gillespie Magee, Jr., was killed. The Spitfire V he was flying, VZ-H, collided with an Oxford Trainer from Cranwell Airfield while over Tangmere, England. The two planes were flying in the clouds and neither saw the other. He was just 19 years old.
A Matthew Gene Axelson Foundation has been set up through his church, FBCLA, to provide camp scholarships for children in the future.
Donations may be made to:
First Baptist Church Los Altos (FBCLA)
Memo: Matthew Gene Axelson Foundation
625 Magdalena Avenue
Los Altos, CA 94024-5225