Born in 1921, DiMatteo was raised in a large Italian family outside of Cleveland. In 1940, he enlisted in the Navy as an Aviation Metalsmith, becoming a Gunner in a TBM Avenger. TBM pilots convinced him to apply for the Naval Aviation V-5 Cadet program. He attended flight school in Pensacola, Florida, and earned his Wings of Gold. Over the next 25 years, he flew more than 7,500 hours in 40-plus models of propeller and jet fighters. He received multiple Distinguished Flying Cross and Air medals and flew in combat in three wars –World War II, Korea and Vietnam.
His first squadron was the VF-11 SunDowners flying F-6F Hellcats and F-8F Bearcats. Following World War II, he attended Stanford University. When the Korean War broke out, he transitioned to the F-4U-5N Corsair and deployed as a Night Fighter with the elite Fighter Squadron Composite 3 on multiple combat cruises onboard USS Boxer and USS Kearsarge.
On a night heckler mission in Korea, he was hit and forced to emergency crash land near a “friendly” village in enemy territory. He patched his damaged aircraft with duct tape and flew back to the carrier the following morning. A week later, he went back with his F-4U Corsair, firing rockets and annihilating a train full of ammunition, destroying the key ammunition supply line for the North Koreans, and earning him a Distinguished Flying Cross.
After the Korean War, he flew helicopters out of North Island and was named the Officer in Charge aboard USS Yorktown. He returned to fly many of the early jet fighters but ruptured a disc in his back, which restricted him from flying ejection seat aircraft. He transitioned to the E-1B as the Executive Officer of AEW Squadron 11 until another back injury forced him out of the cockpit for good.
Cmdr. DiMatteo is the oldest living SunDowner in the world. The squadron proudly displays his F-6F Hellcat cockpit photo in their Ready Room. He is a proud husband of 68 years to Florence DiMatteo, father of seven children, grandpa to 12 grandkids and four great grandchildren. His two sons also became career Naval Aviators.