|Pilot Captain Gustave M. Heiss, O-392820 (MIA / KIA) Meridian, Mississippi
Co-Pilot F/O Allan R. Page, 401145 RAAF (MIA / KIA) Hawthorbn, VIC
Radio-Gunner SSgt Lawrence H. Cooper (MIA / KIA) NY
Bombardier TSgt John P. Butler, 6970831 (MIA / KIA) LA
Turret Gunner Sgt Merritt S. Whimsett, 6911410 (MIA / KIA) IL
Crashed September 4,
Built by North American in Inglewood, California. Delivered to the U. S. Army. Ferried overseas via Hawaii to Australia, arriving in early April 1942.
Assigned to the 5th Air Force, 3rd Bombardment Group, 13th Bombardment Squadron based during early April in Melbourne. Nicknamed "The Queen" as nose art or secondary nose art.
During the middle of April 1942, flown from Darwin to Del
Monte Airfield on Mindanao. Piloted by 2nd Lieutenant Malcolm E. Petersen and James "Harry" Mangana and during April 12-13, 1942 participated
in the Royce Mission against Cebu Harbor and Davao.
On September 4,
1942 one of six B-25s that took off from 7 Mile Drome near Port Moresby at 4:00pm on a bombing mission against Japanese warships in Milne
Bay, but found nothing. Returning in darkness, the formation was flying at roughly 3,000 when bad weather closed in. This B-25 was observed to turn on its landing lights and made several erratic turns before diving into the sea. On impact, it burst into flames before submerging quickly off the southern coast of New Guinea between Hood Point and Keppel Point approximately six miles offshore. Also lost was B-25C Mitchell 41-12480 (KIA).
Howard MacDonald (3rd BG, 13th BS) Letter August 30, 1984:
"I was with Gus and his crew the night he and his plane went down. We were returning from a run down at Milne Bay. There were supposed to be some cruisers and destroyers down there. We left about four in the afternoon but never found them by dark; so we started back. Our radios were all jammed by the Japs, so we had to use just compass. We were flying fairly low. I could see native fires below us and we were just out to sea a few miles. We still had our bombs on board.
We were headed back to Moresby when I looked on my right wing (Heiss' ship). He turned on the landing lights and peeled off to the right a little bit. Then he started losing altitude and went into the water. I saw the ship hit the water and then some flames, but not much. I don't think they ran out of fuel or they would have called on the radio. Our radios between planes were still working. I really never understood what happened. We had been climbing but I don't believe they stalled out. The way I got it figured out was they went down about 125-150 miles south of Port Moresby. I still believe the ship is intact. It may be broken up from the impact, but it's still there."
The entire crew was officially declared dead the day of the mission. The four American crew are memorialized on the tablets of the missing at Manila American Cemetery. Australian Page is memorialized at Lae War Cemetery on the Lae Memorial, panel 6. Heiss has a memorial marker at Rose Hill Cemetery in Meridian, MS.
Gus Breymann (nephew of Gustave Heiss)
"My uncle's home town was Houston, Texas, but he was born in Meridian, Mississippi. That's why you see the Rosehill Cemetery marker in Meridian. His marker is placed next the graves of his mother and father."
RAAF Casualty Card - B-25C Mitchell 42-12472
13th Bombardment Squadron History
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - B-25C Mitchell 42-12472
F/O Allan Reginald Page
F/O Allan R. Page
FindAGrave - Capt Gustave Marinius Heiss, III (memorial photo, date of death listed as September 5, 1942)
Thanks to Edward Rogers and Gus Breymann for additional research and analysis
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February 4, 2018