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|Pilot Captain Gustave M. Heiss, O-392820 (MIA / KIA) Meridian, MS
Co-Pilot F/O Allan R. Page, 401145 RAAF (MIA / KIA) Hawthorbn, VIC
Radio-Gunner SSgt Lawrence H. Cooper, 6911390 (MIA / KIA) Erie County, NY
Bombardier TSgt John P. Butler, 6970831 (MIA / KIA) Coushatta, LA
Turret Gunner Sgt Merritt S. Whimsett, 6911410 (MIA / KIA) IL
Crashed September 4, 1942
Built by North American Aviation (NAA) in Inglewood. Delivered to the U.S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as B-25C Mitchell serial number 41-12472. Ferried overseas via Hickam Field then across the Pacific to Australia arriving in early April 1942.
Assigned to the 5th Air Force (5th AF), 3rd Bombardment Group (3rd BG), 13th Bombardment Squadron (13th BS) based during early April in Melbourne. Nicknamed "The Queen". During the middle of April 1942, flown from Batchelor Field near Darwin piloted by 2nd Lieutenant Malcolm E. Petersen and 2nd Lieutenant James "Harry" Mangana.
On April 11, 1942 took off from Batchelor Field near Darwin piloted by 2nd Lt. Malcolm E. Petersen and 2nd Lt. James "Harry" Mangana on the Royce Mission as one of nine B-25s with three B-17s on a flight 1,500 miles northward to Del Monte Airfield on Mindanao in the Philippines. On April 12, 1942 and April 13, 1942 one of nine B-25s plus three B-17s that bombed Cebu and Davao. Afterwards, flown back to Batchelor Field.
On September 4, 1942 at 4:00pm took off from 7 Mile Drome near Port Moresby piloted by Captain Gustave M. Heiss as one of six B-25s that 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 off the southern coast of New Guinea. On impact, it burst into flames before submerging quickly between Hood Point and Keppel Point approximately six miles offshore at roughly Lat 8.15 Long 147.54.
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."
When this aircraft failed to return it was officially listed as Missing In Action (MIA). Also lost was B-25C Mitchell 41-12480 (KIA).
The entire crew was officially declared dead the day of the mission.
Heiss earned the Silver Star with Oak Leaf Cluster and Purple Heart, posthumously. He is memorialized at Manila American Cemetery on the tablets of the missing. He also has a memorial marker at Rose Hill Cemetery in Meridian, MS.
Page is memorialized at Lae War Cemetery on the Lae Memorial, panel 6.
Cooper earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously. He is memorialized at Manila American Cemetery on the tablets of the missing.
Butlerearned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously. He is memorialized at Manila American Cemetery on the tablets of the missing.
Whimsett earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously. He is memorialized at Manila American Cemetery on the tablets of the missing.
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."
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Gustave M. Heiss
USAF Serial Number Search Results - B-25C Mitchell 42-12472
13th Bombardment Squadron History
RAAF Casualty Card - B-25C Mitchell 42-12472
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - B-25C Mitchell 42-12472
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Gustave M. Heiss Jr.
FindAGrave - Capt Gustave M Heiss, Jr (photo, tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - Capt Gustave Marinius Heiss, III (memorial photo, date of death listed as September 5, 1942 sic)
CWGC - Allan R. Page
FindAGrave - Flying Officer Allan Reginald Page (Lae War Cemetery and Memorial)
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Lawrence H. Cooper
FindAGrave - SSgt Lawrence H Cooper (tablets of the missing photo)
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - John P. Butler
FindAGrave - TSgt John P Butler (tablets of the missing photo)
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Merritt S. Whimsett
FindAGrave - Sgt Merritt S Whimsett (tablets of the missing photo)
Thanks to Gus Breymann and Edward Rogers for additional research and analysis
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