Captain Gustave M. Heiss
B-25 Pilot Missing In Action (MIA) September 4, 1942
Gustave Marinius Heiss was born April 25, 1913 to parents Gustave Marinius Heiss, Sr. and Bonnie R (née Barber) Heiss in Meridian, Mississippi. At a young age, the family moved to Houston, Texas. He attended two years of college.
On August 12, 1939 Heiss enlisted in the U. S. Army for the Philippine Department with Army serial number 06298650. He became an aviation cadet, earned his wings and was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant with Army serial number O-392820. Assigned to the 5th Air Force, 3rd Bombardment Group, 13th Bombardment Squadron as a B-25 Mitchell pilot.
In the middle of April 1942 B-25C "Feather Merchant" 41-12442 took off from Darwin piloted by Lt. Gustave M. Heiss with co-pilot Ed Townsend and landed at Del Monte Airfield on Mindanao in the Philippines. Between April 12, 1942 and April 13, 1942 this B-25 participated
in the Royce Mission led by General Ralph Royce and flew bombing missions against Cebu and Davao. No American aircraft or personnel were lost. Afterwards, the bombers helped evacuated a number of important military and diplomatic personnel that gathered at Del Monte Airfield and flew back to Darwin. For his role in the Royce Mission, Heiss earned the Silver Star and was promoted to the rank of Captain.
Gus Breymann (nephew of Gustave Heiss) adds:
"I've talked to others who
participated in the three-day raid on the Philippines, and they
all said that their mission would have been famous were it not
for the fact that it occurred at exactly the same time as Doolittle Raid led by Jimmy
Doolittle over Tokyo. Doolittle, of course, deserved a great
deal of press coverage, but it overshadowed the Royce Mission.
Still, the Royce raid did make the front page of the "New York
Times" in the middle of April 1942."
Afterwards, Heiss was based at Charters Towers Airfield in Queensland in Australia and 7 Mile Drome (Jackson) near Port Moresby in New Guinea.
On September 4, 1942 took off from 7 Mile Drome (Jackson) piloting B-25C "The Queen" 41-12472 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. The entire crew was officially listed as Missing In Action (MIA) and earned the Purple Heart, posthumously.
Heiss was officially declared dead the day of the mission. He earned the Silver Star with Oak Leaf Cluster and Purple Heart, posthumously. Heiss 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.
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
Pacific Wrecks - B-25C "The Queen" 41-12472
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)
Thanks to Gus Breymann for additional information