I am seeking information on a MISSING PILOT FROM WWII. He disappeared in Mexico flying out of Arizona.
His name was Maurice Herzog. We are attempting to determine his ultimate fate if it was ever determined.
Maybe you can help us solve this?
On 3 November 1943, a large, radial-engined Vultee BT-13A Valiant aircraft (Army Air Force serial number 41-22638) was landed without damage 25 miles east of Rocky Point (Punta Penasca), Sonora, Mexico. Student pilot Aviation Cadet Maurice Herzog (service number 38428453) was piloting the aircraft on a triangular cross country training flight from Marana Army Air Field, Arizona to Safford, Az and back to Marana. On the third leg, he apparently became lost (having overshot Marana?), ran out of fuel, and was forced to land in Mexico.
Cadet Herzog then disappeared (forever?).
The aircraft was not discovered until 14 November 1943 (eleven days later!). It was not damaged. It was refueled, a "temporary runway" was completed, and it was flown back to Marana, Arizona. A ground and air search failed to locate Cadet Herzog. The Form 1 and Form 1A (Aircraft Flight Logs) were missing from the airplane, and on the floor of the aircraft was a Mexican Tequila bottle full of water which indicated that "the airplane had been visited by someone who left water for one purpose or another." US Army Air Forces referred the case of the missing pilot (Herzog) to Army Intelligence and the F.B.I.
The Report of Aircraft Accident does not specify Herzog's date of birth or hometown. He was in Class 62, Training Group 14, Marana AAF, Arizona. 89.50 total training hours. Visibility was 30 miles on the 3rd. Time of flight was estimated at 4.20 hours.
To add to the mystery, the report states that "within approximately 18 miles from the point of forced landing, there is a revolving air beacon situated in the town of Punta Penasca which was CLEARLY VISIBLE (emphasis added) from the ground where the student landed. It is felt that this would have been the most logical direction in which the student should have started walking, and he would have been able to reach the town in a matter of a very few hours, as the terrain was a type easily negotiated on foot. In practically only one general direction would the cadet have failed to reach either a highway, railroad, or roadway and this direction referred to was composed of by far the most difficult terrain from a walking standpoint.
What happened to Cadet Herzog in "Old Mexico" (as the report calls it)?
Tony Mireles (Aviation Historian and author of "Fatal Army Air Forces Aviation Accidents in the United States, 1941-1945" and myself have spent four years trying to track down Maurice Herzog's final whereabouts.
F.B.I. requires proof of death for document release. Or 100 years from date of birth. Or a privacy waiver from the person in question (Maurice himself). No joy there. We have no proof of death, or even a date of birth.
Army Intelligence stated they referred documents 25 years or older to the National Archives (NARA). They did do a MASTER NAME INDEX search for us (including what little personal identifying data we had) and came up with zip.
National Archives (NARA) searched records of the Office of the Quartermaster General, Missing Aircrew Report (MACR)(pronounced "macker") Name Index and located a card for Maurice Herzog. The service number on the card matched his number. The only information on the card was the notation "No MACR" (presumably because it was non-combat?) (MACRs were only generated for combat losses, i.e. in Europe or the Pacific). NARA referred us back to Maxwell Air Force Base for the Accident Report (which we already had).
Finally, a letter to National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis produced the most perplexing reply. They stated that Maurice Herzog's search resulted in an Army personnel record that they could not locate. Their letter states "the file was removed from its location in October 1988 and has not been returned. The file location did not indicate where the record was sent."
Also, no death certificate records exist for Herzog with Arizona's Vital Statistics Department . . .
Does anyone, anywhere, know what became of Cadet Maurice Herzog? What was his final disposition? Was he put to rest by his family?
Any suggestions on where to proceed from here?
Thank you very much for your help.
Chris Baird and Tony Mireles.
My email is firstname.lastname@example.org
ps - this is not the famous Maurice Herzog mountain climber which exacerbates our search to be sure!
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