Gustave M. Heiss, Jr., was born in Meridian, Mississippi on April 25, 1913.  He, his parents and sister, later moved to Orange, Texas, and from there to Houston, Texas.  He graduated from San Jacinto High School.  He was an Eagle Scout.  He attended the University of Houston while working as a cashier for the “Houston Chronicle."

Gustave M. Heiss - Bonnie Barber Heiss

 Heiss had a lifelong love of aviation and earned his civilian pilot’s license before entering the U. S. Army Air Corps in August, 1939.  He completed primary training at Love Field, Dallas.  After further flight training at Randolph Field, he graduated from Advanced Flying School at  Kelly Field on May 11, 1940, with Class 40-B. 

Between April and July, 1941, Lt. Heiss was selected as a military observer assigned to the American Embassy in London and based at RAF Benson in Oxfordshire.  He flew observation missions out of Benson aboard several types of British aircraft, according to the RAF logbook he maintained while in England.  During that time, he met with U. S. Ambassador John Gilbert Winant at the ambassador’s request as Lend-Lease was accelerating in Great Britain. 

Upon his return from England, Heiss was assigned to the 27th Bombardment Group at Barksdale Field participating in the Louisiana Maneuvers of September 1941 prior to the move to Savannah Army Air Base. As a member of the 17th Squadron, 27th Bombardment Group, Heiss arrived in the Philippines aboard the SS President Coolidge on November 20, 1941.  He flew bombing missions in B-18s to northern Luzon and ferry missions to the newly-constructed Del Monte base on Mindanao during the first few days of the war.

Under orders of Major General Lewis Hyde Brereton, Heiss and a few other pilots evacuated to Australia December 18-21, 1941, in order to assemble and fly the Group’s Douglas A-24 aircraft back to the Philippines to confront the Japanese.  They were unable to return, however, because of the rapid southward advance of Imperial forces.  He and other members of the 27th Bombardment Group in Australia were absorbed into the 3rd Attack Group in Australia at the end of March, 1942, and he was assigned to the 13th Squadron.  The Group was based at this time in Charters Towers, Queensland.


B-25C # 41-12442

(P) Capt. Gustave M. Heiss / (CP) 2nd Lt. Edwin C. Townsend / (N) Lt. John Bevan / (B) Sgt. Marlon K. Smith / (E) T/Sgt. Henry J. Snipers / (G) Sgt. James W. Miller / (G) Sgt. Lionel G. Young

Lt. Heiss was pilot of one of six brand new B-25Cs that marked the 3rd Attack Group’s flying debut against Japanese forces.  That occurred on April 6, 1942, in a raid on the Japanese airdrome at Gasmata on New Britain.  The B-25s dropped nine tons of bombs on the area, setting fuel dumps afire, destroying grounded Japanese aircraft, and blowing up airdrome installations.  The group staged through Port Moresby and returned to Charters Towers on April 7 via Horn Island and Cooktown.

Only three days later, Lt. Heiss was one of ten B-25C pilots on the Royce Mission to the Philippines in April, 1942.  His co-pilot was Lt. Ed Townsend.  Their aircraft was #41-12442.  The plane has been on static display as a war memorial on the north coast of New Guinea at a technical training school at Aitape since 1974 and is the only surviving plane that participated in the Royce Mission.

The Royce Mission was a remarkable feat in that Japanese aerial and land-based forces were engaged over the southern Philippines, yet not one of the ten B-25s was lost.  All returned safely to Australia at the end of the mission.  In addition, the 3rd Attack Group had been flying the B-25s for only two weeks---it was an entirely new plane to them---and yet the Group acquired flying proficiency quickly.  Finally, the Royce Mission stretched the outer limits of the range of the B-25C between the Group’s refueling stop at Batchelor Field, NT, and the American base at DelMonte, Mindanao.  

Lt. Heiss received the Silver Star for his valor during the Royce Mission.  He was awarded an Oak Leaf Cluster for his role in a reconnaissance mission on May 6, 1942, that sighted Japanese naval forces in the Louisiade Archipelago immediately before the Battle of the Coral Sea.

 Lt. Heiss was promoted to Captain in June, 1942.  As of September 3, 1942, he had flown twenty combat missions (175 combat hours) in his eleven months in combat zones.  He and his crew died aboard B-25C #41-12472, “Hep Cat,” returning to Port Moresby, New Guinea, from a combat mission to Milne Bay on September 4, 1942.

Captain Gustave M. Heiss Jr.
Sgt. John P. Butler
Sgt. Merritt S. Whimsett
Flying Officer Allan R. Page RAAF

 Pacific War Cemetery at Fort Bonifacio

  Udvar - Hazy Center

His name appears on a tablet at the Pacific War Cemetery at Fort Bonifacio, Philippines.  His USAAF service is also memorialized on a plaque at the Udvar Hazy Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum at Dulles Airport in Chantilly, Virginia, USA.