Missing Pilot -- 1943 BT-13A Mexico

GrizBArizona

Airman
26
18
Jun 27, 2022
I wanted to renew this Mystery after many years..
The disappearance of an Army Air Corps student pilot on a routine training flight during WWII (Arizona – landed Mexico). There are no photos in the accident report.

3 November 1943, Vultee BT-13A (s/n 41-22638) was landed without damage 25 miles east of Rocky Point, Sonora, Mexico. Student pilot Maurice Herzog (service number 38428453) was piloting the aircraft on a triangular cross country training flight from Marana AAF, Arizona to Safford, AZ and back to Marana. On the third leg, he apparently became lost, ran out of fuel, and was forced to land in Mexico.

Cadet Herzog then disappeared.

The aircraft was not discovered until 14 November 1943. It was not damaged. It was refueled, a "temporary runway" was completed, and it was flown back to Marana. A ground and air search failed to locate Cadet Herzog. The aircraft paperwork was 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." USAAF referred the case of the missing pilot 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. 89.50 total training 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 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)?

During the Second World War over 7,100 USAAF aircraft were involved in fatal accidents in the U.S., killing over 15,500 fliers. Most of these men were honored or accounted for, but not Maurice Herzog.

We have several more leads: possibly located his mother and have verified his age as 21 years old at the time of disappearance. We've spent over two decades trying to solve this case. It remains a mystery. We could use your help!

Additional Info:

Appears he was born in 1921 or 1922.

Herzog's ASN: 38428453

His number begins with a 38 which indicates that he was a resident in Corps Area 8 (TX, OK, LA, AR, NM). The first digit 3 indicates that he was drafted, but due to the 1943 date he may have been an enlistee, that isn't a positive. This makes it possible that he may not have been a permanent resident of Corps Area 8 – could've just been passing through or enlisted there. (Aviation Cadets received ASNs until they were commissioned). More specifically (and with 90% certainty) the last three digits of his ASN suggest that Texas was his state of residense or he entered service there. He is not listed in NARA as DOI/KIA/MIA/FOD. He was 21 when he disappeared according to the newspaper article (making his DOB 1921 or 1922).

Mother's name was Mrs. Josephine Herzog, New Orleans, LA. Maurice does not appear in the 1930 Census (aged 8 or 9). Josephine was possibly a widow with a child (maiden name of Schwandt)(first marriage to Charles Wicker). Possibly married Henry Herzog 1920. They then had one child, probably Maurice. Probably French background because the name Maurice was chosen. Josephine died 1972.

We requested his Military Personnel File a long time ago from National Personnel Records Center

In St Louis. The file had been removed in the 80s. They stated that they put a Placemark in the file to notify us if the file was returned. We have never heard anything since then.

Case was referred to FBI and Army Intelligence as an AWOL.
FOIA request to Army Intel and they stated they had nothing.

Received response from Maxwell AFHRA on request for History of 755th BFTS Nov 42 to Jan 43.

They said "755th BFTS records are not in our archive. Indications are that the 755th would be considered an Army squadron." And sent me info for contacting US Army Military Institute.

Army Military Institute:

We do not have any published histories of the 755th Basic Flying
Training School (BFTS).

Ordered history for 14th Training Group (Nov – Jan 43) from AFHRA … they had NOTHING and referred me to US Army.

Additional searches:

Response from Maxwell AFHRA on request for History of 755th BFTS Nov 42 to Jan 43.

They said "755th BFTS records are not in our archive. Indications are that the 755th would be considered an Army squadron." And sent me info for contacting US Army Military Institute.

Army Military Institute stated:

We do not have any published histories of the 755th Basic Flying
Training School (BFTS).

Also:

Ordered history for 14th Training Group (Nov – Jan 43) from AFHRA … they had NOTHING and referred me to US Army (see above).

I just sent another F.B.I. FOIA request for info last week. They state "An uploaded proof of death is not required for requests for records about deceased individuals who would be over 100 years of age at the time of the request; however, you must provide the individual's date of birth" (this is a problem, I have no specific DOB)

I have two pilot class yearbooks from Marana from Herzog's year that I got off Ebay. Neither has Herzog's photo or any mention of him.

Thanks to Craig Fuller at AAIR for the Accident Report and Tony Mireles (author of Fatal Army Aviation Accidents 1941-1945) for his endless efforts on this one and all WWII CONUS losses…

I don't think this new FBI request will solve it. I have no DOB or Date of Death. They will dodge with insufficient identifiers I am sure..

The attached Herzog MIA Thing… don't remember where it came from. It came up on a Herzog search from someone and is very difficult to read.
 

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GrizBArizona

Airman
26
18
Jun 27, 2022
Attached ... FBI acknowledgement.

We hit 100 years since the pilot's Date of Birth (though we dont know his exact DOB -- but it has to be 1922). This is for official release of files.

And of course we dont know his Date of Death.

I think FBI will not fulfill this request for lack of specific identifiers, will see.
 

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cvairwerks

Senior Airman
418
511
Mar 20, 2020
North Texas
Based on the evidence, I suggest that Herzog became hyper focused on visually searching for landmarks and failed to use his radio equipment. Once he ran out of fuel and landed, he made a decision to walk north, rather than west, not knowing the town was so close. He may not have able to see the beacon, as average sundown time for that part of November is almost 1900, and it was estimated that he landed prior to that. I would guess that as he ran lower on fuel, he descended and by the time he was close to landing, he was too low to see the coast and the town. At 21 years old, and confronted with the mental strain of having screwed up, his decision making process became quite flawed and numerous bad decisions made. I would suspect that if his body is ever found, it would be in the northern half of the triangle defined by Highway 8 and 3, probably no more than 25 miles from where the airplane was.
 

captain Frey

Airman
75
46
Feb 18, 2012
I don't know if it helps, but there was a very famous Frenchman named Maurice Herzog born in 1919, politician, mountaineer and airplane pilot. Would he have attended an American school?
Good luck with your research !
 

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