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The Ultimate Mystery
BT-13 Vultee, mystery, disappearance of Student pilot A/C Maurice Herzog (service number 38428453), ran out of fuel, and was forced to land in Mexico, Arizona mystery, 1943
Vanished!
1943:  The unsolved disappearance of student pilot Maurice Herzog
BT-13 Vultee, mystery, disappearance of Student pilot A/C Maurice Herzog (service number 38428453), ran out of fuel, and was forced to land in Mexico, Arizona mystery, 1943
Vultee BT-13, basic trainer
BT-13 Vultee, mystery, disappearance of Student pilot A/C Maurice Herzog (service number 38428453), ran out of fuel, and was forced to land in Mexico, Arizona mystery, 1943
Student pilots don't just disappear

Maybe you can help us solve this?

On 3 November 1943, a Vultee BT-13A (s/n 41-22638) was landed without damage 25 miles east of Rocky Point (Punta Penasca), Sonora, Mexico. Student pilot A/C 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 (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. 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 Form 1 and Form 1A 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." 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. 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 and myself have spent two 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) 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?). NARA referred us back to Maxwell 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.


Check out Paul Krumrei's excellent BT-13 website:

http://www.bt-13.org/


BT-13 Vultee, mystery, disappearance of Student pilot A/C Maurice Herzog (service number 38428453), ran out of fuel, and was forced to land in Mexico, Arizona mystery, 1943
Student pilots learning formation flying in BT-13s.
BT-13 Vultee, mystery, disappearance of Student pilot A/C Maurice Herzog (service number 38428453), ran out of fuel, and was forced to land in Mexico, Arizona mystery, 1943
Air Force exhibit - where many pilots cut their teeth
BT-13A
BT-13A 41-11048 undergoing service.
Another very early trainer crash in Arizona, stearman crash in arizona
Another very early trainer crash in Arizona
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