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Howard Griffith Mertens


Howard 'Howie' Griffith Mertens was the second son and youngest child born to native Californians, Ferdinand C Mertens and Margaret Mary (Griffith) Mertens, but his paternal grandparents were German immigrants. Howie graduated from Mission High School in San Francisco and was apprenticed to his father, a renowned local cabinet-maker when he enlisted in the US Army Air Corps. He never married. He received his flight training at Luke Airfield, Glendale, AZ.

On this, his 28th mission, Howie served as the Co-Pilot on the B-17G, #446140 'Miss Lace,' on 30 Nov 1944 when it encountered heavy flak over the target, the Brabag Synthetic Oil Plant just northeast of Zeitz, Germany. After a near explosion of flak, the plane lost its right wing and entered a vertical spiral while ablaze. It broke into two sections: the tail/waist section, which landed near Threna, Germany, and the nose, which crashed into District 7 of the Oberholz Forest near Großpösna, Germany. In this debris field, German citizens recovered partial and complete human remains and military identification tags for some crew members seated in the nose section of the plane, but Howie's military ID tag was not located. The citizens of Großpösna placed five sets of remains in individual coffins that later were buried in their town cemetery. Howard's identity remained unknown to the Germans.

In late June 1945, the US Army exhumed the crews' remains from the Großpösna Cemetery. One set of remains eventually was identified as those belonging to Howard after a laundry tag marked with his name was found inside the remnants of clothing buried with his corpse. In 1949, his remains were brought back to the United States and re-interred in the Golden Gate National Cemetery, San Bruno, CA, at his parents' request.



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Units served with

  • 379th Bomb Group

    379th Bomb Group

    The 379th Bomb Group (H) (heavy), based at Kimbolton, flew more sorties than any other Bomb Group in the Eighth Air Force and dropped a greater bomb tonnage than any other Group. The B-17 Flying Fortress Group was awarded two Distinguished Unit...

  • 527th Bomb Squadron


  • 44-6140 Miss Lace

    B-17 Flying Fortress
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Associated Place

  • Kimbolton

    Military site : airfield
    Planned for RAF use, Kimbolton airfield was built by W and C French Ltd. in 1941. The airfield was increased in size to accommodate a full US heavy Bomb Group, and the first such unit to us it was the 91st Bomb Group, who arrived in September 1942....


Event Location Date
Born San Francisco, California, USA 22 June 1921
Buried Großpösna, Germany 1944

Großpösna Village Cemetery according to German records.

Died Großpösna, Germany 30 November 1944
Re-interrment San Bruno, CA, USA June 1949

Golden Gate National Cemetery, San Bruno, California, Grave -- Section O, Site 1033


Date Contributor Update
02 March 2017 21:32:10 lorelei1026 Changes to biography, awards and events

Individual Deceased Personnel File for Howard G Mertens; Missing Air Crew Report #11126; German "Report of Downed Enemy Aircraft, KU 3401;" research of Janine Hunter, Reagan, TN; recollections of the Mertens Family, Y Shore, Jul 2016.

Date Contributor Update
03 February 2016 23:11:42 lorelei1026 Changes to middlename, nickname, service number, biography, events and person associations

Missing Air Craft Report 11126.

Date Contributor Update
27 September 2014 18:13:16 AAM AAM ingest

Drawn from the records of the National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force, Savannah, Georgia / MACR 11126 / MACR 11126; 379th Bombardment Group Anthology, pg 326 / Paul Andrews, Project Bits and Pieces, 8th Air Force Roll of Honor database