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360th Heller Crew
William C. Heller, Pilot
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WILLIAM C. HELLER CREW - 360th BS
Original Butch Crew #42-29606 PU-M - Butch named for Major Heller's brother Ken
(crew assigned 360BS: 14 Sep 1943 - photo: USA Training)

(Back L-R) T/Sgt William J. Huston (E) S/Sgt George S. Payne (WG/E),
S/Sgt Anthony Laurinitis (TG/WG), T/Sgt Felix Spoerri (R),
S/Sgt Leo Lanier, Jr. (WG/BTG), S/Sgt Melvin E. Schultz (BTG)

(Front L-R) Major William C. Heller (P), 1Lt John F. Coppom (CP/P),
Capt James P. Zwayer (N/B), 1Lt John DeSousa, Jr. (B),

Ranks and grades at time of last combat mission




WILLIAM C. HELLER CREW - 360th BS
Original Butch Crew #42-29606 PU-M - Butch named for Major Heller's brother Ken
(crew assigned 360BS: 14 Sep 1943)

(Back L-R) Major William C. Heller (P), 1Lt John F. Coppom (CP/P),
Capt James P. Zwayer (N/B), 1Lt John DeSousa, Jr. (B), T/Sgt William J. Huston (E)

(Front L-R) S/Sgt George S. Payne (WG/E), T/Sgt Felix Spoerri (R),
S/Sgt Leo Lanier, Jr. (WG/BTG), S/Sgt Melvin E. Schultz (BTG), S/Sgt Anthony Laurinitis (TG/WG)

Ranks and grades at time of last combat mission


WILLIAM C. HELLER CREW - 360th BS
(Back L-R) 1Lt John DeSousa, Jr. (B), Capt James P. Zwayer (N/B),
1Lt John F. Coppom (CP/P), Major William C. Heller (P)

(Front L-R) S/Sgt Anthony Laurinitis (TG/WG), T/Sgt William J. Huston (E),
S/Sgt George S. Payne (WG/E), S/Sgt Melvin E. Schultz (BTG),
T/Sgt Felix Spoerri (R), S/Sgt Leo Lanier, Jr. (WG/BTG)

Thirty-six Dispatched (34 credited) combat missions flown by Major William C. Heller:

22 credited missions - as crew First Pilot - With 360th BS
74 (4 Oct 1943), 75, 76 (Aborted), 78,79 (AS) , 80 (3 Nov 43), 81, 82, 83, 84 (Aborted), 85 (1 Dec 43), 86(AS), 88, 89, 91 (AS), 93, 94, 95 (4 Jan 44), 96, 97, 102 (LC), 107 (LC), 112 (LC), 120 (LC) (9 Mar 44)

7 credited missions - as Lead Crew Pilot - with 359th BS
139 (LC) (22 Apr 44), 159 (LC) (24 May 44), 170 (LC) (04 June 44), 178 (LC) (12 June 44), 263 (LC) (26 Oct 44), 275 (LC) (21 Nov 44), 299 (LC) (08 Jan 45)

5 credited missions - as Lead Crew Pilot - with 360th BS
318 (LC) (20 Feb 45), 334 (LC) (11 Mar 45), 346 (LC) (24 Mar 45), 357 (LC) (10 Apr 45), 361 (LC) (16 Apr 45)

(LC) - Flown as a Lead Crew Pilot -- (AS) Credited abortive Sortie - No bombs dropped
(A) Non-Credited aborted missions -
  (#76) (5:53 flight hours). #1 engine oil leak. Turned back 100 mi from German coast
  (#84) (3:46 flight hours). Oil Pressure low. Temperature above limit. Turned back over North Sea. For all combat mission dates and targets and nine Major Heller Lead crew photos (Missions 159, 263, 275, 299, 318, 334, 346, 357 and 361) see Combat Missions.

Twenty B-17s flown by Major William C. Heller on his 36 dispatched combat missions: As crew First Pilot with 360th BS

  • 42-2973 (P) Iza Vailable (360BS) PU-K - Missions 74, 75, 76(A), 80, 81, 85, 91
  • 42-5393 (P) Thumper Again (360BS) PU-G - Mission 78
  • 42-5054 (P) Belle of San Joaquin (360BS) PU-I - Mission 79
  • 42-5854 (P) Alley Oop (360BS) PU-C - Missions 82, 84 (A), 88
  • 42-31314 (P) Scorchy (359BS) BN-M - Mission 83
  • 42-37841 Banshee (360BS) PU-P - Missions 86, 94
  • 42-39795 Ladies Home Companion (360BS) PU-E - Mission 89
  • 42-31052 (No name) (360BS) PU-A - Mission 93
  • 42-31340 (P) Miss Liberty (360BS) PU-D - Missions 95, 112 (LC), 120 (LC)
  • 42-29931 (P) Satan's Workshop (360BS) PU-L - Missions 96, 102 (LC), 107 (LC)
  • 42-31399 (No name) (360BS) PU-F - mission 97
    As Lead Crew Pilot - with 359th BS
  • 42-102484 (P) Heller's Angel (359BS) BN-K - Missions 159 (LC), 178 (LC)
  • 42-97058 (P) Scorchy II (359BS) BN-V - Mission 139 (LC)
  • 42-97577 (P) Mercy's Madhouse (358BS) VK-X (PFF) - Missions 263 (LC), 275 (LC)
  • 44-6309 (P) Duchess' Granddaughter (359BS) BN-T - Mission 318 (LC)
  • 42-97592 (No name) (305BG/422BS) JJ-T (PFF) - Mission 170 (LC)
  • 44-8439 (No name) (360BS) PU-I (PFF) - Mission 299 (LC)
  • 44-8564 (No name) (359BS) BN-Z (PFF) - Missions 334 (LC), 357 (LC), 360 (LC)
  • 44-8568 (No name) (358BS) VK-X (PFF) - Mission 346 (LC)
  • 44-8912 (No name) (359BS) BN-W (PFF) - Mission 361 (LC)
    (P) See Nose Art Photos -- (PFF) B-17 equipped with PFF radar equipment
Aircraft Notes:
42-102484 Heller's Angel (359BS) BN-K - Assigned 359BS on 23 April 1944. MIA on 21 Nov 1944 (Mission 275) on 54th dispatched combat mission. 1Lt A.F. Chance Pilot Crashed near Frankfurt, Germany (3 KIA / 7 POW). Named after Captain William C. Heller who flew on two Lead Crew missions in Heller's Angel - 24 May 1944 (Mission 159) and 12 June 1944 (Mission 178)

B-17 Scouter missions - Major William C. Heller flew on two non-credited B-17G scouter missions: 15 Feb 1945 (Mission 314) with Major Schulstad as CoPilot and 05 Apr 1945 (Mission 352). Scouter B-17s flew on a portion of the scheduled mission route ahead of the formation B-17s and reported to the mission Air Commander on weather and other conditions that the mission formations were likely to encounter. The Scouter B-17 and crew then returned to Molesworth.

Mission Note:
20 October 1944. Capt William C. Heller, was flying B-17G 44-8326 (359BS) BN-S, with a crew of five from Molesworth to Station 596, Honington Field, to pickup a ferry crew. Due to a wet grass runway and a strong crosswind in a light rainstorm, the B-17 skidded immediately after touchdown. Capt Heller attempted to ground loop to avoid two parked P-51s. Skidding sideways the B-17 hit two crew huts. Sgt Paul A. Thompson, a 385BS, 364FG ground crewman was killed in one of the huts that was hit. Capt Heller had just returned to Molesworth after three months in the USA. He had not yet started his second combat tour.

Crew Notes: Original Crew Officers

  • Major William C. Heller (P) - Flew on 34 credited combat missions. Last mission on 16 April 1944 (Mission 361). Born 11 July 1920. Attended Drexel Institute for two years through 1940. Soloed as a Pilot in January 1936 and owned his own airplane at the age of 17. Commissioned in February 1943. Assigned 360BS 14 Sept 1943 and became a Lead Crew Pilot. Transferred to 359th BS on 27 March 1944 as Operations Officer. Promoted to Major on 10 January 1945. To 303rd BG(H) Headquarters on 25 January 1945 as Assistant Group Operations Officer and Gunnery Officer, an interim job prior to his return to the 360th BS. Became 360th BS Commanding Officer on 05 February 1945, when LtCol Shayler returned to the USA and served in this capacity until the war's end. After the 303rd's last combat mission on 25 April 1945 presided over the reams of paperwork necessary to put the 360th BS "to bed." Flew C-54 transports after the 303rd was transferred to the Air Transport Command in North Africa. Retired from the USAF, in a reserve capacity in July 1980 as a Colonel and Command Pilot. Was a distinguished international airline pilot for 35 years. Authored three books "Mr. President", "Airline Safety" and "A View From the Cockpit" and wrote several magazine articles. -->

  • 1Lt John F. Coppom (CP) - Missions flown: 13 credited combat missions with Capt Heller (74, 75, 76 (A), 78, 79, 80, 81, 82, 83, 84(A), 85, 86, 88, 89, 91); With 2Lt Lloyd D. Gahimer (Mission 93); Was upgraded from CoPilot to Pilot on 27 Dec 1943 and flew on 11 missions as First Pilot (94, 96, 97, 101, 105, 107, 109, 110, 111, 114, 115). Completed 25 mission combat tour on 2 Mar 1944 (Mission 115).

  • Capt James P. Zwayer (N/B) - Missions flown: 21 credited mission as Navigator with Capt Heller (74, 75, 76 (A), 78, 79, 80, 81, 82, 83, 84 (A), 85, 86, 88, 89, 91, 93, 94, 95, 96, 97, 102 (LC), 107 (LC), 112 (LC); With other Pilots - As Navigator (128), As Bombardier (220), As Lead Crew Bombardier (129, 132, 133, 134, 212, 224, 253, 261, 310, 320, 322, 324, 326, 328, 330, 340, 341, 342. Completed his 25 mission combat tour on 11 April 1944 (Mission 134) and volunteered for a second combat tour. 41st credited mission flown on 31 March 1945 (Mission 342). Was killed in an SR-71 crash near Tucunmcari, NM in the late 1960s.

  • 1Lt John DeSousa (B) - Missions flown: 19 credited missions with Capt Heller (74, 75, 76(A), 78, 79, 80, 81, 82, 83, 84(A), 85, 86, 88, 89, 91, 93, 96, 97, 102, 107, 112; 6 credited missions with other Pilots (95 (LC), 100 (LC), 101, 114, 117, 118). Completed 25 mission combat tour on 6 March 1944 (Mission 118).
Original Crew enlisted crewmen: All six enlisted crewmen flew on the first 18 Capt Heller credited missions (74, 75, 76(A), 78, 79, 80, 81, 82, 83, 84 (A), 85, 86, 88, 89. 91, 93, 94, 95, 96, 97). Other missions flown are listed below.
  • T/Sgt William J. Huston (E) - Four Lead Crew missions with Capt Heller (102, 107, 112, 120), Six missions with other Pilots (92, 136, 137A, 138 (LC), 139, 140). Completed combat tour (28 credited missions) on 24 April 1944 (Mission 140).

  • T/Sgt Felix Spoerri (R) - Two Lead Crew missions with Capt Heller (102, 107). No missions with other Pilots. Completed 20 credited combat missions on 8 Feb 1944 (Mission 107).

  • S/Sgt Melvin E. Schultz (BTG) - Stood down on mission 85. Three Lead Crew missions with Capt Heller (102, 107, 112). Seven missions with other Pilots (122 (LC), 126, 127, 128, 129, 132, 133). Completed combat tour 26 credited missions) on 10 April 1944 (Mission 133).

  • S/Sgt George S. Payne (WG/E) - Three Lead Crew Missions as Waist Gunner with Capt Heller (102, 112, 120). Five missions with other Pilots - As Waist Gunner (141), As Flight Engineer (146, 150, 151, 156). Completed combat tour (26 credited missions) on 20 May 1944 (Mission 156).

  • S/Sgt Leo Lanier, Jr. (WG/BTG) - Three Lead Crew missions with Capt Heller - As Waist Gunner (102, 107), As Ball Turret Gunner (120). Six missions with other Pilots (136 (LC), 137A, 138, 139, 140, 141). Completed combat tour (27 credited missions) on 25 April 1944 (Mission 141).

  • S/Sgt Anthony Laurinitis (TG/WG) - Three Lead Crew missions with Capt Heller - As Waist Gunner (107, 112, 120). Six missions as Tail Gunner with other Pilots (136, 137A, 138 (LC), 139, 140, 141). Completed combat tour (17 credited missions) on 25 April 1944 (Mission 141).

Brothers Major William C. Heller and 1Lt Emerson E. Heller.
Photo was taken at their home after World War II ended.
303rd BG(H) BROTHERS - Major William C. Heller and 1Lt Emerson E. Heller Major William Heller obtained the assignment of his brother 2Lt Emerson E. Heller to the 359th BS, as CoPilot with the 359th BS 1Lt Marvin G. Richeson, Jr. crew, with the assistance of B/Gen Travis, 41st Combat Wing Commanding General at Molesworth who had a brother, Col. William L. Travis also with the 41st CBW and help from 303rd BG(H) Major Louis M. Schulstad. Emerson E. Heller remained in the Air Force following WWII and flew combat missions in the Korean and Vietnam Wars. Lt Col Emerson E. Heller was Killed in Action on 25 April 1969 on a Thailand take-off accident, shortly before his planned USAF retirement in the USA. He is buried in the Arlington, VA National Cemetery and his name is listed on the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington, DC. For information on his fatal accident See: http://www.arlingtoncemetery.net/eeheller.htm

[photo #1 courtesy of Bill Heller - photo #2 courtesy of Col. Walter K. Shayler]
[Researched by Harry D. Gobrecht, 303rdBGA Historian Emeritus]