On 16 October 1943, at about 1645 hours, an A-36-A1, # 42-84154, (fighter-bomber version of the P-51 Mustang), assigned to the 511th Fighter-Bomber Group, 529th Fighter-Bomber Squadron, departed Dinjan, India, to 16,000 feet altitude on a mission to Sumprabum, Burma. The pilot was Major Charles Jean Lutz, 0-594746. He was last seen by Brigadier General William D. Old, Colonel Harry R. Melton, Jr., (the Group Commander - see his story in this site), 0-20285, and Captain George H. Van Deusen, 0-429194 (the latter two by radio).
A casualty questionnaire later completed: Lt.Col. Charles J. Lutz, 0-594746, was twenty miles south of Sumprabum, Burma, after its bombing and strafing mission and the aircraft crashed west of Toro, Burma. Brig. Gen. Old noticed Lutz off course to the north. Col. Melton contacted Lutz after take-off and was told Lutz could see Col. Melton’s aircraft. Melton lost radio contact with Lutz. Contact made again when Lutz said he was over the target. Capt. Van Deusen was in the air traffic control tower during the mission. Just before others landed, he heard a radio conversation between Lutz and Lt. Benson. Lutz asked if Benson knew where he was and Benson replied no. Benson said he had 45 gallons of fuel left (about 1 hour flying time). Lutz told Benson to take a course of 300º 27 mins Mercury. Van Deusen thought this would be about 30º too far north. He was unable to transmit to the two pilots. 2ndLt Harold Paige was the 3rd member of Major Lutz’s flight and leader of the second element with 2ndLt Morgan flying his wing. After some confusion, the flights took off but, instead of taking its position with the first 2 flights, this element followed the P-51 top cover element. Paige was in position when the flight approached a cloud. Major Lutz and Lt Bowman went to one side and Paige and his wingman the other. This was the last time Lt. Paige saw any of the other three planes of his flight. He circled and did not see them. Lt. Paige found Col. Melton’s flight and joined with them.
A narrative report reads: “A flight of four A-36-A1 led by Major Lutz took off from Dinjan Airport, but failed to rendezvous with a flight ofA-36-A1s led by Col. Melton with Brig.Gen. Old as a member. There were six P-51-A1 aircraft flying top cover. It is believed that Maj. Lutz and his flight rendezvoused with the P-51 top cover instead of the A-36-A! fighter-bombers. At a point short of the target Lt. Paige, leading an element (two aircraft) of Maj. Lutz’s flight with Lt. Morgan on his wing, flew to the right of a cloud formation. Maj. Lutz and Lt. Bowman flew left, followed by Lt. Morgan, who broke off from Lt. Paige. Passing the cloud, Lt. Paige tried to rejoin but, after circling, did not find his flight and he then saw Col. Melton’s flight and joined it, proceeding to the target. 4 or 5 minutes from the target, Col. Melton was contacted by Maj. Lutz, and was told Maj. Lutz was over the target and requested permission to attack but was denied because he was nowhere in sight of the last flight about 15 miles due north of the target. The mission was completed and the rest returned to base. Cap. Van Deusen heard Maj. Lutz contact Lt. Bowman about an hour after the contact with Col. Melton. Capt. Van Deusen believed the contemplated course would have led them into unsurmountable mountains with limited visibility (near dark). Brig.Gen. Old led a search the next day with no success."