One woman's story…
Dogfight over France claims young pilot
JUST YESTERDAY Leah Matthews Heindl holds photographs taken during World War II of her and her late husband, Norman B. Mayse. "I think about him a lot, and especially on Memorial Day," she said. "It all comes back and it seems like yesterday, instead of almost 60 years ago." Photo by Carisa McCain/The Meridian Star
By Steve Swogetinsky/The Meridian Star
May 28, 2001
Hundreds of people walk by the War Memorial in front of the Lauderdale County Courthouse each day, barely noticing the names of the fallen soldiers inscribed in the somber, gray stone.
But for Leila Matthews Heindl, one of those names, "Norman B. Mayse," is special. For a brief time in 1944, they were husband and wife.
This nation was in the middle of World War II. Heindl said it was "love at first sight" when she met Mayse, a young pilot stationed at Key Field.
Mayse was in England by February, still working as a flight instructor.
Upon his arrival in Europe, Mayse served as a liaison officer in France. He was then assigned as a combat pilot with the Pioneer Mustang Group.
Duel in the air
Mayse died Aug. 25, 1943. An eye witness described the air battle that took his life in a letter to Mayse's young widow, and explained how the two pilots came to be buried together. She received the letter Oct. 10, 1945:
Back at home
in the U.S.
Because France was still occupied by Germany, Heindl and the Mayse family were not sure whether he had been killed or captured. The account of the battle was received later, after Mayse's mother contacted a convent in France. The Reverend Mother there tracked down the eye witness, took his story and had it translated for the family.
The following notice was printed in The Meridian Star:
Heindl, a native of Meridian, had been working at Meridian Grain and Elevator Co. when she married. After her husband went to Europe, she visited his parents in Missouri for a while and then came back to Meridian and resumed her old job.
After she was notified he was missing in action, she returned to his family for a time. She came back home and worked with a friend until the official notification of his death.
She had several jobs, including reporting for The Meridian Star. Later she worked as a clerk at Meridian City Hall, and took a job as secretary at Meridian High School in 1956. She stayed there until she retired in 1988.
During this time, she remarried and had three children.
You have to wonder what she might have done if Mayse had survived the war.
After the war, Mayse's family had his body exhumed in France and brought back to the United States. He was buried in St. Joseph, Mo.
Heindl and her daughter and son-in-law, Betsy and Ken Storms, visited the grave in 1999.
Mayse's name will be one of the hundreds read out loud today during a Memorial Day service in front of the Lauderdale County Courthouse. The service starts at 10 a.m.
Steve Swogetinsky is regional editor of The Meridian Star. Call him at 693-1551, ext. 3217, or e-mail him at email@example.com.