James Albert Mabante was born on July 25, 1920 in Nogales, Arizona. His parents Rufino Mabante and Constanza Romero were born in Mexico and California, respectively. His father was a steelworker.
James had 2 brothers, Charles and Frank and 2 sisters, Carmen and Virginia. By 1940 James was in his third year of high school was 19 years old and working at Callahan Lead and Zinc Mining, Washington Camp.
He enlisted June 3, 1942 at Nogales, AZ and was attached to the 15th USAAF, 348th Bombardment Squadron, 99 AAF Bombardment Group (heavy) as a (Gunner 5) waist gunner.
SSgt. James Mabante was killed on Dec 19 1943 when his B-17 Flying Fortress War Bird II was shot down by enemy aircraft while on a bombing mission to Austria. His plane crashed about 40 miles south of Innsbrook on the return leg to his home base in Italy. The veteran waist gunner had seen combat in North Africa, Sicilian and Italian campaigns and was on his 49th mission. He would have been transferred back to the states upon completing 50 missions.
History of the B-17 Flying Fortress War Bird II
Delivered at Long Beach 8/3/43; Denver 13/3/43; Salina 28/3/43; Assigned 348BS/99BG Navarin 26/4/43; Oudna 4/8/43; Tortorella 11/12/43;
Missing in Action Innsbruck 19/12/43, with Cyril Stidd, Selander, Kozumplik, Green, Campbell, Carollo, Donley (7 Prisoner of War); Brown, Garcia, Mabante (3 Killed in action); crashed Innsbruck, Ger.; Missing Air Crew Report 1527 WAR BIRD II
Source: Dave Osborne, B-17 Fortress Master Log
James was awarded the Air Medal with 4 Oak Leaf Clusters. By the time he was repatriated to his home town of Nogales, AZ in 1949 he had received a total of 9 Oak Leaf Clusters.
26/June/1949 Repatriation of James Mabante
Nogales – The body of SSgt. James Albert Mabante U.S.A. Air Corps, killed in action Dec. 19th, 1943 while on a mission over Germany will arrive in Nogales today. Honor guards from the three veteran’s organizations will meet the train and escort the body to Carroon Mortuary. Rosary will be held at Carroon Chapel on Sunday evening. Funeral services will be held on Monday morning. Veteran’s honor guards will escort the body to the Nogales cemetery and fire the final salute.
He graduated from Nogales High School and was 23 at the time of his death.
Mabante’s father, Rufino Mabante died on Easter Sunday of this year.
Surviving relatives are his mother, three sisters, Miss Carmel Mabante, Nogales, Mrs. J. C. Henigan of San Antonio, Texas, Mrs. Constance Fay of Houston, Texas; and two brothers, Charles of Nogales and George Mabante of Phoenix.
His grave is at the Nogales City Cemetery, Nogales, Arizona The inscription reads: Arizona S SGT 99 AAF BOMB GP World War II AM 8 4 LOC
This story is part of the Stories Behind the Stars project (see www.storiesbehindthestars.org). This is a national effort of volunteers to write the stories of all 400,000+ of the US WWII fallen here on Fold3. Can you** **help write these stories? Related to this, there will be a smart phone app that will allow people to visit any war memorial or cemetery, scan the fallen's name and read his/her story.