Norman Schmidt (1967/08/31)
"It broke my heart to see him climb into that airplane," Norm's wife said after seeing him off for the last time.
Norman Schmidt was born on July 7, 1926, in Los Angeles County, California, to Mr. and Mrs. H. H. Schmidt, and was raised in the small community of Ben Lomond in Santa Cruz County. During the late 1930s, he attended local elementary schools and in 1944 graduated from Boulder Creek High School. Following high school, he enrolled in nearby San Jose State College where he graduated about 1948.
Norman Schmidt entered the US Air Force about 1948 and following training, earned his wings. In the early 1950s Lt. Schmidt completed pilot training at Luke Field, Arizona, and was assigned to a fighter squadron in Korea. During the Korean War, he flew a number of combat missions and on one occasion his plane was shot down.
When the Vietnam War began, Schmidt had risen to the rank of Lt. Colonel and was testing jet fighters at George Air Force Base in Mojave, California. In July 1966, he received orders assigning him to the 435th Tactical Fighter Squadron of the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing, which was flying F105D fighters out of Ubon Air Base, Thailand.
In an article appearing in the Washington Post issue of March 26, 2005, Schmidt's daughter, Janet Schmidt Zupan, described her father's last mission, captivity and death.
“On Sept. 1, 1966, his F-104 was hit by flak during a mission, and the plane went down. My dad bailed out, drifting toward his last 364 living days, days that separated him so utterly from his life as a son, husband, father and career test pilot. In his final months he was deemed a war criminal, beyond our desperate love and worry, beyond the protection of the country he served, and excluded from the regard for human safety, dignity and life inherent in the articles of the Geneva Conventions.
In a 1974 audiotape, Cmdr. Robert Shumaker shared recollections of my dad. They were in a nine-foot-square cell with two other POWs in the Little Vegas section of the Hanoi Hilton in the summer of 1967. It was a harrowing period for the prisoners, in the wake of a communications purge. Shumaker described an incident on August 21:
"After Norm had finished washing he was peeking out (a) crack and trying to get a look at some of the other prisoners. Wouldn't you know it, a guard caught him." For this offense, my dad's legs were locked in stocks attached to his bed. Ten days passed before guards released him from this confinement and took him away for interrogation. He was never seen again. Shumaker concluded that "(Norm) was subjected to torture and succumbed in the process." Other prisoners, in cells down the hall from the interrogation room, reported hearing the "sounds of torture ... a loud scuffle and then silence." My father's remains were disinterred from the Ba Huyen Cemetery in Hanoi in 1974 and returned to us.”
The location of Norman Schmidt's grave has not been identified.
(CBR; VVMW; SCR October 05, 1951 6:1, SCSn September 5, 1966 1:4; Task Force Omega, Norman Schmidt, http://www. taskforceomegainc.org/s091.html, [16 Sept 2008] Article By Janet Schmidt Zupan, For The Washington Post, March 26. 2005 7:36PM, http://www.cmonitor.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20050326/ REPOSITORY/503260334/1028/OPINION02, [16 Sept 2008])