Remains Returned March 1974, Killed in Captivity

Name: Norman Schmidt
Rank/Branch: O4/US Air Force
Date of Birth: 07 July 1926
Home City of Record: Ben Lomond CA
Date of Loss: 01 September 1966
Country of Loss: North Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 173700N 1062100E (XE432444)
Status (in 1973): Prisoner of War
Category: 1
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: F104
Refno: 0442

Other Personnel in Incident: Hubert C. Nichols, Jr. (missing)

Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 30 June 1990 from one or more of
the following: raw data from U.S. Government agency sources, correspondence
with POW/MIA families, published sources, interviews. Updated by the P.O.W.


EGRESS: Called out of room for routine quiz and never seen again.

SYNOPSIS: The Douglas A1 Skyraider ("Spad") is a highly maneuverable,
propeller driven aircraft designed as a multipurpose attack bomber or
utility aircraft. The A1 was first used by the Air Force in its Tactical Air
Command to equip the first Air Commando Group engaged in counterinsurgency
operations in South Vietnam, and later used in a variety of roles, ranging
from multi-seat electronic intelligence gathering to Navy antisubmarine
warfare and rescue missions. The venerable fighter aircraft flew in more
than twenty model variations, probably more than any other U.S. combat

The general procedure for a rescue escort entailed two A1 aircraft flying
directly to the search area to look for sign of the downed crewman while two
other A1s escorted the rescue helicopter to the area. If it was necessary,
the A1s would attack enemy in the area with bombs, rockets and cannon fire
so that the helicopter could land.

Major Hubert C. Nichols, Jr. was an A1 pilot on a temporary duty assignment
to the 602nd Tactical Fighter Squadron based at Nakhon Phanom Airbase,
Thailand. At 1235 hours on September 1, 1966, Nichols departed the base as
the pilot of the lead aircraft in a flight of two A1Es (Sandy 31 and Sandy
32) on a search mission 13 miles northwest of Dong Hoi, Quang  Binh
Province, North Vietnam.

The weather was cloudy with a 500-foot ceiling. The mission was to locate
Major Norman Schmidt, whose F104 aircraft had been shot down by hostile
ground fire.

Nichols and his wingman, Capt. Alvie L. Minnick, were told by Crown Control
to pick up and orbit with two helicopters some 10 miles off shore. Sandy 31
and Sandy 32 remained as escort for approximately one hour and twenty
minutes at which time Crown Control told Sandy 31 (Nichols) that he was now
the "on-scene commander" and to proceed to the area and relieve two Navy A1s
who had been covering Schmidt's position.

Nichols and Minnick proceeded to Schmidt's location and spotted the flare
parachute from his aircraft at once. They continued their search, flying in
an east and south direction. At about 1510, still flying a search pattern
over Schmidt's general location, Minnick, observed heavy 37mm ground fire to
the right of their line of flight and radioed Nichols to make a fast turn to
the left. Minnick saw Nichols enter his turn, and his own aircraft was then
struck by ground fire and he lost sight of Nichols' aircraft. Being fully
occupied with maneuvering his damaged aircraft back to friendly territory,
the wingman made no further observation of the lead aircraft and no radio
transmissions were received from Maj. Nichols.

A Navy pilot of an A1H aircraft of Papoose flight from the aircraft carrier
USS INTREPID, who was flying in the area observed a burning aircraft and
reported its location. Nearby search units located the wreckage and, after
confirming that Maj. Nichols' aircraft was missing, searched the area for
about 30 minutes, but failed to see any signs of life. No parachute was seen
in the area and no electronic signals were received. Search efforts were
suspended at 1530 hours because of extremely heavy ground fire.

Capt. Minnick nursed his crippled aircraft almost back to the base at Nakhon
Phanom, but he was forced to eject near the base, and was subsequently
recovered by a "Jolly Green" flown by Oliver E. O'Maru, and was uninjured.

During 1 and 6 September 1966 Radio Hanoi broadcasts transcribed by the
Foreign Broadcast Information Service, claims were made of the shooting down
of U.S. aircraft in Quang Binh Province on 1 September 1966 and the capture
of the pilots. Although the newscasts varied as to the number and type of
planes shot down, the date and location coincide with the loss of Major
Nichols' aircraft. No names were mentioned in the broadcast.

Major Norman Schmidt was never rescued. He was captured by the North
Vietnamese and taken to Hanoi where he was held with other Americans in the
infamous "Hanoi Hilton," the Hoa Lo prison complex.

It was commonplace for American prisoners to be taken at regular intervals
for "interrogation" or "quiz" which sometimes amounted to brutal torture,
sometimes psychological, but more often physical in nature. One day in
August 1967, when Norm Schmidt was living in the area of Hoa Lo called
Little Vegas, he was taken to quiz and never returned. The quiz room was
fairly close to the cellblock area, and returning POWs reported that they
heard a scuffle, and when Schmidt did not return, they believed that the
Vietnamese had beaten him to death.

Norm Schmidt's remains were returned to U.S. control in March, 1974, one
year after his fellow POWs were released from Hanoi. No further information
was ever received about Major Nichols.

During regular "negotiation" sessions between the U.S. and Vietnam,
information was given to the Vietnamese in 1973, 1974 and 1975 on Major
Nichols in the hopes that the Vietnamese would provide further information
on him. The Vietnamese have denied any knowledge of the fate of Major

Since the war ended, over 10,000 reports relating to Americans prisoner,
missing or unaccounted for in Southeast Asia have been received by the U.S.
There is little question that the Vietnamese can provide information about
Hubert C. Nichols.

Tragically, many authorities who have reviewed the largely-classified
information relating to Americans missing in Southeast Asia have come away
with the belief that hundreds of Americans are still alive in captivity
today. Whether Hubert C. Campbell, Jr. is among them is not known. What is
certain, however, is that we must do everything in our power to bring these
men home.

Hubert C. Nichols, Jr. was promoted to the rank of Colonel during the period
he was maintained missing. Norman Schmidt was promoted to the rank of
Lieutenant Colonel during the period he was a prisoner of war.

                                                [lfr0612.95 06/18/95]

{NOTE- pictures were included in this file -- please contact LET FREEDOM RING
for a copy of this that includes the photos}


                        PRESS RELEASE -JUNE 12, 1995


Contact Persons: Arnold L. Beizer Tel. 203-524-1776
                 Walter "Radar" O'Reilly Tel. 813-843-0431

         NORMAN SCHMIDT - The accompanying photograph of Lieutenant Colonel
Norman Schmidt, Airforce Pilot who was shot down near Quang Binh, North
Vietnam in his F104 reveals that he was captured alive, yet his remains were
returned in 1974.  This photo of Lieutenant Colonel Schmidt shows him to be
alive in captivity in apparent good health.  Major Schmidt was captured and
held in the Hanoi Hilton also known as the Hoa Lo Prison.  It was believed
Schmidt was beaten to death in captivity.  Major Herbert C. Nichols, Jr. who
was looking for Schmidt's downed aircraft was himself downed in the same
vicinity and reports from Hanoi's radio broadcast claimed that his aircraft
had been shot down. The Vietnamese have denied knowledge of the whereabouts
of Major Nichols.  He's never returned.  Perhaps the Senate Investigating
Committee ought to do some more investigating on what happened to Schmidt
and Nichols.

                                                [insi09.94 09/24/94]

THE INSIDER                          SEPTEMBER 1994

136. Schmidt, Norman
He was reported by 142 returnees of which 14 reports were 1st hand direct
contact. B098 saw him as did C018, C099, D060, F047, F052, J025, L039, L042,
N022, P060, R039, R046, & S097 who saw him in HaLo & Little Vegas. D058 was
a prisoner with him in the same cell.


Column 1, is what is seen on the film
Column 2, is who is speaking
Column 3, is spoken TEXT from the film
PLEASE NOTE -- Some of the interrogation questions DO REPEAT, as tho
duplicated, but are on separate consecutively numbered pages in the
transcript... Spelling errors appear in the original]

                   P I L O T S     I N     P Y J A M A S

243. Photo                                     Lieutenant Commander Schmidt

                                                [ssrep7.txt 02/09/93]

                   SMITH 324 COMPELLING CASES

North Vietnam         Hubert C. Nichols,Jr.

On September 1, 1966, Nichols was scrambled from Thailand on a
search and rescue mission over Bo Trach District, Quang Binh, the
flight leader in a flight of two aircraft.  While over the target
area he began to receive hostile antiaircraft fire.  His wingman
was hit and turned back.  He never saw Nichols after that point. 

A Navy pilot later reported observing a crashed and burning
aircraft in the area Nichols was believed lost.  A search and
rescue mission was launched but was unable to locate any signs of
life or any beeper.  There was heavy antiaircraft in the area.

On September 6, 1966, Radio Hanoi announced the shoot down of a
number of aircraft on September 1, 1966.  Only two aircraft were
lost on that date, Major Nichols' aircraft and Major Norman
Schmidt's aircraft.  Major Schmidt was captured and died in
captivity.  His remains were repatriated in March 1974.  Major
Schmidt had been the object of Major Nichols search and rescue

Major Nichols was initially declared missing in action.  In March
1978 he was declared dead/body not recovered.  He was not confirmed
alive in the northern Vietnamese prison system.

A U.S. team in Vietnam recently reviewed documents which recorded
the shoot down of an aircraft and the apparent death of the pilot.
The date and location appear to correlate to this incident.


Painful Echoes Of My Father's Ordeal

By Janet Schmidt Zupan
Sunday, March 20, 2005; Page B07

I recently found a letter written by my mother just after my dad left for
his final tour in Vietnam. "It's been hectic," she began. "Norm's afraid he
won't get things done. He tried to fix up the whole house and the corral
before he left. I wanted him to forget it but he had to keep working. . . .
He's had a severe headache which has him worried. . . . It broke my heart to
see him climb into that airplane."

I remember that summer -- July, Mojave Desert, my sisters and I complaining
as we shoveled horse manure into a creaky wheelbarrow, my dad tamping
creosote posts plumb in an afternoon wind. I remember touching his shoulder
where he knelt to set a tile in his beautiful floor, trowel in hand, the
musty odor of concrete and Spanish brick in the air. I recall us all sitting
around the table, Dad blowing out the candles of his 40th birthday cake, and
the deep silence beyond the tear of wrapping paper and clipped ribbons. I
was 11. On the tarmac of George Air Force Base, I breathed in the smell of
his flight suit when he hugged me for the last time.

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 Convention.

In an audiotape in 1974, 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 Aug. 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.

These days, the unspeakable aspects of my father's death have reared back
into focus through the most shocking of sources: Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay
and Afghanistan. How many of us trusted in unwavering U.S. adherence to the
principles of the Geneva Convention? We committed to the accord, in good
part, as a way of securing the protection of our own soldiers. Yet, recent,
mounting evidence reveals that the United States has been engaging in
abhorrent interrogation methods sanctioned from the executive branch down.

Someone tell me, please, what marks the difference between the fatal
techniques used against my father, Col. Norman Schmidt -- labeled "war
criminal" -- and those used on "enemy combatant" Manadel Jamadi, whose death
in custody in Baghdad has been classified as a homicide?

What makes one instance an internationally recognized, heinous crime and the
other an increasingly condoned practice, something we're supposed to believe
is unfortunate but necessary? I cannot find the answer.

But I know that we owe it to our soldiers to treat prisoners of war and
conflict humanely, no matter the circumstances that led to their
incarceration, no matter the label they are given. Our national hesitation
and then silence, our lack of outcry for an independent, thorough
investigation into illegal detentions and torture, leave me grieving once
again, deeper now for what seems the futility and waste in my father's
honorable service and ultimate sacrifice in the name of the highest ideals
of freedom and decency.

The writer is a college instructor in Montana.


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