Tuesday, September 1, 2009

September 1, 1966

Three USAF aircraft were lost on this day in SEA, all on the same mission. The lunacy of using the F-104 Starfighter for missions it had no business being sent on claims another casualty.

F-104C 57-0913, 435TFS 8TFW, flying out of Udorn AB, Thailand. Maj. Norman Schmidt was flying an armed recon mission in North Vietnam, when his aircraft was hit and downed by AAA. Maj. Schmidt successfully ejected, was captured, and subsequently beaten to death by his captors.

A search and rescue effort was mounted to try and recover Maj. Schmidt. Two A-1E Skyraiders were lost during the effort.

A-1E 52-132648, 602ACS 14ACW, Udorn AB. Maj. Hubert Nichols was shot down by AAA, and died at the scene.

A-1E 52-132624, 602ACS 14ACW, Udorn AB. Capt. A. Minnick was also hit by AAA, but managed to nurse his stricken aircraft almost back to base. He successfully ejected and was recovered.

Search and Rescue for downed aviators was one of the most dedicated and sacred missions flown during the Vietnam war, and ever since. Of all the things that were done wrong in the Vietnam war, SAR was a shining example of what was done right. Every man flying a mission over hostile territory does so with the knowledge that his fellow US military personnel will do everything within their power (and many times above and beyond) to find and recover them. Search and Rescue operations picked up hundreds of aviators, many times very deep inside North Vietnam. Many SAR aircrew and aircraft were lost on these missions.

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