Norman Schmidt was born on July 7, 1926, in Alhambra, California. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy on March 1, 1944, and after completing basic training he was trained in Aviation Ordnance, as a Radar Operator, and as a Combat Aircrew Member before serving on Kwajalein in the Pacific Ocean from October 1945 until he left active duty on June 14, 1946. Schmidt then completed his bachelor's degree at San Jose State College and was commissioned a 2d Lt in the U.S. Air Force through the Air Force ROTC program at the college on June 24, 1949, going on active duty beginning August 19, 1950. Lt Schmidt completed flight training and was awarded his pilot wings in September 1951, and then completed F-51 Mustang Combat Crew Training before deploying to Korea in January 1952. He flew 75 combat missions in Korea in the F-51 and the F-86 Sabre before returning to the U.S. in October 1952. His next assignment was as a test pilot with the 4927th Test Squadron and the 4925th Test Group at Kirtland AFB, New Mexico, from November 1952 to August 1960, followed by service as an Operations Officer with Headquarters 13th Air Force on Taiwan from August 1960 to August 1962. Maj Schmidt served on the staff of the 4500th Operations Squadron at Langley AFB, Virginia, from September 1962 to September 1964, and then as an F-104 Starfighter pilot with the 476th Tactical Fighter Squadron at George AFB, California, from September 1964 to May 1966. During this time, he flew 27 combat missions in Southeast Asia while on temporary duty from April to July 1965. His next assignment was as an F-104 pilot with the 435th Tactical Fighter Squadron at George AFB from May to July 1966, and then deployed to Udorn Royal Thai AFB, Thailand, from July 1966 until he was forced to eject over North Vietnam and was taken as a Prisoner of War on September 1, 1966. After spending 365 days in captivity, Col Schmidt was tortured to death at the hands of his North Vietnamese captors on August 31, 1967. He was officially listed as Missing in Action until February 14, 1974, during which time he was promoted from Major to Colonel. His remains were returned to the U.S. on March 6, 1974.
His Air Force Cross Citation reads:
The President of the United States of America, authorized by Section 8742, Title 10, United States Code, awards the Air Force Cross to Colonel Norman Schmidt for extraordinary heroism in military operations against an opposing armed force while a Prisoner of War in North Vietnam from September 1966 to August 1967. Through his extraordinary heroism and willpower, in the face of the enemy, Colonel Schmidt reflected the highest credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.