25 September 1968 – Norman Macleod Paulsen was born on October 6, 1945, in Elmsford, NY. His mother said, “Ever since he was a little boy, he dreamed of flying.” He had enlisted in the Air Force and began his tour on August 3, 1968. He had the rank of First Lieutenant. On a mission
In his words…
“As MISTY pilots we flew 2-seat F-100F Super Saber fighters in North Vietnam finding targets and calling in fighters to destroy them. We would alternate seats, front and back on each mission and it was typically a temporary assignment for three months before returning to our permanent bases in South Vietnam. We normally had 15 pilots assigned to the mission and as a pilot gained experience and was nearing the end of his MISTY tour he would train the new comers. As luck would have it, my tour lasted seven months because when it became my turn to return home there either wasn’t anyone to replace me or a person assigned to replace me was shot down and I stayed a little longer. This scenario went on for a little while and I acquired the role of the Tactics and Training Officer and I flew with and trained many new arrivals.
The MISTY’s usually launched three missions each day lasting about four hours each with two or three airborne refuelings which gave us about 12 hours of coverage over Route Pack One on a normal day. Our call signs were Misty 11, 21 and 31; etc, and when we found “real hot” targets or had to run a RESCAP, (rescue mission when a pilot was shot down), we would fly longer. One morning I was on the early morning flight with a new pilot named John Kretz, from the Taco Guard stationed at Tuy Hoa, (he had four times as much time as I had in the F-100), and we found a SAM, (surface to air missile), on a transporter.
The North Vietnamese were experts at camouflage and it was nearly impossible to pick out a well-camouflaged surface to air missile mounted on a transport vehicle even though it was very large. Eventually the MISTY pilots became familiar enough with the trees and forest that we could detect a slight rectangular difference in the trees, or sometimes the cut branches used to cover the equipment would begin to look different than the surrounding vegetation after a few hours. To find this with a new pilot was the best training scenario one could hope for because as we discussed the relative nuances we were observing, between ourselves, he became an expert and, in the future, a very effective MISTY.
Anyway, after making a low pass, John was able to confirm that it indeed was a surface to air missile and got so excited he called Cricket, (airborne command and control), to send us some fighters, but they advised us it would be a while, and we were about to be relieved by MISTY 21 coming on station, so we passed the coordinates to them and RTB’d, (returned to base) to Phu Cat.
MISTY 21 called for fighters all morning, but the weather sucked and every time fighters arrived on scene, there was a large thunderstorm over the target prohibiting effective operations and when there was no storm, there were no fighters available. During Misty 21’s time on station, an F-105 piloted by Goose Gowan got nailed by 37MM or 57MM anti-aircraft guns and managed to make an emergency landing at Danang Air Base. When the ARVN (Army of North Vietnam) knew we had found a high-value target, and they had time to do so, they would move guns into the area and set up what we called a “flak trap” and they would sit and wait for our return. Later that same day I was scheduled to fly as Misty 31 with another new pilot named Chris Kellum. Because of the bad weather scenario, a number of fighters returned home with unexpended ordnance.
So we scheduled another Misty to follow us up north after our launch so we could find other targets. Chris had an outstanding ability for finding targets and when the next MISTY(41) got fighters that could not expend on the SAM transporter, he would send them up to us before they reached Bingo Fuel. This went on all afternoon and finally, when the weather got so bad that we could no longer find clear areas, (typical during the monsoon season), we heard Misty 41 announce that he was RTB and we headed home also.
Since I knew the exact location of the Missile Prime Mover and no one was working on taking it out just then, I decided I would do it. I flew past the target and reversed 180 degrees flying a curvilinear pass which consisted of a very fast high G rolling, descending turn back to the target. I am talking 500 knots and close to 8 G’s going down, pulling real hard because I was under the clouds and they were shooting furiously. MISTY pilots tried not to go under the clouds because if they did, the gunners could get an easier triangulation on us because they knew the altitude of the cloud base. It was raining hard and I rolled out for a 1 or 2-second burst of strafe but I didn’t get a chance to pull the trigger.
All of a sudden, I felt like I got hit in the belly a number of times with a baseball bat and I knew we were hit. As I pulled off I looked in the convex mirror and I thought the left wing and rear of the airplane were on fire. When you strafe, you’re at idle so I went to mil power and punched off the tanks. At this point, I didn’t know if Chris was alive or dead so I asked if he was OK over the intercom and his reply was “Off the chart, man, off the chart!” As we climbed out, I went to Guard, made a call that “MISTY 31 WAS HIT, ON FIRE AND GOING FEET WET TO EJECT”. We were about 6 miles from the coast and in the F-100, when you’re on fire, there’s nothing to do but eject. If you moved the throttle, the jet had a reputation for blowing up. I was in mil power in a clean airplane and by now was on the deck under the clouds so I could see when we crossed the coast and we were gaining speed rapidly. All of a sudden, I hear “Baaarooom, Baaarooom, Baaarooom” and I didn’t know what it was.
I looked around the cockpit and two lights were on, one was for cleaning the wings, which I had already done, and the other button right below it put down the tail hook. I asked Chris if he had cleaned the wings and he said yes, but what had really happened is that he had released the tail hook and the wind stream was pushing it up and slapping it against the bottom of the plane. We crossed the coast going nearly supersonic and I told Chris, “don’t bail out now we’re going too fast.” But I didn’t want to pull the throttle back for fear of blowing up. We went about 2 miles over the water and I pulled straight up to slow it down. The ideal bailout speed is 350 knots but we didn’t hit that until we went through 26,000 feet. We were really cruising!
I kicked it over and looked down at the Christmas Tree and it indicated that there was a “fire” light in the front of the engine and an “overheat” light in the back of the engine. I said “Chris, it shows we’ve still got some fire but I don’t see it in my mirror anymore so I’m going to level and off and try to stay with this thing. If you want to eject you can, but clean up your cockpit and be ready”. He said he wanted to stay with me so he set the switch in the back of the plane that would let him eject both of us. I told him to get a hold of the handles and if this thing blows up, eject us. Some F-4’s had been diverted to look us over, but it took them 100 miles to catch us. We continued to fly at mil power because I still didn’t want to pull the throttle back. The fighters came up alongside and looked us over and told us that we’d gotten shot up real good, and that they could still see some fire in the fuselage. We planned to land at Danang, but Panama Control told us the base was totally socked in with a huge thunderstorm so we headed to Chu Lai which was a Marine base further south.
We needed to get on the ground as soon as possible because we were still looking at two fire lights and we were still in mil power and that makes it difficult to slow down, descend and land, so with my heart in my throat, I pulled the throttle back. It was raining really hard and I reached down to initiate the rain removal system as we turned short final… and we lost power! (It turned out that the rain removal switch on an F-100F-15 and the inlet de-ice switch were reversed. I’d inadvertently turned on the inlet anti-ice and now with the loss of power, I wasn’t going to make the runway).
Again, with my heart in my throat, I pushed the throttle forward. Before this, I had told the tower to have the fire trucks at the approach end barrier because with the hook down we planned to immediately stop right there. Naval and Marine Military fields have their arresting cable in the middle of the runway, but my idea was that I’d take the barrier at the end of the runway which they call the “abort barrier” and it was raining so hard we could not see as far as the middle of the runway. (This was my second time taking the approach end barrier in an airplane on fire as I had done it successfully a month or so earlier at Danang….no sweat).
After stopping we thought we were still on fire and there were no fire trucks. They were a mile down the runway… so we pinned our seats and shut down, opened the canopy and I climbed out over the nose of the plane. Chris decided to get out of the aircraft by climbing over my seat and leaping off the rail with the idea of grabbing the refueling boom which is about a 5” diameter pipe and swinging to the ground. Well that big pipe was wet and slippery and he couldn’t hold on to it and he was big fellow and he landed flat on his back on the runway, (about 12 feet down), it knocked the wind out of him, but fortunately, he had his helmet on or it could have killed him.
We caught a ride in a Caribou back to Phù Cát Air Base and had a big time in the bar that night. But Chris wasn’t there, so we went looking for him and found him in his room reading the Bible. The next day a North American tech rep called me from Chu Lai and said he had never seen an aircraft that burned up make it back. He told me that the 5 or 7 strand elevator cable had one wire left. Had I known that we would have ejected. He went on to say that the reason I thought the wing was on fire was because the primary fuel tank that feeds the engine and is fed by all the auxiliary tanks was hit and as I pulled up from the target the exhaust was igniting the escaping fuel and that’s why I saw fire. As I told him the story, he interrupted me when I told him we pulled straight up vertically to slow down and he said that was what saved us. He said that by pulling up vertically it allowed the fuel accumulating in the belly to drain out through the afterburner eyelids and then later as we were cruising very fast in mil power the torn up belly allowed air to enter and continually allowed leaking fuel to evacuate out the back. PTL ! MISTY 50.”
Wells Jackson is known as someone who will take the F-100 to its limit. He was instrumental in the rescue of Scotch 03. (see: Https://mistyvietnam.com/the-history/rescued-misty-pilots/) When asked about that mission he says, “These real American heroes hung it all out to do what every American fighting man would expect them to do. All of us were confident that every effort would be made to rescue us if we went down…PERIOD!!” For more, read about him in the book Misty: First Person Stories of the F-100 Fast FACs in the Vietnam War https://mistyvietnam.com/