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Harry Schmidt
Maj Harry Schmidt with his wife
Nickname call sign Psycho
Service/branch  United States Air Force
 United States Navy
Years of service 1987–2007
Rank Major
Unit 170th Fighter Squadron
Battles/wars Operation Desert Storm
Operation Enduring Freedom
Awards Air Medal w/ combat V

Harry Schmidt was a Major in the Illinois Air National Guard and was at one time an instructor at the Navy's elite TOPGUN fighter pilot school. Major Schmidt is a 1987 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy where he was the starting goalie on the soccer team.[1]

Friendly fire[edit | edit source]

On April 17, 2002 over Afghanistan, while flying an F-16, Schmidt, in spite of orders to hold fire, dropped a 500-pound laser-guided bomb on members of the 3rd Battalion of the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry during an anti-tank and machine-gun exercises. The Tarnak Farm incident resulted in eight wounded and four dead: Sgt Marc Leger, Cpl Ainsworth Dyer, Pte Richard Green and Pte Nathan Smith. On July 6, 2004, Schmidt was found guilty of dereliction of duty and is no longer allowed to pilot Air Force aircraft.

Schmidt (whose flight name was "Psycho"), and his flight lead, Major William Umbach, were returning from a 10-hour patrol. They were flying at more than 15,000 feet when they spotted surface fire. Claiming Umbach was under attack, Schmidt asked flight control permission to fire his 20 mm cannons, to which flight control replied "hold fire." Four seconds later, Schmidt said he was "rolling in, in self defense." He dropped a laser-guided bomb 35 seconds later.

On September 11, 2002, Schmidt and Umbach were officially charged with 4 counts of negligent manslaughter, 8 counts of aggravated assault, and 1 count of dereliction of duty, but Schmidt's charges were later reduced (on June 30, 2003) to dereliction of duty. He was initially offered non-judicial punishment proceedings before Lt. Gen. Bruce Carlson, 8th Air Force Commander, on June 19, 2003, which he declined to accept, demanding trial by court-martial. The charge was referred to a court-martial on June 30, 2003. On June 24, 2004—in connection with negotiations between the prosecution and Schmidt's attorneys—Schmidt was allowed to reverse his earlier demand for trial by court-martial and accept the previously offered non-judicial punishment proceedings.[2][3] The charges against Umbach were later dismissed.

Schmidt has apologized for the incident, but he has never apologized for his role in it.[4]

Go pills[edit | edit source]

According to the defense lawyers of the two pilots, Schmidt and Umbach were told by their superiors to use "go pills" (amphetamines) on their missions, and blamed the incident on the drugs. Schmidt's defense also blamed the fog of war, specifically poor and needlessly complex communication procedures regarding the identification of friendly forces on the ground.

After a closed, non-judicial punishment hearing held at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana, Schmidt was found guilty on July 6, 2004 of dereliction of duty and was docked nearly $5,700 in pay and reprimanded. The reprimand, written by Lt. Gen. Carlson as part of the non-judicial punishment said Schmidt had "flagrantly disregarded a direct order", "exercised a total lack of basic flight discipline", and "blatantly ignored the applicable rules of engagement."[5]

On July 8, 2004, Schmidt's lawyer Charles Gittins announced plans to appeal the ruling and to file a lawsuit against the Air Force over the public release of documents in the case.[6] On April 7, 2006, Schmidt filed a lawsuit complaining of violations of the Privacy Act for the release.[7] On September 20, 2007 the lawsuit was dismissed, with the judge writing in her decision that "the competing public interest in disclosure clearly outweighs Schmidt's privacy interest."[8]

The wounded[edit | edit source]

The eight wounded in the incident were Sergeant Lorne Ford, Corporal René Paquette, Corporal Curtis Hollister, Corporal Brett Perry, Corporal Brian Decaire, Private Norman Link, Master Corporal Stanley P. Clark and Corporal Shane Brennan.

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. "Harry Schmidt's War" Chicago Magazine. April 2005
  2. "'Friendly fire' pilots avoid courts martial" BBC News 19 June 2003
  3. "National Briefing | South: Louisiana: No Court-Martial In Mistaken Bombing." By Ariel Hart, New York Times. June 25, 2004 (by subscription)
  4. "'Friendly fire' pilot relives incident" CBC Newsworld. June 6, 2005
  5. Verdict and Letter of Reprimand CBC News July 6, 2004
  6. "National Briefing | Midwest: Illinois: Pilot Loses Appeal In Deaths Of Canadians." By Ariel Hart, New York Times. August 5, 2004 (subscription)
  7. U.S. "Friendly Fire" pilot suing Air Force" CBC Newsworld, July 8, 2004
  8. http://cnews.canoe.ca/CNEWS/Canada/2007/09/22/4518590-ap.html

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