(On this date, August 7, 2017, the Osborne County Hall of Fame is pleased to present for the first time anywhere the third of the five members of the OCHF Class of 2017.)
Harold’s Early Years
by Shirley (Mischler) Davis, sister
Harold Louis Mischler was born January 9, 1946 to Louis and Elsie Mischler, at the Beloit Hospital, known now as the Mitchell County Hospital, in Beloit, Kansas. He was their younger child, having two sisters, Carolyne (Mischler) Sage and Shirley (Mischler) Davis. He grew up on a farm 12 miles southwest of Osborne, Kansas, in the Kill Creek Community. He attended the one-room, eight-grade Mayview Elementary School for eight years. The school year was in session from September 1st until April 30th. The kids in country schools only went eight months so they could help with the spring farming. He then attended Osborne High School, graduating in 1963.
While in high school, Harold played both football and basketball. He played the trombone in the school band. He was a member of the Future Farmers of America (FFA) and several other organizations. He started college at Kansas Wesleyan University (KWU) in Salina, Kansas, completing his freshman year. He played football while at KWU. From there, he transferred to Kansas University (KU) at Lawrence, Kansas, and graduated in 1968 with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business. Before graduation at KU, he was selected to attend Officers Candidate School and was assigned to Lackland Air Force Base near San Antonio, Texas. Upon his graduation, June 28, 1968, he was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the U. S. Air Force and assigned to Vance Air Force Base, in Enid, Oklahoma for one year of pilot training.
Harold was a member of the Kill Creek Evangelical United Brethren Church, which later became the Kill Creek United Methodist Church, and the Osborne Masonic Lodge.
All through his school years Harold was an avid reader. He would read whatever was available. When he didn’t have library books, he would read the World Book Encyclopedia. He would much rather do that than go out to do the farming and other chores that needed to be done!
As a child, Harold especially enjoyed playing with his dogs. He spent most of his summers fishing with his sister on the creek where he lived. On Sundays, his dad would take them to fish in one of the area ponds. In the fall and winter he enjoyed hunting rabbits, squirrel, pheasants, and quail.
Harold was a people person that greatly enjoyed spending time with his family and friends. He especially enjoyed children and spending time with his nieces and nephews.
In the summers while he was on break from college, Harold helped in the construction of the Glen Elder Dam and Reservoir. The summer between his junior and senior years in college, he worked in Iceland, for Icelandic Airlines, working with their cost accountants and cost analysts.
Lieutenant Mischler was awarded his United States Air Force silver pilot wings at Vance Air Force Base on August 1, 1969, and was assigned to fly a Military Airlift Command C-141 Cargo plane out of Charleston Air Force Base, Charleston, South Carolina. During this two-year period he had the rare experience of traveling extensively and visiting many distant places most people only hear about. He was promoted to First Lieutenant December 1, 1969. In February 1971 he was upgraded from Co-pilot to First Pilot or Aircraft Commander.
On June 27, 1971, he was promoted to Captain. The following August he was assigned to duty in Southeast Asia and reported to Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, for specialized training on the OV-10. He left San Francisco February 28, 1972, to begin his overseas duty, being sent to NKP (Nakhom Phanom) Thailand.
Hal, as he came to be known by friends, had compassion for people and their well-being was one of his great characteristics. This was evident in his relationship to those around him during all of his experiences in life.
He made many, many close friends during his formal education and military training. He took great interest in visiting and learning of the culture and history of the people as he flew the C-141. During his tour of duty in Southeast Asia he participated with his squadron in teaching a class of Thai children. Harold volunteered for many rescue missions to help fellow pilots who were downed. His devotion to others won him many friends who loved and admired him.
Most of the fighting over Laos on December 23, 1972, took place in an area known as the Plain of Jars. While directing his squadron in air strikes, Harold’s plane was shot down by ground fire and he lost his life. He was 26 years old and had served 225 days in combat.
The day before Hal was shot down, he had called his cousin, Senior Master Sergeant Elmo “Mitch” Mischler, who was stationed in Laos at the same time, and they had made arrangements to spend Christmas Day together. A French chef was going to prepare their dinner for them. This would have been the day after he lost his life. Mitch accompanied Harold’s body back home to Kansas from Laos. A public memorial service for Harold was held at Osborne High School, after which he was laid to rest in the Osborne City Cemetery with full military honors.
If you are ever in Washington, D.C., be sure to find Harold Mischler’s name on the Vietnam Memorial, located at 01W 104 – a fitting and lasting tribute to the promise and sacrifice of this honored member of the Osborne County Hall of Fame.
Star Pilot Volunteered For Dangerous, Secret Flights
Written by Raelean Finch
May 25, 2014
It was late in 1972. President Richard Nixon was on the verge of being re-elected. He had cut troop levels in Vietnam by 70,000. Rumors of peace talks entered a pool of speculation already churning with rumors of a secret war being waged by the CIA in Laos, a “neutral” country neighboring Vietnam.
Shirley Mischler-Davis had no idea her brother Hal had just signed up to fight in it.
“We didn’t even know where he was at the time,” Mischler-Davis said of her brother’s involvement in the secret war. “One day he just sent everything home and said that as far as we were concerned, he was no longer connected with the Air Force.”
After Hal Mischler joined the Ravens, he shipped all his possessions home to his parents. Officially, he was no longer in the Air Force but one of 22 pilots fighting the CIA’s secret war in Laos.
Hal Mischler was a good pilot — one of the best. After graduating from Kansas University in 1968, he got a commission in the Air Force and commenced crisscrossing the globe flying cargo planes. In February 1972, Mischler shipped off to Thailand to pilot high-flying reconnaissance planes called OV-10’s over Vietnam as a forward air controller. He’d find enemy positions, then guide bombers in so they could drop their cargo.
Then, as Mischler’s tour was coming to an end, he made a fateful decision: to join the Ravens.
Only the best and the brightest, the craziest and the bravest Americans served in Laos during the Vietnam War. Officially assigned to the Ambassador to Laos as civilians, the Ravens were a group of elite pilots of no more than 22 men at any one time, who flew the Cessna O-1 Bird Dogs during the Southeast Asian Conflict as forward air controllers for the CIA’s covert operation in Laos. They flew in support of the Royal Laotian Army against contingents of the North Vietnamese Army that had infiltrated Laos. They went to war in blue jeans, T-shirts, and sometimes cowboy hats. It was a symbol of their disdain for the conventional, “bureaucratic” military. They were the Ravens, fighting a secret air war in the jungles of Laos, almost forgotten by everyone . . . They suffered the highest casualty rate in the Indochina war – over 30%. Their deeds were the stuff of whispered legends.
Instead of relatively safe OV-10’s, the Ravens flew low over the Laotian countryside in single engine, two-seater, Cessna-like planes. They searched for North Vietnamese positions that ground troops couldn’t see, sometimes goading well-camouflaged gunners into firing at them to reveal their locations. To guide bombers to the enemy locations they found, the Ravens would sometimes use smoke grenades, other times landmarks. Ideally, the Ravens provided pinpoint grid coordinates. Sometimes, when bombers weren’t available, the Ravens strapped high explosive bombs to their wings and dropped them on the targets themselves, an extraordinarily risky technique.
“We were 25. We were immortal,” said Jack Shaw, former Raven and longtime friend of Mischler’s.
Mischler’s reputation and rank earned him a position as a senior Raven immediately upon his entry into his program. He landed in a tough spot. The war in Laos was getting hotter, but pilots and planes were in short supply.
Lew Hatch, whom Mischler had replaced as senior Raven, said the two of them frequently flew upwards of 180 hours each month, nearly double the flying time allowed by Air Force regulation.
On December 23, 1972, Mischler and his Laotian co-pilot were shot down over Saravene, a hotly contested piece of terrain in southern Laos tenuously held by out-numbered and out-gunned Thai soldiers. It was a mission Hatch had been slated to fly. But Mischler was tired of flying training flights and yearned to get back in the fight. And it was quite a fight in Saravene.
“In that one 24-hour period, the 23rd and 24th of December , we lost 40 percent of the Ravens that were in country. For years after the war — after we came back — I was really depressed over Christmas,” Hatch said. “It took me until about 10 years ago before I really got over that.
A few weeks after Mischler-Davis’ parents received her brother’s trunks packed with uniforms and Thai souvenirs that he couldn’t take with him to Laos, they received Hal Mischler’s body. Among his effects was the camera he’d taken with him to his secret mission in Laos. There was no film in it.
McCook, Nebraska – Friday, November 21, 2008
Letter to the Editor
I read Dick Trail’s article (My Gomer, Tuesday, November 18th) with great interest.
I grew up on a farm in rural Osborne County, Kansas. In our church community was a young man named Harold Mischler; his parents and mine were neighbors and friends for many years. Harold’s mother was my third-grade teacher.
Harold was 10 years older than me. I remember him as one of the “big kids,” kind and decent but worshiped from afar, if you know what I mean. I have two older brothers, and they knew him better than I did.
Harold was one of the Ravens that Dick speaks of in his article. I will always remember getting out of school to attend his funeral when they brought his body home from Vietnam, a few short weeks before the peace treaty was signed with North Vietnam in 1973
I really didn’t know much about the Ravens until recently, when I found some information about them on the internet. I knew that Harold flew small single-engine planes, and I knew he died in Laos.
I have been to the Wall in Washington, D.C., twice to see his name. It’s very close to the last of those who lost their lives in Vietnam.
I found the following remarks posted on a website by a David Preston, a contemporary of his:
A True Hero: Hal Mischler
“Hal Mischler was my best friend. His SEA [Southeast Asia] tour commenced about 7 months after mine. He was my roommate at both OTS and in pilot training. We both attended the University of Kansas and traveled to OTS together. From those early beginnings in 1968 until his extraordinarily unfortunate death in 1972 over Saravan, Laos, Hal was my friend and one of my heroes. As a search-and-rescue airborne mission commander, I monitored some of his strike missions over the Ho Chi Minh Trail as a OV-10 Forward Air Controller (FAC, Nail 81). Hal was a great pilot and FAC. His deep baritone voice came over the airways and his hearty chuckle touched everyone that knew him. Hal worked as a FAC on several aircrew rescue missions that I coordinated and his efforts contributed greatly to the success of those missions. He volunteered for the Raven FAC program during the last months of his scheduled tour in SEA. This perilous duty involved flying in support of the “secret war in Laos” and supported directly the anti-communist forces fighting in Laos. On December 23, 1972, just weeks before the peace treaty signing in Paris that ended our war against North Vietnam, Hal was shot down while piloting his small 0-1 Cessna over Saravane.”
Hence, his name is listed on the last panel of the Vietnam Wall along with the other final casualties of the war.
Submitted by Gary Shike – Oberlin, Kansas
SOURCES: Shirley (Mischler) Davis, Salina, Kansas; Gary Shike, Oberlin, Kansas; “Covert Ops: The CIA’s Secret War in Laos” by Robert E. Parker, Jr. (Macmillan, 1997, 272 pages); Montana Standard, Butte, Montana, December 28, 1972; Osborne County Farmer, December 28, 1972; Salina Journal, August 20, 1968; http://www.fac-assoc.org/memorial/; http://www.airforce.togetherweserved.com/; www2.ljworld.com/KU59/; http://www.mccookgazette.com; http://www.VirtualWall.org Ltd.