CHARLES “CHARLIE” HUSTON

NAVY, VIETNAM

Charlie Huston’s birth date is memorable, of course to him and his mother, but also for the fact he was born December 8th, 1941 in the Pearl Harbor Naval Hospital. His mother had watched through the window of her hospital room as the Japanese bombers flew by bombing the base and went into labor!

His parents were originally from Findlay. After his father graduated from Findlay College in 1938, he enlisted into the Navy becoming an officer and a pilot. His father flew Kingfisher observation aircraft and PBY sea planes during WWII and later years of service. In 1964 Charlie’s dad retired from the Navy, returned to Findlay and for the next 26 years was the Safety Director for the City of Findlay.

Charlie’s family (which also included one brother and two sisters) was always on the move during his growing up years due to his dad’s service. Charlie would attend 14 schools during his 12 years of education. He graduated from Los Fresnos high school in South Texas at the age of seventeen, one of 40 seniors in his class. His parent’s being “officially” residents of Findlay brought Charlie back to Ohio where he attended Bowling Green State University. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology and Geology. Next stop for him was the US Navy where Charlie entered Aviation Officer Candidate school in Pensacola Florida. Knowing his eyesight would not allow him to become a pilot he trained as a bombardier/navigator officer. (His father was able to be with him when he was commissioned. See picture.)

After OCS Charlie spent the next year in flight school learning about the Douglas A3 Skywarrior. This aircraft was nicknamed “The Whale” as it was the heaviest aircraft to launch from aircraft carriers. Originally designed for bomber duty, it had been converted to a long-range aerial refueling tanker. Charlie’s A3 squadron was assigned to the aircraft carrier Coral Sea. For six months the Coral Sea was stationed in the South China Sea off the coast of Vietnam. The A3’s would meet and refuel aircraft returning from bombing runs in North Vietnam.

After his first tour at sea Charlie returned to Virginia Beach where he trained on the new Grumman A-6 Intruder, a twin jet attack aircraft capable of carrying a payload of 28 500-pound bombs while launching off an aircraft carrier. The unique cockpit design had the pilot and bombardier/navigator sitting side by side. (The A-6 would drop more ordnance than B-52’s during the Vietnam War.) His squadron, VA 85, was assigned to the carrier USS America and dispatched to the South China Sea. In addition to the A-6 being utilized bombing hard targets in North Vietnam which included railroads, bridges, roads, oil facilities and runways, four of the twelve A-6’s in his squadron were specifically set up with guided missiles. Their primary targets were North Vietnamese entrenched and mobile SAM launching sites. 

Charlie and his pilot alternated every other mission between doing bombing runs to flying seek out and destroy missions of VC SAM sites. On SAM missions they would “tempt” the VC by “allowing” their plane to be tagged by the brief intermittent radar bursts from the ground. Charlie’s job was to recognize the radar signal, lock on it and quickly fire missiles that would follow the signal back to the target.

(As our conversation came to an end Charlie shared one more incident with me that had earned himself and his pilot being awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. He has never shared it before as he never wanted the accolades and he had kept quiet back then so his mother would not find out how dangerous his work was.)

On August 31st, 1968 his plane was assigned to seek out SAM sites. As they flew over North Vietnam their plane was tagged and locked on by enemy radar. Two SAM missiles were immediately launched towards their plane. The two-man crew calmly held their position with SAM’s inbound while Charlie locked on the signal and fired a missile at the active SAM site. Fortunately, their missile was faster and destroyed the mobile launching site which disabled the guidance systems of the two, fast approaching, SAM’s. Only then did the pilot break off and take evasive action while both men watched as the missiles passed closely by but now longer locked on them. (See official citation below)

After six months off the coast of North Vietnam, Charlie’s squadron rotated back to the states. He volunteered for a third tour but was assigned instead to train new bombardier/navigator officers. 

Charlie documented most of his flights with a camera he always carried. He would make use of the ship’s dark room to develop his pictures until the Navy started confiscating them as “Top Secret” due to their clarity and accuracy. He then began to ship his film back to the states to be developed into slides. (One such facility was located in Findlay Ohio.) Charlie served from 1964-1970, having earned the rank of Lieutenant before leaving the Navy and moving to Findlay. 

A skilled photographer, Charlie quickly found work with the Findlay police department as a crime scene and surveillance photographer. He was also called upon to take mug shots. This lasted for approximately 18 months. He worked for a bit at RCA before settling in at Millington Plastics, a plastic injection molding plant in Upper Sandusky that manufactured a variety of auto parts. He started out as a foreman and worked up to the General Supervisor position during his almost twenty years there. 

His most important “success” there however was meeting an attractive single mom who worked in Quality Control at his plant. He was smitten by Joetta and they were married in 1973. Charlie adopted her three children, Jonnica, Jason and Ryan as his own. They would add two more children, Jeremy and Benjamin, into their family. (The couple have seven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.)

Charlie finished up the last six years of his working career at Molten Industries in Findlay where he wore several hats including being the manufacturing manager and then moving into the human resources manager position. 

Now seventy-seven Charlie keeps busy and “young” building an antiques store in Bucyrus focusing on collecting “Findlay Glass” jars and oil lamps. He spends much of his free time visiting many local auctions. He is also still very skilled at the local pistol range. He has always been an avid hunter. Charlie is very proud of his family.