My Story
"Moncla Memories"

Memories of John Schmidt

Note: Unless otherwise noted, these are purely my "memory recalls" that I experienced like they were my own memories, even though I know they could not be my memories. I have no way of knowing if any of these were experienced by pilot Gene Moncla.

The Fishing Trip

Lt. Schmidt1st Lt. John W. Schmidt

This "possible memory" was recalled on September 2, 2001 as I was crossing from Minnesota into Wisconsin. I was on my way to Madison, and was feeling quite happy as I drove down a long hill into the Mississippi River Valley, that forms the border between Minnesota and Wisconsin. As I crossed the long bridge over the Mississippi, I started to experience the sense that I had been here before on a fishing trip. As I drove on, I could remember that I had been with another man and that we had stayed overnight in a motel in La Crosse, a small city on the Wisconsin side of the Mississippi River. I almost decided to drive into La Crosse so I could look for the motel, but I wasn't sure if I would be able to find it and I didn't know if it would still be there. I was at that time also too anxious to get to Madison, and I didn't have a lot of time to dally on that trip.

At this point, I wasn't sure of who the man was who I was with on this trip. It was a few days later, when I had stopped in Madison after returning from upper Michigan, that I made a trip to the newspaper archives at the Wisconsin Historical Society in Madison. It was there that I first read the articles about Moncla and Wilson's disappearance. It was also then that I learned about the F-89 crash that had happened the same day in Madison. As I read the two newspaper accounts, I was experiencing all sorts of strange emotions as I took notes. One thing that shocked me was that the pilot of the other aircraft had lived on the same street as the Monclas. As I studied the picture of the pilot, I started to remember him as a person. It was then that I realized that he was the man I could remember was with Moncla on the fishing trip to La Crosse. As I remembered this, I could remember other things about the trip and other things about John Schmidt.

Later that afternoon, I drove to Sherman Terrace to see the apartments. At the time, I had written down from news stories that the Schmidts' apartment was at #10 and the Monclas' apartment was at #15 Sherman Terrace. I remember walking on the sidewalk past the open area where #12, #13 and #14 are situated. I felt like I should turn, but I continued on because I knew number 15 was farther on. It was only later that night that I reread the news stories and realized that another news story had stated that the Monclas lived at #12. It was that night when I had the memory recall of being in the apartment at night. This was the incident when Gene came home late and Bobbie was already putting the kids to bed. She had told Gene that she would do this herself and it was okay for him to just sit and relax. It seemed like she could sense his unease. Anyways, I am getting ahead of myself here. My recollection of my sense of space and layout of the apartment was very vivid in my memory. I could remember that I was sitting in an armchair. The chair faced the rest of the apartment and had a view towards the bedrooms. I knew the master bedroom was on the right and kids' bedroom on the left. The dining area was to my left and I could look through the window, down and across towards the Schmidts apartment which was on the ground floor. My recollection was out apartment was on the second floor.

It was later that I began to recall other things about the fishing trip. I remember that John had asked Gene if he would come with him and Gene had asked his wife if he could go. She had said that it was okay for him to go and he could think of it as a birthday gift as his birthday was coming up. My recollection was that they went on the trip a week or so before Gene's birthday, which was October 21. This implies that the fishing trip was about the middle of October. I also would later remember that Gene had bought some long underwear for the trip, because John had told him that it would be quite chilly sitting all day on the river in October.

Devil's Lake

Devil's Lake

This lake is located in a state park about thirty miles north of Madison. When I went here in 2002, I had a strange feeling I had been here before. There is a trail that goes around the lake at the far end of the shore. It passes below a large slide of boulders that can be seen in the photograph. When I stopped at the bottom of this boulder field, I experienced two strange and related memories.

One was a memory of being there with my family and the Schmidts. I remember that John and I were fooling around like kids, scrambling up the boulders and standing at the top, saying "I'm the King of the Castle." Of course Bobbie and John's wife wanted us to stop fooling around because our sons also wanted to climb up the boulders, and they were still too small to do this.

The other memory I have is of a time when I (as Gord) was with my family, (the Heaths), up in Jasper National Park. This was in 1962 or 1963 when we lived in Hinton, Alberta which is just a short distance outside the park. I think the location of this other memory was at Miette Hot Springs. There was a similar slope strewn with boulders and my brothers and I were climbing them and playing the same game. I suddenly stopped because I could remember a time when I had climbed up some similar rocks with a friend. I could remember that was a long time ago when I was a different person and I had a wife who was down below and children, who were with my wife. I am quite sure that I told my brothers about this memory, and they thought I was just making this up. My memory was that I felt weird having this very real memory that didn't make any real sense to me.

It was also very strange for me to simultaneously experience two memories that relate to a past life memory. One being the original memory as a different person at the original location, the other a memory of myself as a seven year old at a somewhat similar location, two thousand miles away, when I remember myself remembering the original memory. Does memory recall get any weirder than this?

John Schmidt's Crash

Schmidt Apartment#10 Sherman Terrace - Schmidt's Apartment my recall is that Schmidts lived on ground floor right side from back

When I first went to the Wisconsin Historical Society Archives in the fall of 2001, I first chcked out newspaper microfilm from late November. This was just the day after I first arrived in Madison. It had just been the day before that I experienced a fairly detailed "memory recall" that I had been fishing with a friend in LaCrosse Wisconsin. To my shock, the first news story I read was about the crash of an F-89 in Madison. Reading the article about the F-89's disappearance over Lake Superior, the next day, I discovered that Lt. Moncla's wife had been at Lt. Schmidt's apartment, comforting Schmidt's widow when she was informed that her husband was missing over Lake Superior.

When I read about this, I realized that (as far as I know), it was John Schmidt that I could remember was Gene's friend from the air force. When I unexpectedly met Gene's wife on a visit to Louisiana in 2002, I asked her if the Gene and John were friends. She replied that they were neighbors and that they "went places and did things" together (which I took to mean that they socialized fairly regularly). She also told me that she had left the children with an "upstairs babysitter" when she was over visiting Mrs. Schmidt after she heard that her husband died. It was so emotional to hear Gene's wife talking about her hearing about her husbands disappearance that I couldn't ask any more questions, feeling like I was bringing back memories of a tragic time.

The cause of john's crash was never determined. His F-89 had pulled out of a long dive, the canopy had been ejected, the F-89 had flipped over and then dived into the swamp beside Lake Wingra in Madison. There had been some cockpit conversation heard from the crew, which sounded like accidental transmissions, but it had not revealed anything about the cause of the crash.

When I talked to Bill Mingenbach on the phone (around 2002), I asked him if they had heard about John's crash that day. He indicated that they had heard about the crash about the time they arrived on the base to report for Alert Duty. It had been my "recall" that Gene was quite upset when he heard that it was his neighbor (and friend) who had been killed in the crash, but that Gene didn't want to show his feelings on duty. My memory was that the time had just dragged on while they played cards in the Ready Room, until the alert horn was sounded.

Lake WingraLake Wingra approimate location where John's plane crashed