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Toward The Unknown:
Memoirs of an American Fighter Pilot 









Col. Chuck Maultsby was born in Greenville, North Carolina on June 7th, 1926. After his mother's death (when he was eight years old), and subsequent rejection by a callous father, he went to live with an aunt and uncle in Norfolk, Virginia.


   Chuck Maultsby was born to fly and was fixated on aircraft from the time he could walk. He spent much of his youth hanging around the small municipal airport near his Norfolk home doing anything he had to do to be near airplanes and their pilots, while hoping someone would offer him a ride.


   He worked multiple jobs after school to raise the money necessary to take flying lessons and soloed on his sixteenth birthday. He applied for the Army Air Corps cadet program on his eighteenth birthday; only to suffer the disappointment of seeing the program's suspension at the end of World War II.


   The Korean War provided the next oportunity to become a jet pilot, and Chuck Maultsby grabbed it, only to be shot out of the sky during his 17th combat mission; and then he endured 22 months as a Chinese prisoner of war all the while suffering "unpleasant" treatment.


   After the Korean War, he became a pilot-instructor at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada and won a spot on the Nellis Fighter Weapons Team of 1957; the team that swept every event at the "William Tell" competition, beating every other military fighter-pilot team in the U.S. and rest of the free world.


From there the Colonel became a member of the USAF Arial Demonstration Team, The THUNDERBIRDS (1958-1960).


   As a U-2 spyplane pilot, the Colonel found himself in the very dicey predicament of being detected by the Russians over their airspace at the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962. It's true to say that he very nearly was the cause of World War III.


   The next major phase of the Colonel's life was spent in Vietnam in 1967 where he flew 216 combat missions (a full third of those missions were flown in North Vietnam). He was awarded the Silver Star for gallantry in action for his mission in close support of American ground troops in dire straights.


   After the Vietnam experience, Col. Maultsby continued as a pilot-instructor and squadron commander at Davis-Monthan AFB, Tucson, Arizona, a staff officer at Tactical Air Command Headquarters at Langley AFB, Virginia, and finally, as the standards and evaluation officer for NATO Forces South in Naples, Italy.


Col. Maultsby was married to his wife, Jeanne, from 1949 until his death in 1998. They had three sons.




P.S. The Colonel even retells the story of his involvement in one of the most embarrasing scandals in military history involving the Chief of Staff of the Royal Australian Air Force...!                                                           
The book's foreward was written by the Colonels friend, Martin Caidin, author of over 50 books including "Cyborg" that became Television's "Six Million Dollar Man," and "Marooned" which became a movie starring Gene Hackman, Gregory Peck and Richard Crenna.

Click on this text to see the type of F-80 "Shooting Star" that Col. Maultsby flew and was shot-down in while on his 17th combat mission during the Korean War...


5th January 1952
F-80C Shooting Star 49-613 35th Ftr-Bmbr Sq
8th Ftr-Bmbr Gp
Hit by AAA 1st Lt. Charles W. Maultsby  bailed out
RMC, Big Switch





Photos above are contained in the book, "THUNDERBIRDS", by Martin Caidin

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Click on this text to visit the U.S.A.F "THUNDERBIRDS" website...



Click on this text to watch a THUNDERBIRD Museum video tour (see Col. Maultsby's tour jacket and flight helmet at 2:40 into the video.

Photo Above is of six international Air Force arial demonstration teams including the USAF "Thunderbirds" (bottom right), USN "Blue Angels" (upper right), Taiwanese Air Force "Tigers" (center), Italian Air Force "Red Devils (upper left)..... Team at top (unknown, perhaps U.K.), team in lower left (unknown perhaps Aussies)


Click on this text to visit the NSA Archives to see the story of Col. Maultsby's overflight of Russia during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

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Click on this text to see the U-2 Spy Aircraft taking-off and landing... The type of aircraft Col. Maultsby was flying when detected over Russian airspace at the height of the Cubam Missile Crisis Oct. 1962...

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Click on this text to see the Unclassified story of the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis...

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Cuban Missile Crisis - Three Men Go To War -The "accidental" flight... Pure Baloney...!


And here is the real story of the cause of the Russian overflight:

Click on this text to see Former Secretary of Defence WILLIAM PERRY PROJECT video describing the U-2 overflight of Russia.


"Thank you so much, and great meeting the son of one of my favorite Deuce
Drivers that knew how to navigate over the Arctic Seas with no navigation of
any kind.

My driftsight let him down, because the O-Ring seal failed and
the nitrogen leaked out. No help there. The Radio Shop let him down
because the Radio Compass failed. The sextant, along with the driftsight,
fogged up. Here he was, over frozen hell, and I await the tale you will
tell how he made it back without egressing over hostile territory and did
it so well. Kid, he was great!

Thanks once again."

T/Sgt Glenn Chapman (Ret.) USAF

(Author of: ME and U-2, My Affair With The Dragon Lady)




"I only gave you a very scant idea of the driftsight on the U-2. I shall try with more here.

The Perkin-Elmer Mark I Optical Driftsight and Sextant Systeeas in four main units: The Driftsight itself; the Optical Sextant for celestial viewing for navigation; the unit known by us as "the knuckle," and by the pilots as "the viewing screen, " and the Perkin-Elmer Elecr-omechanical Mark III Hand Control or the only six special Baird Atomic Electroopical Mark III Mod A Hand Control. The driftsight was shaped like an old time stove and was installed vertically downwards behind the instrument panel. At the top of the driftsight was an angled knuckle, or view screen at about forty degree angle in respect to the driftsight with an optical viewing glass with a rubber boot about fifteen inches long, tapering from about seven inches at the knuckle glass to about an inch and a half in front of the pilot's facegear. This was to prevent sunlight from destroying his vision. He could look in the boot with only one eye.

On the top rear of the the driftsight was attached the Optical Sextant that looked upwards from the nose through the same-part number optical glass bubble that the driftsight had. When the pilot wanted to view through the driftsight, he pushed a shaft with a metal button on it forward and to the instrument panel. That would disengage a reverse "V-Mirroe" in the sextant out of the viwwing path of the knuckle. When he wanted the sextant, he pulled the shaft back out, disengagine the fiew through the driftsight and into the reverse V-mirror which changed his viewing into the optical sextant. Day or night, a star could be located using the sextant controls and provide him with celestial navigation extremely accurately. Especially with the North Star.

The knuckle also had a larger V-mirror that looked downward. With the sextant activated, the sextant roof mirror reflected the star image onto the knuckle glass. With the sextant out of the way, the downward roofmirror in the knuckle picked up the view of the ground below.

The Mark III and Mark III Mod A Hand Controls had no connection to the sextant. It was only for the driftsight. The Mark III Mod A were six specially-modified hand controls with a swivel adapter around the handle shaft with three detents machined in it. The 73B, or B Configuation 36" camera had seven "look angles, vertical, and Right One, Two, and Thjree to the right, and three of the same to the left. This camera had five modes: One to Five. Mode One was when the camera lens "coal bucket was activated to R1, R2, R3, L1, V, R1, R2, R3, and Vertical again for a ten-shot "burst" of photography, actually horizion to horizon. This was the most useful mde for the B Config. Moce Two was R1, L1, V, three times, for a 9 shot burst of low right obliaue, low left obliqe, and vertical shots. Mode Three was three of the three obliques to the right and one vertical for a ten-shot full obliqe view at about ninety degrees. Mode Four was the same to the left. These were excellent for getting fabulous shots right or left from a far distance from danger, outside "the element." Mode 5 was nothing but verticals for extreme pinpoint viewing. This was what was used over Cuba using the Mark III Mod A. He could put the handle shaft into one of the detensts and extremely accurately have the U-2 a nadir and level and find exactly where the B was looking at.

The A-2 Configuration were three 24-inch 9" cy 18" format cameras and roughly the same angels as the B R1-R2-Veritcal shots. Mode One was the only one used. All three cameras shot at the same time. The A-1 had a 24" camera as used in the A-2 in a swing mount with the same angles as the A-2 modes, or Mode Two which was only verticals. On the hand control were four green lights in a square onficutatiopn that told the pilot he was in Mode 1 with the D light, Two with the A light, Three with the B light, Four with the C light, and Five with all four green. The mode was selected with a rotational switch on the top-right of the hand control. To the lower left was a small toggle switch that would turn another camera, the Tracker, either on or off. It was usually turned on after engine start and never turned off until we downloaded the cameras."


The Perkin-Elmer Mark II Tracking Camera was a 70 millimeter, 500 foot roll of perforated film what ran horizon to horizon for about 179 degrees. It ran constantly with the T-Switch on and got pix 4.7 inches by 11.2 inches. Only had a 3 inch lens, but very good. Used only for finding targets.

The hand controls used two 12- tooth splined mechanical cables from the hand control down and into the right hand bottom side of the driftsight and was used, up, down, and around to move the optics inside the bubble. He could look straight down or at any angle 180 degrees or less in full. rotation. Thely found this thing neat to be sure the landing gear was up or down, by swinging the handle around and look at it.

Also on the hand control was a small toggle switch labels 1 and .4. If he wanted direct 1:1 magnification, it was in 1. If he wanted wider angle, it was in .4, cutting the telescopy to 4/10ths of the normal views.

At the port side of the exterior nose, at about 2000, was a small circular door with a quarter-turn screwdriver slot where we would open for purging the driftsigt. Lots of -96 degree dewpoont nitrogen was used on the bird, for our driftsight purging to expel the air prior to flight from the driftsight and sextant glass bubbles and would usually remain inside the bubbles during flight, mainaning frost-free viewing at the knuckle for theveiwing through the driftsight or sextant. We had a four-wheel aluminum cart we called a "silve dolly" that held up to four tanks of this dry nitrogen. We would begin purging an hour prior to flight and continue the flow of this nitrogen from that time until fifteen seconds after engine start and pressurization operation, and then disconnect and roll back out of the way for taxi. We also, in the shop and before loading in on the the lower hatch, performed the same purging on the Tracker Camera bubble, again the same exact bubble. Kept it nice and dry and absolutely clear.

Unless it all went haywire, as it did for your dad, 72,000 or so feet high over the Arctic Circle about the time he turned to head back to Eilsen AFB near Fairbanks. He will more than likely have it in his notes of memories. I do know, however, that one of my fellow Nehography troops that was on that Crowflight, was the one the removed the driftsight, replaced the four-ing O-ring, and re-installed the driftsight. Instruments took care of the sextant, and if either O-ring went bad, both units fogged up. Thereby causing your dad the problem that had to have seemed impossible to take care of. Performing that operation as he did, saving both himself the loss of and aircraft and a fine flight on a sheet of nylon and a bunch of ropes, or more tracilly, getting killed if he miscalculated trying to bring the old girl safely to the ground. If I'm not mistaken, he got the SAC Heads-Up award or something for that. In my opinion, he should have gotten more than that.

That, my boy, is the thing that caused your dad to probably discuss each and every word in the Enlish Listing of Cuss Words. No, I doubt he actually did that. But I guarantee that fine mind of his was working out all the details each and ever second he was at nighttime, thirteen or more miles over an sub-zero ocean of freezing water. with no stars to be seen, no driftsight visibility, and a long, long way down to try to determine dead reckoning by looking at the waves. What waves? It was mostly ice, right? Not even to consider that, once one leaves the North Pole, there is only one direction for a few miles, ...South. That man was good! I still don't know how he could have possibly did what he did. But Chuck Maultsby, Thunderbird Emeritus and Dragon Outstanding, pulled it off.

Sorry for the length, it is still not very concise, but gives you an idea of what he did not have to help him out. All due to the failure of a four-inch by maybe a quarter of an inch thick chunk of black soft rubber.

T/Sgt Glenn Chapman (Ret.) USAF

Author of: ME and U-2, My Affair With The Dragon Lady


Click on this text to see the type fo F-4 Phantom jet fighter that the Col. flew during 216 combat missions during the Viet Nam War..


The Colonel's THUNDERBIRD flight helmet and tour jacket now reside on display in the THUNDERBIRD MUSEUM at Nellis AFB, Las Vegas, Nevada

Tucson Citizen


Former T-birds pilot dies here

• Col. Charles Maultsby also played a role in the Cuban missile crisis.


PAUL L. ALLEN Citizen Staff Writer


Charles ”Chuck” Maultsby, a retired Air Force colonel who flew with the Thunderbirds aerial demonstration team, served as a NATO official and was a crucial factor in the Cuban missile crisis of 1962, has died in Tucson.

Col. Maultsby died Aug. 14. He was 72. The cause of death was not given.


In the early 1960s, Col. Maultsby piloted U-2 spy aircraft and gained notice as the pilot detected over Russian airspace during the Cuban missile crisis in October 1962 – an incident with serious political repercussions.

The incident occurred in the midst of head-to-head confrontations between President Kennedy and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev that brought the world’s two superpowers to the brink of nuclear war.

The overflight, which was blamed on a navigational error, could have been interpreted as an attack on the Soviet Union at a time when the United States demanded that the Soviets remove missiles from Cuba.

However, subsequent negotiation produced a nuclear test ban treaty.


His son, Charles Maultsby II, said his father’s flight was featured on the NBC documentary about the missile crisis, ”One Minute to Midnight.”

Kennedy, hearing of the overflight and its detection by the Russians, is said to have exclaimed, ”There’s always some son-of-a-bitch who doesn’t get the word.”


Col. Maultsby was born June 7, 1926, in Greenville, N.C. Orphaned at age 8, he went on to become a highly decorated fighter pilot and aeronautical engineer, his son said.

He flew 14 missions in F-80 fighters during the Korean War before being shot down and spending 22 months as a prisoner of war in China.


In 1958, he became a member of the Fighter Weapons Team (the Air Force’s ”Top Gun” school) at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., and was ranked as one of the top five fighter weapons gunners in the world.

Later that year, he joined the Thunderbirds, flying the right wing position in the diamond formation.


From 1965 to 1968, Col. Maultsby flew F-4C fighter jets as a squadron commander in Vietnam, completing 214 combat missions.


From 1974 to 1977, he served as the NATO inspector general for combat readiness while based in Naples, Italy.


Col. Maultsby was awarded 18 decorations for his military service including the Purple Heart, Silver Star, Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross with three oak leaf clusters and the Air Medal with 19 clusters.


No funeral service is planned.


Survivors include his wife of 49 years, Jeanne; sons Chuck II and Kevin of Tucson and Shawn of Colorado Springs, Colo.; and grandsons Chuck and Stevie of Tucson.

Above photo: "The Thunderboys"... Chuckie Maultsby (third from right), Shawn Maultsby (farthest left)

Photo Below:  Pilots with sons... Chuckie and Captain Maultsby second from top



Above and Beyond

John F. Kennedy and America's Most Dangerous Cold War Spy Mission


by Casey Sherman; Michael J. Tougias