MULLINS, SC (WMBF) – On October 31, 1965, his wedding anniversary, then-Captain Norman P. Huggins, from Mullins, was one of the first ten fighter pilots shot down over North Vietnam, and the first to make it back without being captured. He was rescued after a three-hour engagement with the Viet Cong in the waters offshore.
Col. Huggins passed away on February 11, 2018 in Valdosta, Georgia at the age of 88. On Saturday, two F-16 fighter jets from the South Carolina Air National Guard provided military flyover honors for this Vietnam War hero as he was laid to rest at the Red Hill Cemetery in Mullins.
Col. Huggins was part of what is known as a "VooDoo 101 er Tactical Reconnaissance Pilot," and flew the RF-101C for low-level tactical reconnaissance, according to a release from SCANG. The tag line for these VooDoo 101 er's has become "Alone, Unarmed and Unafraid." He was awarded the Silver Star and Purple Heart for his successful rescue in North Vietnam.
Following his retirement, Huggins was instrumental in saving the Moody Air Force base in Valdosta from the downsizing of military bases during the 1990s, according to his obituary from Cox Collins Funeral Home in Mullins. He was also a passionate outdoorsman and conservationist who was involved in helping the Nature Conservancy efforts to protect unspoiled land tracts along the Little Pee Dee River in Marion County.
Funeral services were held for Col. Huggins at the Macedonia United Methodist Church. After that, a graveside service was held at the Red Hill Cemetery in Mullins.
U.S. Air Force Capt. "Mosey" Rosecrans and Capt. "Gnarly" Price performed the aerial salute over Red Hill Cemetery with the two F-16 Fighting Falcon jets on behalf of the nation for the sacrifices made by the service of Huggins and his family, the SCANG release states.
"Col. Huggins was an American hero who served our country well," Capt. Price said. "He represents a long lineage of great American fighter pilots whose legacy we seek to uphold. It is a privilege to honor his life, service, and family with a flyover today."
Huggins is survived by his wife of 65 years, son, daughter, three grandsons, brother, and daughter-in-law, his obituary states.
Huggins' son Bruce and his wife Jill provided video from the service, including the military flyover, as well as a 1965 interview with Huggins from NBC's The Huntley Brinkley report, and a document that includes clippings on Huggins' conservation efforts and military service. View that document below: