LT Thomas R. Norris
Awarded the "Medal Of Honor"

Name: Thomas R. Norris
Specialty: Navy SEAL
BUD/S Class: 45
SEAL Service: 3 years (1969 - 1972)
Rank: Lieutenant, U.S. Navy Reserves
Retired Rank: Lieutenant
Home: Jacksonville, Florida
Assigned: SEAL Team ONE
Organization: SEAL Advisor,
Strategic Technical Directorate Assistance Team,
Headquarters, U.S. Military Assistance Command
Conflict: Vietnam War
Age: 28
Location of Action: Quang Tri Province,
Republic of Vietnam
Date of Action: April 10-13, 1972
Date of Award: March 6, 1976
Retired: Medically retired




Navy Medal Of Honor



Awarded

Congressional Medal of Honor on March 6, 1976, by President Gerald Ford,
"For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond
the call of duty while serving as a SEAL

Advisor with the Strategic Technical Directorate Assistance Team,
Headquarters, U.S. Military Assistance Command, Vietnam.

Contributions

Thomas Norris served with extraordinary distinction as a Navy SEAL on two tours of duty in
Vietnam. He rescued two downed Air Force officers on separate and daring night missions amid
overwhelming enemy forces.

LT Norris persevered in his repeated night sorties to find and rescue the American aviators,
demonstrating the greatest courage and commitment Lt Norris was medically retired due to
severe head injuries sustained when he was shot in the face during a combat mission
six months later. Norris was rescued by fellow SEAL Michael Thornton, who received
the Medal of Honor for his actions. Each had the pleasure of attending the other's Congressional
Medal of Honor ceremony at the White House.

In 1979, after years of surgeries, LT Norris achieved his life ambition of becoming an FBI Agent.
FBI Director William Webster wrote that, "If you can pass the same test as anybody else applying
for this organization, I will waiver your disabilities." Norris gave 20 years distinguished service
to the FBI and was an original member of its Hostage Rescue Team as an assault team leader.

MOH Citation

ďDuring the period 10 to 13 April 1972, Lieutenant Norris completed an unprecedented ground
rescue of two downed pilots deep within heavily controlled enemy territory in Quang
Tri Province. Lieutenant Norris, on the night of April 10, led a 5-man patrol through 2,000
meters of heavily controlled enemy territory, located one of the downed pilots at daybreak,
and returned to the Forward Operating Base (FOB).

On April 11, after a devastating mortar and rocket attack on the small FOB, Lieutenant Norris
led a 3-man team on two unsuccessful rescue attempts for the second pilot. On the afternoon
of April 12, a forward air controller located the pilot and notified Lieutenant Norris.

Dressed in fishermen disguises and using a sampan, Lieutenant Norris and one Vietnamese
traveled throughout that night and found the injured pilot at dawn. Covering the pilot with
bamboo and vegetation, they began the return journey, successfully evading a North
Vietnamese patrol.

Approaching the FOB, they came under heavy machinegun fire. Lieutenant Norris called in
an air strike, which provided suppression fire and a smoke screen, allowing the rescue
party to reach the FOB. By his outstanding display of decisive leadership, undaunted
courage, and
selfless dedication in the face of extreme danger, Lieutenant Norris enhanced the finest
traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.

Biography

Thomas Norris was born in Jacksonville, Florida, then moved with his family

to Wisconsin and Washington, D.C. He entered the University of Maryland in 1963, with the

intent of pursuing a criminology career with the FBI. While in college, he was the Atlantic

Coast Conference ACC wrestling champion in both 1965 and 1966. Norris graduated from

the University of Maryland in 1967 with a B.S. in Sociology and a specialty in Criminology.

He enlisted in the Navy when his student deferment from the draft was not extended.

Norris had hoped to become a pilot, but when disqualified due to visual acuity and depth

perception problems, volunteered for the Navy SEALs. Norris was on his second SEAL

tour in Vietnam when on April 2, 1972 an American EB-66 electronic warfare aircraft was

shot down over North Vietnam. Over 30,000 North Vietnamese soldiers were in the immediate

area, in the beginning of a pincer-like Easter offensive. One crewman, Air Force LT Col Iceal

Gene Hambleton, survived the crash. He knew intimate information about U.S. missiles and

targets from a tour at Strategic Air Command, so it was critical that the enemy not capture him.

On April 3, two rescuing aviators were shot down; of the two, only LT Mark Clark evaded capture.

The Air Force Force launched a supreme effort to recover Clark and Hambleton, which became

the most intense and costliest rescue of the Vietnam War. In five days, 14 people were killed,

eight aircraft lost, two rescuers captured, and two more stranded behind enemy lines. The 7th

Air Force was communicating with Clark and Hambleton, assisting them to escape and evade,

but after great losses, realized that a rescue by air was not achievable. On April 8, Marine

Colonel Albert Gray, (who later went on to become the Commandant of the Marine Corps),

suggested a covert, land-based rescue effort, saying, I have a boat load of guys who would

love to do something like that. On April 10, Thomas Norris led five ARVN (Vietnamese SEALs)

on a two km overland insertion into dense enemy territory. He located LT Mark Clark at daybreak

on April 11th, then floated him downriver in the strong current. Later, the North Vietnamese

conducted a devastating rocket attack on their small outpost, killing two of Norrisí original team.

On April 12, LT Norris and his three remaining Vietnamese SEALs went 4 km into enemy territory

in an unsuccessful attempt to find Hambleton by dawn. Two of the three ARVN were so daunted

by the massive enemy forces that they did not accompany Norris on further missions. On April

13th, after Lt. Norris was given Hambletonís location by a Forward Air Controller, he attempted

another night rescue with his Vietnamese SEAL comrade, Nguyen Van Kiet. They dressed as

fishermen, paddled a sampan upriver, discovered the injured pilot at daybreak, and hid him in

the boat under banana leaves. On their return down river to the base, they were pursued and fired

upon by an NVA patrol on the bank, and called in air support. They were fired upon again by

heavy machine guns as they neared the shore, and got Hambleton to their bunker. Norris

administered first aid to the wounded pilot, (who had been on escape and evasion for 11 days),

and prepared him for evacuation. Six months later, LT Norris was leading an intelligence and

capture mission of one other U.S. Navy SEAL and three South Vietnamese when he was shot

in the face and believed killed. SEAL Petty Officer Michael Thornton ran into a hail of bullets,

dragged Norris away, and swam him seaward for two hours, saving his life. It was the first time

in over 100 years that one Medal of Honor recipient saved the life of another. Both are still alive

and well. In His Own Words All in all, Iíve had a pretty interesting life, Norris said a few years ago.

Iíve always gone after the challenge.

Learn more about LT Thomas R. Norris. Click HERE!




CA-75

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