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First Name: Charles

Last Name: Norton

Birthplace: Harpswell, ME, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: U.S. Army Air Forces (1941 - 1947)

Home of Record: ME
Middle Name: Edwin

Date of Birth: 22 September 1919

Date of Death: 07 January 1946 (Official)

MIA Date: 24 September 1942

Rank: Captain

Years Served:
Charles Edwin Norton

•  World War II (1941 - 1945)


Charles Edwin Norton
Captain, U.S. Army

On 2 September 1942, then-First Lieutenant Charles Edwin Norton was serving serving as Pilot of a B-17 Flying Fortress Bomber in the 42nd Bombardment Squadron, 11th Bombardment Group (Heavy), Thirteenth Air Force, U.S. Army Air Forces in the South Pacific Area.

On that day, 1LT Norton’s unit was in action against Japanese forces while participating in a bombing mission against enemy targets in the Southwest Pacific Theater of Operations. 1LT Norton’s flying skills, courageous actions and extraordinary heroism that day earned him the U.S. Army's second highest award for valor, the Distinguished Service Cross.

On 24 September 1942, four B-17s of the 42nd Bombardment Squadron, 11th Bombardment Group, took off from Henderson Field, Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands, on a bombing mission against Japanese shipping off Shortland Island and Tonolei Harbor, Western Province, Solomon Islands. One of the bombers was a B-17E (SN 41-2420) nicknamed "Bessie The Jap Basher" piloted by 1LT Norton. As the bombers got over the target area, about 20 Japanese Zeros made aggressive attacks against the formation from the front and both beams. Two of the attackers were claimed as shot down and another probably damaged. Despite the attacks,"Bessie The Jap Basher" dropped its bombs on a cargo vessel, which they claimed "took on a decided list" indicating it might have been hit. Damaged, 1LT Norton’s B-17 was last seen descending smoking and with fighters pursuing it. Flying at sea level, the B-17 managed to reach the north coast of Guadalcanal and ditched into Domo Cove, which was occupied by Japanese forces.

At least two of "Bessie The Jap Basher's" crew, 1LT Norton and Gunner Sergeant Bruce W. Osborne, survived the ditching and managed to swim ashore. On 30 September, 1LT Norton was captured by the Japanese Army, Aoba Battalion, Takeda Unit commanded by 1st Lt Yoshi Takeda. They claimed the prisoner "died as [he] reached the place" (possibly meaning he was executed near Battalion headquarters). During January 1944, the skeletal remains of SGT Osborne were found near the shore of Domo Cove by U. S. Navy Seabees. It is unclear if he reached shore and died or was also captured and executed. The fates of the other crew, including 1LT Norton, are unknown and each is listed as Missing In Action (MIA).

"Bessie The Jap Basher's" entire crew was officially declared dead on 7 January 1946 and all earned the Purple Heart, posthumously. All are memorialized on the Walls of the Missing at Manila American Cemetery.

Medals, Awards and Badges

Distinguished Service Cross
Silver Star Medal
Purple Heart
American Defense Service Medal
American Campaign Medal
Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal
World War II Victory Medal
Army Air Force Pilot Badge

Distinguished Service Cross Citation (Synopsis)

First Lieutenant (Air Corps) Charles E. Norton (ASN: 0-416333), United States Army Air Forces, was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross (Posthumously) for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an armed enemy while serving as an Officer of a B-17 Heavy Bomber in the 42d Bombardment Squadron, 11th Bombardment Group (H), THIRTEENTH Air Force, while participating in a bombing mission on 2 September 1942, against enemy targets in the Southwest Pacific Theater of Operations. The personal courage and zealous devotion to duty displayed by First Lieutenant Norton on this occasion have upheld the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, the 13th Air Force, and the United States Army Air Forces.

Headquarters, U.S. Army Forces in the South Pacific Area, General Orders No. 27 (1943)


The remains of Captain Charles Edwin Norton have never been recovered. He is memorialized by having his name inscribed on the Walls of the Missing at the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial in Manila, Capital District, National Capital Region, Philippines.

[A substantial amount of the data concerning the final flight of Captain Charles Edwin Norton and his crew was derived from https://www.pacificwrecks.com/aircraft/b-17/41-2420.html and additional information is available there.]

Honoree ID: 154408   Created by: MHOH




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