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First Name: Benjamin

Last Name: Norris

Birthplace: Miraflores, Lima, Peru,

Gender: Male



Branch: Marines (present)



Home of Record: San Diego, CA
Middle Name: White



Date of Birth: 15 May 1907

Date of Death: 04 June 1942 (Presumed)

MIA Date: 04 June 1942

Rank: Major

Years Served: 1928-1943
BENJAMIN WHITE NORRIS

   
Engagements:
•  World War II (1941 - 1945)

Biography:

Benjamin White Norris

Major, United States Marine Corps

Navy Cross & Purple Heart

Benjamin White Norris was born, according to US State Dept. records, in Miraflores, Lima, Peru to Alexander Joseph and Fredericka “Freddie” Henshaw Norris who married on 07 Nov 1893 in Adamstown, Frederick, MD. His siblings were Henry Stuart and Gertrude Norris. Alexander was a railroad engineer (stationary) and chief of construction and maintenance of the Peruvian Corp. of London, England. Benjamin was educated at St. James School in Maryland and then at Phillips Exeter Academy (1924 grad.), New Hampshire. He graduated in June 1928 from Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey with a B.A. degree. He married Ruth Rodney King in 1939 in Orange, NJ. Ruth was a Smith College (MA) graduate and one of the first American women to attend (1 yr) Oxford University in England. Benjamin and Ruth were the parents of one child, a daughter, Sara Lord Norris, born 01 Nov 1941 in Alexandria, VA.

After graduation from Princeton University, Major Norris joined the aviation branch of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve as a Private, First Class on 11 July 1928. The next day, 12 July 1928, he was designated a Student Naval Aviation Pilot (SNAP). He reported to active duty at the Reserve Aviation Unit, Reserve Aviation Base, Rockaway Beach, Long Island, NY (This unit was formed on 01 July 1928.) on 16 July 1928 as a student aviator undergoing flight instruction. He completed the initial phase of his training and on 10 Sep 1928 PFC Norris, while still a student aviator, was transferred to the Marine Corps Reserve Air Unit, NAS Pensacola, FL for primary flight training. He arrived in Pensacola on 14 Sept 1928 and commenced his training as a SNAP the next day. Several months later on 30 Nov 1928 PFC Norris was transferred to inactive status. His address was 34 Barrow St., New York, NY.

He subsequently reported back to the Observation Squadron 6, Div. 2, Eastern Reserve Area (ERA) in Philadelphia, PA. On 24 Jan 1929 while on inactive status, Norris was honorably discharged for his own convenience to accept an appointment as a Second Lieutenant in the Volunteer Marine Corps Reserve (VMCR). His date of rank was 11 Jan 1929. His address was 176 Western Way, Princeton, NJ. On 01 Jul 1929 Lt Norris was detailed to temporary active duty involving flying as an SNA with VF Squadron 5-M, Marine Base, Quantico, VA. While in training at Quantico as an SNA Lt Norris was sick in quarters (SIQ) for over two weeks during the end of Sep to Oct 5, 1929. After recovering from his illness, Norris continued his student training into November. Then on 15 Nov 1929 he completed his training and was designated a Naval Aviator.

On 01 Feb 1930 Norris was assigned as a Naval Aviator to VF Squadron 5M at Quantico, VA. On 6 Feb 1930 Lt Norris received a commission as a 2nd Lt, Marine Corps Reserve (Note this is different than the Volunteer Reserve Force) dated 31 Oct 1929 with a date of rank from 11 Jan 1929. He was assigned to the Fleet Marine Corps Reserve (FMCR). Lt Norris was again SIQ at the Marine Base, Quantico Between 6-24 Mar 1930. On 01 Jul 1930 Lt Norris was detached to inactive duty and was assigned to the Utility Squadron 6M, Div. 2, Eastern Reserve Area, Philadelphia. He completed his 2 week active duty for training between 06 Jun – 20 Jun 1931 with Aircraft Squadrons ECEF., MB, Quantico. On 13 Nov 1931, while still on inactive duty with Utility Squadron 6M, Div. 2, Lt Norris was reassigned to Observation Squadron (VO-6-MR), Floyd Bennett Field, Brooklyn, NY.

In June of the following year Lt Norris was assigned to active duty on 13 Jun 1932 from Locust Valley, Long Island, NY. He was detailed for his annual period of aviation duty and training involving flying as a pilot (13-26) to the Marine Base at Quantico, VA. He was relieved from active duty on 26 Jun 1932 and returned to inactive status. Lt Norris was commended for his part in the rescue work when the airship AKRON* was lost off Barnegat Light, New Jersey Coast, in April 1933. On 15 Nov 1933, Norris was promoted to First Lieutenant and assumed duties as reserve squadron operations officer while he continued his inactive duty training drills.

During 1934 he continued to drill with his unit in Brooklyn, NY. By 10 Mar 1935, Lt Norris was assigned as the executive officer of his reserve squadron. In July of 1935, he was detailed to 2 weeks active duty for training. By 01 Oct of 1935, Lt Norris was assigned new duties as the reserve squadron’s training officer. His executive officer duties were assumed by a newly promoted Major Karl Day. He was detailed to active duty for training between 27 Aug – 12 Sep 1936. The following year Lt Norris accepted an appointment to the rank of Captain on 04 Mar 1937. His date of rank was 23 Dec 1936. On 17 Sept 1937 Capt. Norris was detached to the 3rd Reserve District, Marine Base, Navy Yard in New York, NY from the Marine Reserve Scouting Squadron 2, NRAB, Floyd Bennett Field, Brooklyn, NY.

On 06 May 1938 Capt. Norris detached from the Aviation Unit, 3rd Reserve District returning to his reserve unit at Floyd Bennett Field. After returning to his unit, Capt. Norris became the plans and training officer. He completed his two weeks of active duty for training at Floyd Bennett Field, Brooklyn, July 9-23, 1938. The following year he completed his active duty for training at Floyd Bennett Field between 19 Aug - 02 Sep 1939. In July 1940, Capt. Norris assumed the executive officer duties again. He completed his two weeks of active duty for training between 20 July - 03 Aug at Floyd Bennett Field.

On 16 Dec 1940 Capt. Norris was assigned to active duty for immediate transfer from VMS-2R, NRAB, Brooklyn, NY to Base Air Detachment One, MB, Quantico, VA. He was transferred as a naval aviator. While there he was assigned additional duties as the detachment photo officer, Material officer and Aerological officer. He was augmented from the Reserves to the regular Marine Corps as a Captain in February 1941.** By April 1941 he was assigned to Marine Bombing Squadron One, First MarAirGrp, FMD, FMF, Quantico. His primary responsibility was as a naval aviator. He was also assigned additional duties as the squadron radio and communications officer.

On 01 July 1941, Capt. Norris transferred on temporary additional duty on board aircraft carrier USS Wasp (CV-7). He completed that duty and disembarked at NOB, Norfolk, VA on 13 July and arrived at Quantico via air the same day. He transferred to Marine Scout-Bombing Squadron 132, FMAG, FMAW, FMF, MB, Quantico. He was assigned as a naval aviator, and he was the squadron’s executive officer. He remained with this squadron until late in the year when he transferred to HQ and Service Squadron Eleven, MAG Eleven, FMAW, NAS, San Diego as a naval aviator with additional duties as the group assistant operations officer and group intelligence officer. Capt. Norris detached from HqSq in San Diego 27 Mar 1942 and sailed on board the SS Lurline on 30 Mar 1942 from San Francisco to Honolulu, T.H. arriving on 04 April 1942. He reported for duty to VMSB-232, MAG 23 at Ewa, Oahu, T.H. He was promoted to Major, May 16, 1942, and ten days later, on 26 May, he disembarked on Midway from the cargo ship and aircraft transport USS Kitty Hawk (AKV-1) to join Marine Scout Bombing Squadron (VMSB) – 241. Included in her cargo destined for VMSB-241 were 19 new Douglas Dauntless SBD-2 dive bombers.

In the early morning hours of 4 Jun 1942, Major Norris, an inexperienced strike leader, with his gunner, PFC Arthur Whittington, led his group of 10 rookie pilots into the air to find and attack the Japanese Striking Force approaching Midway. As they approached the vicinity of the Japanese Carriers, Maj. Norris could see that the Japanese defensive force was too strong for his rookie force to tackle so he changed his target to the Japanese battleship, Haruna. They scored several near misses but no hits. He lost several pilots in the assault. The remainder of his unit, including Maj. Norris, made it back to Midway. Later that evening he was ordered to find and attack a scout reported, burning, enemy carrier. His mixed group of six Dauntless’ and five Vindicators were soon airborne. After an extended search the carrier could not be found. Without incident, all but one plane returned to Midway - Major Norris. No trace of Maj. Norris or PFC Whittington was ever found. There remains were unrecoverable. He was listed as missing in action on 4 June 1942 and on 5 Jun 1943, he officially presumed dead.

He was awarded (posthumously) the Navy Cross, the Purple Heart, Presidential Unit Citation with ribbon, American Defense Service Medal, American Campaign Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with one bronze battle star, and the World War II Victory Medal.

Notes:

Another source made claims about Norris' Akron commendation and his being augment in the regular USMC without supporting references.

* I can find no mention in any of the Marine muster reports of his being commended for his part in the rescue effort when the Akron was lost in April 1933.

** I can find no mention in the Marine Corps muster reports of his being augmented into the regular Marine Corps from the Marine Corps Reserves in Feb 1941

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Navy Cross Citation:

The President of the United States of America takes pride in presenting the Navy Cross (Posthumously) to Benjamin White Norris, Major, United States Marine Corps, for extraordinary heroism and distinguished service in the line of his profession while serving as Division Commander and a Pilot in Marine Scout-Bombing Squadron TWO HUNDRED FORTY-ONE, Marine Air Group TWENTY-TWO, Naval Air Station, Midway, during operations of the U.S. Naval and Marine Forces against the invading Japanese Fleet during the Battle of Midway on 4 June 1942. Leading a determined attack against an enemy battleship, Major Norris, in the face of tremendous anti-aircraft fire and fierce fighter opposition, contributed to the infliction of severe damage upon the vessel. During the evening of the same day, despite exhaustive fatigue and unfavorable flying conditions, he led eleven planes from his squadron in a search-attack mission against a Japanese aircraft carrier reported burning about two hundred miles off Midway Islands. Since he failed to return with his squadron and is reported as missing in action, there can be no doubt, under conditions attendant to the Battle of Midway, that he gave up his life in the service of his country. His cool courage and inspiring devotion to duty were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

General Orders: Approved by the Secretary of the Navy on November 10, 1942

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Marine Air Group 22 Presidential Unit Citation reads:

"For conspicuous courage and heroism in combat at Midway Island during June 1942. Outnumbered five to one, Marine Aircraft Group 22 boldly intercepted a heavily escorted enemy bombing force, disrupting their attack and preventing serious damage to island installations. Operating with half of their dive-bomber's obsolete and in poor mechanical conditions, which necessitated vulnerable glide bombing tactics, they succeeded in inflicting heavy damage on Japanese surface units of a large enemy task force. The skill and gallant perseverance of flight and ground personnel of Marine Aircraft Group 22, fighting under tremendously adverse and dangerous conditions were essential factors in the unyielding defense of Midway."

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The Honolulu Advertiser (Honolulu, Hawaii) - 22 May 1942, Fri - p. 2

Promotions of Marine Officers Announced

The following officers of the United States Marine Corps have been appointed by the President to the next higher respective grade for temporary service from May 8, 1942: . . . Regular Marine Corps: Captains - Benjamin White Norris

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The Los Angeles Times (Los Angeles, California) - 10 Jan 1943, Sun - p. 12

Marines' Thrilling Score at Midway Told by Navy

All 84 Pilots and Aerial Gunners Decorated for Heroism in Victory Against Great Odds

Washington, Jan 9. (AP) -- Revealing for the first time the thrilling actions fought by Marine Air Force units at the Battle of Midway Island last June, the Navy announced today that all 84 pilots and aerial gunners of those units had been decorated for heroism and that 58 ground crew members had been commended. There were only two marine squadrons at Midway when the Japanese armada came in to attempt conquest of the Hawaiian area, the Navy said. These were Fighting Squadron 221 and Scout Bombing Squadron 241 -- units of Marine Air Group 22. . . [lengthy details of battle omitted] Of the 84 pilots and gunners of the two squadrons, 38 are listed as missing in action and are presumed to be lost, the Navy said. Seventeen others were wounded but most of these have recovered and returned to active service. [battle description omitted] . . .

One by one 12 of the original 25 came back. The pilots were weary and the planes were ripped by bullets. Some of them had to crash land on the field; others settled on the sea and patrol boats rescued the pilots. Survivors Wounded. Six of the 12 surviving pilots were wounded, the navy said. "But they were very lucky and they knew it. Two of their comrades had baled (sic) out of falling planes and were machine-gunned by Zero fighters as they dangled helplessly under their parachutes." [additional description of battle] . . . Those Decorated. Among those decorated, their addresses and type of award, were the following Californians: Maj. Kirk Armistead, Coronado, Navy Cross; Lieut. Roy A. Cory (sic) (missing), Santa Ana, Navy Cross; Sergt. Carl T.M. Hickman, Santa Barbara, Distinguished Flying Cross; Lieut. Eugene P. Madole (missing), Long Beach, Navy Cross; Sergt. Elza Lester Raymond (missing), San Diego, D.F.C.; Lieut. William B. Sandoval (missing), Huntington Park, Navy Cross; Capt. Harold G. Schlendering (wounded), Pasadena, Navy Cross; Lieut. Walter W. Swansberger (sic)(missing), Santa Ana, Navy Cross; Staff Sergeant Robert A. Underwood, Los Angeles, D.F.C.; Private First Class Arthur B. Whittington (missing), Pomona, D.F.C.; Maj. Benjamin W. Norris (missing), Coronado, Navy Cross. [58 recipients of letters of commendation were [omitted]]

[Original article edited for content]

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Combat Action Ribbon (CR) note:

None of the Navy/Marine flight crews in the Battle of Midway were eligible for or were awarded the Combat Action Ribbon (CR). See Navy and Marine Corps Awards Manual (SECNAVINST M-1650.1 of 16 Aug 2019, Appendix 2C.1.c (3) Amplifying Guidance). It reads in part, “The CR will not be awarded in connection with aerial flight, . . . “ The CR was established in 1969 and made retroactive to 07 Dec 1941. According to the Awards Manual, when deemed appropriate, the award for aerial combat was/is the Air Medal.

[Bio#221 composed by Gerry Lawton, (GML470)]



Honoree ID: 98946   Created by: MHOH

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