WWII veteran to speak at American Legion meeting Feb. 8, conference open to the public – Loveland Reporter-Herald
A Loveland resident with a rich history of his part in American history will share his memories at the upcoming local American Legion meeting, a conference that will be open to the public.
George Norton served 30 years in the United States Navy, starting as a gunner for the Army Guard, a group of soldiers tasked primarily with protecting supply and transport ships. He will talk about his time in the military at the American Legion Post 15 meeting on Feb. 8.
Norton, born in Topeka, Kansas, in 1925, said he joined the military for two reasons: he liked to eat and all his friends joined up.
His time in the Navy is filled with stories about the waters. Notably, while off Okinawa, Japan in 1945, his ship shot down several Japanese bombers. One of the planes, he said, crashed into the ship and caused a fire when a bomb on board the plane exploded. He described how they poured water to put out the fire and “battened down the hatches” to get back to America.
When they returned to San Francisco, Norton said, their ship was not allowed to enter port because a 500-pound bomb was found unexploded in the ship.
“The good Lord saved my life that day,” he said.
His stint in the Armed Guard also earned Norton a Purple Heart. Norton said shrapnel ricocheted off and hit him in the eye. His officer quickly treated him and told him to “resume his duties”.
After World War II, Norton continued to serve in the Navy as a purser or cook. By the time he retired in 1973, he had reached the rank of master chef.
He said that while the whole time may not have been great, he found ways to make it positive.
“I loved it and would do it again,” he said.
American Legion Post 15 Warrant Officer Brian Brakke said the idea of Norton coming to speak came after one of their Sergeants-at-Arms visited Norton, heard about his story and asked him to come and share it.
“It was a chance meeting and a boom, the next thing you know we have it on the agenda,” he said.
Although their meetings are normally procedural, they wanted to open Norton’s speech to the public so everyone could hear his stories, Brakke added.
Norton said he was delighted to be able to share his service.
“I feel really good,” he said after being asked to speak. “Even when they asked me, I said ‘boy, all these years I haven’t said anything and here they want to know my story.'”
He later added that he never told his story because “no one asked me”.
Brakke said it was important to continue telling the stories of people like Norton, those who have been named the greatest generation. While it’s important for everyone to hear about the war, it’s even more important for young residents so the story can live on, he said.
“It’s really important that the younger generations, in particular, know what kind of sacrifice these guys went through,” he said.
He also said Norton’s story was worth the price of admission “which is free”.
Norton will speak at 7 p.m. Feb. 8 at the Associated Veterans Club, 305 N. Cleveland Ave. Doors will open on the east side of the building along Cleveland Avenue.