Norman E. Thrall never had a chance to reach 100 years old today. Instead, he sacrificed his life for our freedom.
He was born on May 6, 1918 in California. His parents C. Burton and Lillian were born in Connecticut and Massachusetts, respectively. His father worked as an auto shop proprietor and later as a public school teacher. He became the San Bernardino County Superintendent of Schools. Norman had three younger brothers. All four brothers served in the military in WW2. By 1940 Norman had completed two years of college at San Bernardino Valley Junior College and was living at home working as a service station attendant.
Norman and third oldest brother Howard joined the army in March 1941 when the California National Guard company they served in was federalized. Their father C. Burton, who was the commander of the company, was also inducted into the army. Norman had been in the Guard for five years and was quickly commissioned as a lieutenant. Dad was commissioned as a captain and would serve in Italy as a service and supply officer for the 5th Army.
Norman married Bette Foss on June 15, 1941. They had one daughter.
Howard transferred to the Army Air Forces and was trained as a fighter pilot by May 1943. He became a 1st lieutenant in the 97th Fighter Squadron, 82nd Fighter Group, 15th Air Force by the fall of 1944. He was a P-38 Lightning pilot.
The second oldest brother Robert joined the army in May 1944 and served as a lieutenant.
Youngest brother Alvin joined the navy sometime soon after. He was 18 years old.
Norman eventually became a major and the commander of the 3rd Battalion, 108th Infantry Regiment, 40th Infantry Division. Early in the war it was charged with defending Hawaii. It first saw major action with the enemy with the invasion of Luzon on January 9, 1945. By late January his unit was closing in on recapturing Clark Field. He was killed in action on January 29, 1945 during the opening battle of Bamban Hills. His portrait is displayed in the Bamban Museum.
Five years later, youngest brother Alvin was brought back to service for the Korean War. He was a Navy ensign on a C-54 Skymaster scheduled to fly from Kwajalein to Japan on September 19, 1950. It crashed and exploded shortly after takeoff, killing all 26 naval personal onboard.
Norman and Howard's graves are both at Bellevue Memorial Park in Ontario, California. Alvin was lost at sea. I don't know what happened to Norman's widow. Howard's widow remarried and died in 2016.
The only surviving brother Robert died in 2008. Their mother lived to be 101 and died in 1995. Their father died in 1968. One of Robert's sons Gary became a jet pilot. He was killed when his T-33 jet trainer crashed on August 24, 1966.
Last year on this date I profiled Bernard Gokey, 8th Infantry Division. You can read about Bernard here.
On behalf of the fallen, if you would like to see more people become aware of this project to honor the WW2 fallen, be sure to share with others on Twitter, Facebook, etc. Thanks for your interest!
I created this video to explain why I started this project: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vXt8QA481lY.
Please consider joining the public Facebook group to increase the exposure of this project. Go to: WW2 Fallen 100