1st Lt. Clinton J. Norman
Dad was born June 17, 1911 in Muskogee, Oklahoma to Edward Norman and Heddy Brooks Norman.
He was the third child and had two sisters and two brothers.
At the age of six his mother died. His father did not want him, so off to an orphanage he went.
About age 11 he went to a foster family in Missouri. He referred to them as Mr. and Mrs. Miller. They had a farm and worked him from before sun up to after sundown. At age of fourteen Mr. Miller told him to change his last name to Miller or leave. My dad chose to leave, as his only thing he owned was his name. He had not completed the ninth grade at the time.
Then after, he was on his own. His first job, at fourteen, was feeding mules on a ship bound for Paris, France. He then worked as a lineman, stringing phone lines across the southwest and down into Mexico. The year was 1930. The depression was well underway. He joined the Army.
Dad was nineteen at the time, although then you had to be twenty-one. His teeth needed repair, so the recruiting sergeant took him to a "sidewalk dentist" in Los Angeles to get his teeth fixed, and helped him to lie about his age. These were very hard times for many, including professionals, as a dentist setting up practice on a sidewalk in LA indicates. Dad was sent to Schofield Barracks in Oahu.
He was a member of the 19th Infantry, 1931 - 1933 championship boxing team. The team picture is still hanging in the Schofield Museum.
He spent much of his spare time in the Islands as an amateur photographer. He later sent many of his pictures to the Air Force Museum in Colorado. Dad played poker a lot there, as is the case with many soldiers. Dad also picked up extra money breaking in raw horses for the Army; the Army still had horses then.
In 1934 he completed his enlistment and went to North Little Rock, Arkansas where his aunt Lola Brooks lived on Lincoln Avenue.
He married my mother, Regina Junk Norman, who lived nearby. Dad had a one-man print shop there and also worked as a reserve policeman. I was born in 1936. In 1939 we packed up all our belongings in a 1934 Plymouth and moved to California. He worked as a printing pressman in Oakland and bought a small, unfmished, one-bedroom house in an unincorporated area. Digging dirt by pick and shovel from a local quarry, then hauling it in a Model T truck, he filled our yard so it would not continue to flood in the winter.
The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor changed all our lives. The next day, my dad, along with two of my mother's brothers, joined the Army.
The fIrst three years of the war the Army Air Corps sent my dad to many schools. He moved rapidly up through the ranks to 1st Lieutenant. One night, during this time, he got lucky in a poker game. He won enough money to payoff the loan on this previously mentioned house. This was an extremely important part in our family's fortune and our emotional well being. We had a place to go after the war, we had a home, roots, and it was ours. Sometime about then the Army sent Dad to OCS, Officers Candidate School, twice. His comment was "OCS nearly killed me!" My mother and I followed him during the war years up to the time he left for overseas. Living in many states, we got to go and see things that would not have been available to us otherwise. I attended many public schools.
In 1944, Dad was sent to Europe, eventually being assigned to the 450th Bomb Group of the 15th Army Air Force stationed in Mindora, Italy. He flew in the lead aircraft as an observer and tail gunner in B-24 Liberators. His first plane, "Heavens Above," was destroyed. The plane he finished the war in and that brought him home was "Satan's Gal." On one mission his plane was hit and he was forced to bailout near Budapest. Dad landed in a field and the peasants surrounded him with pitchforks, ready to kill him. They thought him to be a German. He pointed to the American flag sewed on his flight suit and said "Americanski, Americanski!" He was then turned over to the Russians who were occupying the city at that time. He was there four days under house arrest until he could be returned to Italy. There were other difficult missions and forced landings as well. Dad survived the war in one piece.
In the post war years he worked as a printing pressman. He retained his reserve commission, reaching the rank of Major. As with most of his generation, living thrn the Great Depression and World War II, he was content to live out the rest of life quietly and as non-eventfully as possible.
Information courtesy of Clinton Jack Norman, Jr., son of Clinton Norman