On May 2 in Columbus, Marblehead resident Fred W. Norton will be inducted into the Ohio Military Hall of Fame of Valor for actions during World War I. The legacy of Norton has been kept alive by his family, who love to share his story of sacrifice and achievement. Norton’s spectacular record was not limited to his service in the Air Force; it also was apparent at his time at the Ohio State University.
Norton was Ohio State’s first four sport varsity letterman. He participated in football, basketball, baseball and track from 1914-1917. Norton led the school’s baseball team to its first Big Ten title with a conference record of 6-1. In basketball, Norton was captain of the team in 1917. In football, Norton played both quarterback and halfback. In 1916 he teamed with legendary Chic Harley to bring the Buckeyes their first league championship with a record of 7-0. It was OSU’s first untied and undefeated season.
In 1917, Norton graduated from Ohio State and entered pilot training in Canada with the Canadian Air Force. Later that year, he enlisted in the United States Air Force and advanced to Lieutenant Flight Commander with the 27th Eagle Aero Squadron in France. On one mission Norton shot down eight German planes.
In an article in the New York Times “Pershing Honors Gallant Aviators”, published Oct. 30, 1918, the Times told stories of men who “showed no fear when outnumbered by foe” and who were “always ready to attack”. Norton was among those honored.
From the article:
The Commander in Chief of the American Expeditionary Forces, in the name of the President, has awarded the Distinguished Service Cross to the following officers and soldiers for the acts of extraordinary heroism:
First Lieutenant Fred W. Norton, 27th Aero Squadron, deceased-For extraordinary heroism in action in the Toul sector. On July 2 Lieutenant Norton, as flight commander, led a patrol of eight machines, the first large American formation to encounter a large German patrol. His command gave battle to nine enemy battle planes, driven by some of the leading aces of the German Army. Although both of his guns jammed at the beginning of the flight, and were, therefore, useless, Lieutenant Norton stayed with the formation, skillfully maneuvering his machine to the best advantage. He was attacked by enemy planes four different times, but skillfully avoided them or dived at them. His continued presence was a great moral help to his comrades, who destroyed two of the enemy planes. On July 23, this officer died of wounds received in action three days previous. Home address: Mrs. Frank Norton, 172 West First Street, Columbus, Ohio.
So on Friday, May 2, Norton’s family will be in Columbus, honoring the legacy of their fallen family member. Norton’s story is an inspirational one of what a human being can be capable of when they believe the possibilities are endless.