American Valor
Stories of Valor
History of the Medal
About the Broadcast
For Teachers
Thomas NorrisThomas Norris

Born: January 14, 1944
Jacksonville, Florida

War: Vietnam

Rank: Lieutenant, U.S. Navy, SEAL Advisor, Strategic Technical Directorate Assistance Team, Headquarters, U.S. Military Assistance Command

Location of action:
Quang Tri Province, Republic of Vietnam

Date of action: April 10-13, 1972

Medal received from: President Gerald Ford, March 6, 1976

Official Citation:
Lieutenant Norris completed an unprecedented ground rescue of two downed pilots deep within heavily controlled enemy territory in Quang Tri Province. Lieutenant Norris, on the night of April 10, led a 5-man patrol through 2,000 meters of heavily controlled enemy territory, located one of the downed pilots at daybreak, and returned to the Forward Operating Base (FOB). On April 11, after a devastating mortar and rocket attack on the small FOB, Lieutenant Norris led a 3-man team on two unsuccessful rescue attempts for the second pilot. On the afternoon of the April 12, a forward air controller located the pilot and notified Lieutenant Norris.

Dressed in fishermen disguises and using a sampan, Lieutenant Norris and one Vietnamese traveled throughout that night and found the injured pilot at dawn. Covering the pilot with bamboo and vegetation, they began the return journey, successfully evading a North Vietnamese patrol. Approaching the FOB, they came under heavy machinegun fire. Lieutenant Norris called in an air strike, which provided suppression fire and a smoke screen, allowing the rescue party to reach the FOB. By his outstanding display of decisive leadership, undaunted courage, and selfless dedication in the face of extreme danger, Lieutenant Norris enhanced the finest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.

Tom Norris received degree in Sociology with a specialist in criminology from the University of Maryland. He originally enlisted in the Navy because he wanted to fly, however because of problems with visual acuity and depth perception could not perform the flight maneuvers and instead became a Navy SEAL.

Norris was retired from the Navy as a result of head injuries he incurred in Vietnam. He spent three years in the hospital and underwent many major surgeries. In 1979 he decided to join the FBI and requested a waiver for his disabilities from the FBI director William Webster. Webster wrote “If you can pass the same test as anybody else applying for this organization, I will waiver your disabilities.” In September of 1979 Norris passed the tests and became an FBI agent. He served as an FBI agent for 20 years.

Of Note:
In October 1972 Norris received a near-fatal head wound in action and was rescued by his fellow Navy SEAL, Michael Thornton. Thornton received the Medal of Honor for his actions. Thornton was the first person in more than a century to receive that honor for saving the life of another Medal of Honor recipient. Norris and Thornton enjoyed the unique satisfaction of witnessing each other's Medal of Honor ceremonies at the White House.

The actions for which Norris received his Medal of Honor have been recounted in numerous books and a feature film, BAT-21, the Air Force code name for the original reconnaissance mission.

There is a Lt. Thomas R. Norris building – Naval Special Warfare Group Two in Little Creek, Virginia.

©2003 GWETA