February 20, 1945
Major Benjamin White Norris, U. S Marine Corps (Deceased)
Major Norris was born May 15, 1907, in Callao, Peru, where his father was an engineer engaged in the development of the country. He was educated in the United States at St. James School in Maryland, Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire, and was graduated from Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey, with the degree of Bachelor of Arts in June 1928.
After graduation from Princeton University, Major Norris joined the aviation branch of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve as a Private, First Class. Appointed Second Lieutenant and designated student naval aviator in 1929, he had his early aviation training at the Naval Air Station, Pensacola, Florida. He was subsequently promoted to First Lieutenant, November 28, 1933, and Captain, February 24, 1937. Transferred from the Reserve to the Marine Corps in that rank in February 1941, he was promoted to Major, May 16, 1942.
Major Norris was on duty at the Marine Barracks, Quantico, Virginia, from July 1929 until November 1931, when he was transferred to duty at Brooklyn, New York. During this tour of duty, which extended to May 1938, he was commended for his part in the rescue work when the airship AKRON was lost off Barnegat Light, New Jersey Coast, in April 1933. He later had duty at Floyd Bennett Field, Brooklyn, New York, until December 1940 when he returned to Quantico.
In April 1942, Major Norris reported for duty in the field. During the Battle of Midway in June 1942, he commanded one formation of 11 planes of Marine Scout Bombing Squadron 241. Reported missing in this action, June 4, 1942, he was awarded the Navy Cross for his heroic conduct, with the following citation:
"For extraordinary heroism as a Division Commander of Marine Scout Bombing Squadron TWO FORTY-ONE during action against enemy Japanese forces in the Battle of Midway. Leading a determined, attack against an enemy battleship, Major Morris, in the face of tremendous antiaircraft fire and. fierce fighter opposition, contributed to the infliction of severe damage upon the vessel. During evening of the same day, despite exhaustive fatigue and unfavorable flying conditions, he led eleven planes from his squadron in a search-attack mission against a Japanese aircraft carrier reported burning about two hundred miles off Midway Islands. Since he failed to return with his squadron and is reported as missing in action, there can be no doubt, under conditions attendant to the Battle of Midway, that he gave up his life in the service of his country. His cool courage and. inspiring devotion to duty was in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service."
Major Norris also was entitled. to the Presidential Unit Citation awarded Marine Aircraft Group 22, of which Marine Scout Bombing Squadron 241 was a part. The citation follows:
"For conspicuous courage and heroism in combat at Midway Island during June 1942. Outnumbered five to one, MARINE AIRCRAFT GROUP TWENTY-TWO boldly intercepted a heavily escorted enemy bombing force, disrupting their attack and preventing serious damage to island installations. Operating with half of their dive-bombers obsolete and in poor mechanical condition which necessitated vulnerable glide bombing tactics, they succeeded in inflicting heavy damage on Japanese surface units of a large enemy task force. The skill and gallant perseverance of flight and ground personnel of MARINE AIRCRAFT GROUP TWENTY-TWO, fighting under tremendously adverse and dangerous conditions, were essential factors in the unyielding defense of Midway."
In addition to the Navy Cross and the Presidential Unit Citation, Major Norris, who was officially declared dead. June 5, 1943, had the American Defense Service Medal, and the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal.
His next of kin, his widow, Mrs. Benjamin White (Ruth R.K.) Norris lives at 60 East End Avenue, New York, New York.
A destroyer, the USS NORRIS, has been named in honor of Major Norris, Mrs. Norris, who has been designated as sponsor for the vessel named in honor of her late husband, is unable to attend the launching, and upon her request the Secretary of the Navy has invited Mrs. Charlie Browning of 1138 Glorietta Boulevard, Coronado, California, to christen the vessel as proxy for Mrs. Norris. The USS NORRIS will be launched at the Bethlehem Steel Company, San Pedro, California.