Battle of the Bulge: Finding the dog tags of TEC5 Frank H. Norton Jr & retracing his steps
By Peter Van Pelt of Belgium. This story starts in the Ardennes on Friday the fourth of October 2013. I and my German friends find during a searchparty the personal possessions of Frank H. Norton Jr on a spot in the middle of the huge Ardennes forests. We were astonished to find his personal belongings as coins, part of a belt and most important of all his ‘dog tags’. The moment that I found the first dog tag I immediately knew that I would do everything possible to return this item to the family or next of kin of this soldier.
My German friend quickly found the second dog tag and this made me realise that the person to whom they belonged probably lost his life on this spot. The moment we arrived at our hotel we started cleaning the relics so that we could read the name of the soldier, his army serial number, the name of next of kin and were he came from. Especially the fact that we found both identity discs (which is quite exceptional) encouraged me to start a quest to trace the steps of US Army TEC5 Frank H. Norton Jr. This was my mission!!!
When I was back home in Flanders I started my search on the Internet. First I collected information on US Army dog tags in general and so I found out that I was lucky to find tags type II where there is much more information on the metal disc then on the later types. Second step was finding information on US Army serial numbers. This brought me to the website : www.wwii-enlistment.com On this site I found directly more information on Frank.
The date of his enlistment (06/11/1941) and the place – Fort Mc Pherson – Atlanta Georgia. Further there was his marital status (single), his civilain occupation (baker), known grade (private), year of birth (1916) and year of death (1945). Later we found out that some of the info was incorrect.
The next step was retracing his relatives or next of kin. I first tried to get in touch with his family trough WWIIcustomer service but they let me know that they could not help me with this information. Then I got in touch with the ‘American Battle Monuments Commission’ and they let me know that TEC5 Norton was burried temporarily at Fosse US Temporary Cemetery near Namur – Belgium. Later his remains were repatriated to the USA. This was already something…so now we were sure that Frank lost his life during the Battle of the Bulge in 1945. I realised that I had to take a different path to find Franks relatives. So I contacted the Floyd County Government on November 3 – 2013. A day later I received an e-mail from Mrs. Linda Harris with the encouraging message that the Floyd County authorities would do everything possible to trace Franks family members. I felt that I was almost there…
On thursday – November 7 – 2013 I got an e-mail from Mrs. Debbie Norton (living in Silver Creek) letting me know that she was a family member of TEC5 Frank H. Norton Jr. She stated that she was very excited and almost couldn’t believe that we found Franks dog tags on the Ardennes battlefield. She knew that he was with a tank battalion and more specifically the 82nd Armored Reconnaissance Battalion (the eyes and ears of the famous 2nd Armored Division – better known as ‘the hell on wheels’). She also informed me that he died on January 6 – 1945. A little while later I was contacted by e-mail by Mr. Kevin Myrick – a reporter of a local newspaper in Rome – Georgia. He wanted to write an article about this amazing story and publish it on Veteran’s Day.
The next message by e-mail came from Philip Norton…(husband of Debbie) who gave me some more details about his uncle. He knew that Frank enlisted a month before the attack on Pearl Harbor and that he ended up in North Africa, England, France, Germany and finally Belgium where he was killed in action. The circomstances were not clear… he was told that they were hit by a bomb or so. He also informed me that Franks body was returned to the family in 1949 by train and that he was burried with full honors at Eastview cemetery with his parents and two brothers. He thanked me for getting in touch with them. The Norton family also sent me a picture of Frank in uniform. This gave me a fantastic feeling that I now knew how he looked like.
Getting al this news I got in touch with my German friends and we decided to send Franks belongings back to his hometown – Silver creek – Georgia. I also started tracking the action-report of his unit. It was all clear to me by finding coins from Morocco (North Africa), France, Belgium, Holland and Germany that Frank passed by in all these countries. What a story…
Franks relics arrived safe and well at Philip Nortons home in Silver Creek – Georgia on December 5 – 2013.
This makes people realise that small items like these dog tags can connect people from different continents. Thanks to the internet, of course. Otherwise it would have been a hell of a job to find relatives of this American World War II hero.
Really great work and a big thank you to Peter Van Pelt of Belgium for sharing his article with us.