November 11, 2013, - 4:14 pm

Incredible Navy SEAL’s Vietnam Heroism Finally Gets Monument: When One Medal of Honor Recipient Rescues Another

By Debbie Schlussel

Navy SEAL Mike Thornton (of SEAL Team Two) is one of those great Americans whose valiant efforts we celebrate today on this Veterans Day. Now, there is finally a statue–an awe-inspiring one–to his heroism to go with his incredible valor in Vietnam.




Under heavy gunfire from dozens of North Vietnamese soldiers, Navy SEAL Mike Thornton lifted critically injured fellow SEAL Tom Norris onto his shoulders and carried him in the darkness down the beach into the South China Sea surf. Inflating Norris’ life jacket, Thornton kept him afloat and breaststroked for about two hours to a support boat after that October 1972 beach-landing firefight near the Cua Viet River. Norris — who had been shot in the head — later underwent surgery and three years of rehabilitation, but he survived.

Now, this spectacular Vietnam War battlefield rescue will be memorialized in bronze. Saturday, officials will dedicate a 10-foot statue depicting Thornton carrying Norris on his shoulders during the facility’s 28th annual Muster reunion at the National Navy UDT-SEAL Museum in Fort Pierce, Fla. “It was the only time this century when one Medal of Honor winner was rescued by a person who would eventually get a Medal of Honor for rescuing him,” said Rick Kaiser, executive director of the museum. . . .

The statue was commissioned by former presidential candidate Ross Perot, who is friends with Thornton. The sculptor is Paul Moore of Norman, Okla., who also crafted a Perot-commissioned bronze statue of Gen. Hugh Shelton at the Airborne and Special Operation Museum in Fayetteville, N.C.

This year’s Muster also commemorates the 70th anniversary of the original Naval Combat Demolition Unit “frogmen.” In 1943, the military took over portions of Hutchinson Island and established a training base at Fort Pierce. Here, frogmen trained to penetrate enemy beach obstacles and defenses. Predecessors of today’s SEALs, these elite fighters trained for D-Day and other World War II amphibious assaults.

The museum was dedicated on Veterans Day in 1985 at the site of the defunct Fort Pierce Treasure Museum, and active and retired SEALs and their families from across the USA have gathered for annual Muster reunions ever since.

The word, “awesome,” is used too much and has been significantly devalued since the ’80s (thanks, Moon Unit Zappa and the Valley Girl culture). But not here. An awesome statue depicts two awesome men in an awesome rescue. Those guys are cool.

Happy Veterans Day, Mike Thornton and Tommy Norris!

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13 Responses

Great story, Debbie!

skzion on November 11, 2013 at 5:30 pm

“It was the only time this century when one Medal of Honor winner”
It’s not a contest, you don’t “win” a Medal of Honor, it’s an award for bravery above and beyond the call of duty>

bb on November 11, 2013 at 5:46 pm

    @bb, Relax Mr. Friggin grammar, usage police.
    Also there is a great sculpture in front of the Wounded Warrior administrative offices of the first “wounded warrior ” being helped from the battlefield by two other soldiers. I got a picture of it when I was down there. The detail of the Beretta and his friends gear and such is incredible.

    samurai on November 11, 2013 at 9:07 pm


Thanks! Tom Norris is the SEAL who rescued Lt Col Iceal “Gene” Hambelton, when Hambelton was shot down in Vietnam. The events are loosely captured in the movie BAT 21. Norris and his deeds are not mentioned in the movie, but he rescued Hambelton. I’ve visited the UDT/Seal Museum. A great place to visit. I looked at the equipment (or lack of) the WWII frogman had to work with. Talk about guts.

Peter on November 11, 2013 at 6:29 pm

This is a true story of men, I mean real masculine. May God bless them all. If only we had a quarter of these men today.
God Bless America and God Bless Vets and serving military. America you do not appreciate your wonderfulMEN.

malachi on November 11, 2013 at 6:44 pm

Excellent story, Debbie.

JeffE on November 11, 2013 at 9:35 pm

Totally awesome article, Debbie!

DS_ROCKS! on November 12, 2013 at 4:21 am

Debbie, it was very interesting reading as usual, the series of articles you put up this weekend, beginning with the one on Kristallnacht. I was rather busy Sunday and yesterday, and finally got a chance to sit down and review things around here last night.

This latest group of articles brings a very sobering perspective to the times we live in today. The phrases ‘if they can do it, I can do it,’ and ‘if they did it, we can do it’ come to mind immediately. The comments put up about how great these people were and are, all quite true. But they are humans, just like us. So, on the surface, one might think, well, we’re humans, just like them, why not?

And that last part is the discouraging part, because it falls under the heading of “collective will.” We don’t have the collective will in the United States to do anything these days but get high, have sex and play games.

Herbert W. Armstrong said there were two basic ways of life, the way of ‘give’ and the way of ‘get.’ Quite sadly, “this once great republic” has a citizenry that is bent on living the ‘get’ way of life, and the greatness you have outlined in these articles is dissipating in to the memories of history.

Very sad. But thank you for the perspective. It helps give strength in these hard times, to see the example of others laid so bare, including the pictures you post. Thank you for doing what you do. I love you, Debbie.

Alfredo from Puerto Rico on November 12, 2013 at 9:12 am

What an amazing story! And you’re right Debbie. While we still have some amazing troops in Special Operations, we as a nation are emasulating our military and changing them from Guard dogs to little yippie dogs you carry in purses. But hey, at least we’ll be just like Europe! Won’t that be GREAT???

Sean M on November 12, 2013 at 10:06 am

Interesting SeanM, the part about being like Europe. In my lifetime of being around SO many liberal intellectual types, that is one of the overriding themes many, if not all espouse. We need to be more like Europe, sort of brings to mind George H.W. Bush’s “kinder and gentler America” crap.

The Founding Fathers moved here to get AWAY from being like Europe, and generations later, thanks to Woodrow Wilson and many successors, including local town officials and all the people who vote for them, we are filled with a longing to be more like Europe. Blechhhh. Gimme the beer, triple crème brie and cannolis, but y’all kin keep your Eurostyle cultures.

Alfredo from Puerto Rico on November 12, 2013 at 10:19 am

Great, real story!

I think about the vapid dramas and crises of today’s world where a dead cell phone battery is considered a crisis and a new tattoo is a cultural drama. Sheesh, what a world …

Pray Hard on November 12, 2013 at 10:45 am

. . . and a new tattoo is a cultural drama. . . .” – Pray Hard

Funny you should say that. Someone very close to me, completely unmarked for life, recently celebrated an advanced birthday with a special gift to themselves. They sent me a picture of it when I was down home in PR as part of the “event” showing it off. A pretty advanced birthday gift to themselves. Totally unmarked prior to that in life. Yeah, what a world. I love your handle. Quite true.

We’re a far cry from the culture the Navy SEALS are supposedly fighting for. A shame, shame on us, the USA.

Alfredo from Puerto Rico on November 12, 2013 at 10:51 am

GOD Bless these great men.. Debbie could you send a copy of this to scum POS actor Tom Cruise? He recently said his acting routine was harder than serving in Afghanistan. He is a brainwashed pink panty wearing fool.

bobby99 on November 12, 2013 at 4:29 pm

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