Veteran’s Spotlight: Flag Day Baby
Today, June 14, is Flag Day and the United States Army's birthday. Today's Veteran's Spotlight is shining on Norris E. Gwin, United States Marine Corps, and veteran of WW II.
Norris was born in Cleveland, Ohio on June 14, 1925, Flag Day. He weighed in at l lb., so tiny that he could only wear doll clothes and his bed at night was in a dresser drawer.
Norris’s family eventually moved to Miami, Florida, where his Father found work during the Depression. In March of 1943, Norris quit high school and enlisted in the Marine Corps. Since he was only 17, his mother had to give written permission.
Norris completed basic training at Parris Island, South Carolina, and eight months later he was in the Pacific. He served in Hawaii, Midway Islands, Gilbert Islands, Marshall Islands and the Mariana Islands with the 4th Marine Air Wing Dive Bombers.
During World War II, he served in the USMC with the VMSB-245 (Marine Scout Bombing Squadron); VMF-231 (Marine Fighting Squadron); and the 4th MAW (Marine Aircraft Wing) from 1943-45.
His tour of duty includes Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Ewa, Hawaii; Midway; Makin Atoll (Gilbert Islands); Enewetak Atoll (Marshall Islands); Kwajalein Island (Marshall Islands); Tinian (Northern Mariana Islands); Saipan (Northern Mariana Islands); Guam (Mariana Islands); Majuro Atoll (Marshall Islands). And Wartime Campaigns with the 2nd Marine Division include Saipan: June 15-July 24, 1944 and Tinian: July 24-August 1, 1944.
In 1945, after 18 months in the Pacific, Norris returned to the United States. On Thanksgiving Day, November 28, 1945, he was honorably discharged from the USMC, with the following awards: American Campaign Medal, Asiatic Pacific Campaign Medal with 2 stars, US Navy Presidential Unit Citation with 1 star, WW II Victory Medal, and the following Commemorative awards: USMC, Overseas Service, Cold War Victory, Combat Service and American Defense Commemorative.
After returning home, Norris attended the University of Florida on a football scholarship and the G.I. Bill of Rights. Unfortunately, a broken leg cancelled the scholarship, and he transferred to the University of Miami near his home and graduated in 1949 with a BBS Degree.
While attending school, Norris started working at a thoroughbred horse racing track, named Tropical Park, in Florida. He found that to be his passion and stayed in that profession, as a very respected and sought after official for the next sixty years. Fifty-eight of those years, were spent travelling and officiating at various tracks in the United States and Canada.
Norris opened Louisiana Downs in Shreveport in 1974-75. He served as Racing Secretary at Evangeline Downs from 1987-1997. He then decided to retire, but was asked to come back as a Steward at the new Evangeline Downs in Opelousas from 2004-2008. He finally retired once again after the 2008 season at the age of 84 yrs.
Norris remains an active and proud member of the Marines Corps League, ready and willing to help in any way he can. He is an active participant of the annual Marine Corps League Toys for Tots campaign. Norris is also a member of the AmVets.
Norris was on the First Honor Air Flight to Washington, D.C. honoring WWII Veterans, in May of 2007. He attended both WWII Tribute Tours to the National D- Day Museum in New Orleans in 2014 and 2015 with his friend and comrade, the late Robert D Lowe.
In September of 2015, Norris was interviewed by the Historical Department of the WWII Museum in New Orleans, and his video documentary will be part of the Archives under Marine Aviation. His story is also in the El Toro Museum, in Santa Anna, California.
Norris’s story is preserved in the Library of Congress, Veterans History Project, collection #AFC/2001/001/86938.
Norris E. Gwin is one of a few surviving WWII Veterans and will forever remain a proud Marine, and a proud American.
Happy Birthday, Norris, and thank your for your service to our country.