Ned Taylor Norris was born in Cleveland, OH to Harry and Norma Norris. Ned’s dad was a mechanical engineer who took a great interest in the fledgling auto industry. As a young boy, Ned helped his dad tinker with cars and developed a passion for automobiles that remained with him for life. Harry followed the automobile revolution to Detroit, and it was there that Ned attended Detroit’s Southeastern High School, graduating in 1931. While in high school, Ned was active in the Sea Scouts and trained on ships in the Great Lakes. It was through the Sea Scouts that Ned developed an interest in the military. After one year at Virginia Tech, Ned was nominated for admission to West Point.
Along with classmates Creighton Abrams and William Westmoreland, Ned started his Plebe year during the summer of 1932. Ned was in Company E and was a photographer for the Pointer, vice president of the dialectic society, a participant in the 100th Nite show, and a member of the fishing club. Upon graduation, he was commissioned in the Cavalry.
Ned spent his years as a lieutenant in the horse cavalry at Ft. Riley, KS, before transferring to the Armor School at Ft. Knox in 1940. There he met Grace Williams, and the two married on 21 Jul 1941.
With WWII approaching, Ned had to quickly learn the skills of his new branch. Applying the automotive knowledge he learned from his dad, he did very well. Six years after his graduation from West Point, Ned was commanding a tank battalion in the 10th Armored Division. Participating in both the Louisiana and Tennessee maneuvers, Ned played a key role in preparing division soldiers for their future combat roles.
Shortly after the 10th Armored Division arrived in Europe, Ned learned long distance of the birth of his daughter Nancy. Ned also was promoted from battalion commander to XO for Combat Command A, and then was promoted to commander, Combat Command B. COL Norris led his troops into combat in the Battle of the Bulge and the 1945 armored drive into Germany, capturing the towns of Kaiserslautern, Mannheim, Heil- bronn, and Augsburg, and then moving down highway 17 to Oberammergau, Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Mittenwald, and Innsbruck.
Ned gallantly demonstrated his skills as a combat leader. For this, he was awarded two Silver Stars, the French Croix de Guerre, and the Purple Heart. When combat ended, he demonstrated his skills as a soldier in peacetime. The local Garmisch people tell heartwarming stories of their relations with the American soldiers in 1945. The soldiers of the 10th Armored Division were obviously a special group of men. As one of the division’s senior leaders, Ned’s kind and gentle personality surely played a major role.
In early 1946, Ned was assigned to the Pentagon as chief of the Army’s tank and transport R&D branch. In January 1949 Ned was transferred to Beirut, Lebanon, as the assistant military attaché. His daughter Nancy has fond memories of living just blocks from the Mediterranean Sea in what was then one of the jewel cities of the world.
Ned and family returned to the States in summer 1951 and spent the remainder of the 1950s in various assignments at the Pentagon, Armor School, and Command and Staff colleges, to include being a student at the British Imperial Defense College during 1957–59.
Sadly, during Ned’s assignment to the British Defense College, Grace became ill. Ned was transferred back to Ft. Hood for Grace to receive medical treatment, but after a hard, two-year struggle, Grace died on 21 Nov 1960.
It was perhaps at this point that Ned played his most important role in balancing the heavy responsibilities of commanding the 2nd Armored Division’s Combat Command C and being a single parent to his teenage daughter. Once again, we get a little bit of an insight into what kind of man Ned was. Nancy went on to become a doctor, wife, mother, and grandmother.
After 30 years of service, Ned retired in 1966. At the age of 54, Ned went back to Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany to explore the area he fell in love with during the closing days of WWII. He had a sports car, a good set of skis, and was living in the German Alps. Life was good. Little did Ned know it was getting ready to become even better. Ned never guessed that the breaking down of his beloved Karmann Ghia was the start of something great. He took his car to the local Volkswagen dealer and was delighted with the excellent service. He was even more delighted with a very helpful girl, Annie, who worked at the dealership. Ned and Annie married on 24 Sep 1968.
Ned and Annie made a perfect couple and were very active in the local German-American community. They helped organize the annual U.S. Forces ski championships, ski club trips throughout the Alps, AFRC golf tournaments, spring trips to Puerto Rico for relaxing and golf, and summer vacations to their favorite spot on the Swiss side of Lake Maggiore. Together they went everywhere.
What had started out as a quick trip to Europe in 1966 lasted the rest of Ned’s life. And one of the things that we’ll always remember about Ned Norris was how much he loved and enjoyed his journey through life.
The secret behind every great man is a great woman, and Ned had three of them in his life: Grace, who supported him through the majority of his military career; Annie, his strength and inspiration for his last 35 years; and Nancy, that teenage girl who Ned raised as a single parent.
Ned passed away at the age of 91. He was buried with full military honors next to Grace.
Ed Fagan ’74
- Ms. Anni Norris