Tom Norwood’s mother once said of her son: “To me his whole life was
unusual. He never did the mischievous things that most little boys did. Tom was always much older than his years,
and it seems that all his life, certainly from a very early age, his judgment could be trusted to be right. He was an
idealist, always striving to reach a goal that would have seemed too remote to any other person, but he always reached it.
It seems as though he knew his life would be short and that he had an average life’s work to be finished. He always
led his classes and his teachers marveled at his scholastic progress, but Tom was never boastful- just satisfied that he had
done what he set out to do”.
Tom was born in Macune, Texas, on February 4, 1918, and lived most of his early life near
San Augustine, Texas, where he was educated in the grammar and high schools. His love for the Army began perhaps with
his keenness as a hunter, for he used to roam the countryside with his gun and his dog, dreaming of the things he would do
when he became a man. During high school he acquired much information concerning the army and the advantages it had
to offer, and after graduation he enlisted at Fort Sam Houston in 1936.
Not long after enlisting he was admitted to the West Point Preparatory School at Fort Sam
Houston, acquired a high standing, and completed successfully in the examinations for the Military Academy. Tom received
an appointment from Congressman Marin Dies, and he entered the Military Academy in July, 1938.
Throughout his West Point career Tom ranked high in his military and academic subjects, wore
stars, and graduated in the Corps of Engineers,. While at the Academy he was an assistant on the Pointer Staff,
writing various articles and making photographic layouts.
It was at the Academy that Rudy Joiner of Vienna, Georgia, came into Tom's life, and on May
30th, 1942 shortly after graduation, they were married. Then came a series of stations and assignments which took him
first to the Engineers School at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, then duty with the 39th Regiment of Combat Engineers at Camp Bowie,
Texas, and next at the Paratroopers School at Fort Benning. This training prepared him for duty with the 101st Airborne
Division, 326th Engineers Battalion, at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Shortly before leaving for oversees duty in September,
1943, Tom was asked by the War Department to become an instructor at the Academy, but he felt that he could not accept it
until after he had completed his mission in the European Theater of War.
Tom took part in the Normandy invasion as company commander of Company B, which was a glider
company of the Engineer Battalion. After successive operations the 101st Airborne Division was assigned to the invasion
of Holland (Operation Market-Garden), and it was in this mission that Tom met his death.
On June 6, 1945, by order of the President, the Bronze Star Medal was awarded posthumously
to Captain Norwood. The following citation accompanied it:
"Captain Thomas A. Norwood distinguished himself by heroic achievement in action. On 17 September
1944 his engineer platoon accompanied an infantry regiment in its approach to a vital bridge in the vicinity of Veghel, Holland.
Captain Norwood and his engineers were among the first to reach the bridge. Although the bridge was intact, the span
which connected it to the highway was too narrow to permit a steady flow of two-way traffic. After surveying the situation,
he decided to erect a secondary bridge which would be strong enough to support heavy tanks, and at the same time permit two-way
traffic. With the help of the Dutch Underground, he gathered together several civilian engineers of the town who were
able to supply him with the necessary timbers and supports to construct the bridge. He worked steadily for twenty-three
hours, harassed by sniper fire from the enemy who had infiltrated towards the position. Through his skillful leadership
and initiative he completed the new bridge in time to accommodate the first British relief troops en-route to Arnhem.
The bridge, since its construction, has increased the flow of traffic, and has upheld the heaviest armored traffic.
Captain Norwood later died of wounds received in action. His actions were in accordance with the highest standards of
the military service."
Tom's association with the Dutch was intimate and friendly. One of them, Mr. P.M. Rasenberg,
Director of the Municipal Technical Schools in Veghel, Holland, wrote something after his death:
"During the building of the bridge I was always together with Tom and felt from the beginning
a big admiration for his calmness, especially in moments of danger. We were often in a bad situation, and I myself thought
of my wife an six children, but Tom's calm, quiet and encouraging conduct animated us again, and with some rightly chosen
words he made us want to stay there. Only by his quiet and encouraging leadership and his heroic example the bridge
was ready just in time, for undaunted, always realizing the hopeless situation of the paratroops near Arnhem, he kept working
during the heaviest shelling. I'll never forget those fearful moments, when, at the moment that a heavy iron crossbeam
hung in the tackles underneath the bridge, a very heavy shelling began, and the shrapnel crossed the bridge in all directions
and we all fled into the shelters in the neighborhood; also fled the soldiers who held the ropes which prevented the beams
from falling into the water. This would have happened if Tom and one of my teachers had not taken the ropes and while
lying on the ground they retained them till after the shelling. By this heroic act, the beams were kept from falling
into the water from which it would have been impossible to draw them up again because we lacked the proper tackles for doing
so. The bridge was therefore made ready at the right time. During these days I accompanied Tom everywhere and
he had been a dear friend to me. Together we ate our meals, together we drank our beer, together we smoked Tom's cigars
and cigarettes. In the successful fight to drive the Germans from the bridge, I was deeply affected to learn that Tom,
on the afternoon of the 22nd of September some hours after I had left him, was heavily wounded during the heroic defense of
the bridge, and then transported to England by plane to try and save his life. But it was in vain, for after some days
I learned that Tom died by his wounds. During the battle by the bridge Tom showed to be an example of his soldiers and
did not retire when the superiority of enemies attacked him, but he fought till he lost his life for the liberation of my