Veteran reflects on time in Korea
For Walter Norman, joining the Navy in 1951 was a split-second decision that carried implications for the rest of his life.
He graduated that May, and was stationed in Japan by the end of the year.
Norman did work maintaining planes as part of a crew handling surveillance along the Korean coast.
The power of the Navy’s ships made a lasting impression. Artillery from cruisers could be launched 25 miles, readying coastlines for the landing force, he said.
While it was a structured system, he wasn’t worried about details like his rank.
“I was too busy worrying about getting jobs done to worry about competition,” he said. “We all had our jobs to do and everybody was out doing them.”
Norman was impressed by President Dwight Eisenhower’s swift removal of troops from Korea, but noted the continued tensions there as well.
“By March of ’54, which was what he promised to do, he would stop that war in Korea if he was elected president,” he said. “Well he did, but we had a 38th-Parallel gun barrel-to-gun barrel 65 years after that.”
After returning to the U.S., Norman put his knowledge to work for Cessna Aircraft Company, and earned a couple degrees along the way.
Norman, originally from northeastern Oklahoma, moved to Wichita in ‘59. It was there he met his wife-to-be. They moved to Marion County Lake and eventually to her hometown of Hillsboro.
The couple enjoyed their time together by traveling, visiting 62 countries before her death four years ago.
“She and I were married 49 years when the cancer finally got her,” he said. “We had a long, happy marriage.”
He doesn’t maintain ties with any shipmates from his Korea days, but there is a sense of camaraderie Norman feels for his fellow service members.
“We’re all veterans of the military and we gave everything we had,” he said.
That understanding extends to Hillsboro’s American Legion because they share experiences, regardless of generation or military branch.
“Someone can just say a military command and all of us know what they’re talking about,” he said. “We share a language, everyone went through boot camp and most went through combat.”
Last modified Nov. 8, 2018