The PNB Box Office was the unlikely conduit in sharing a story and documents with me about my namesake and great-Uncle Norbert, a Second Lieutenant in the 522nd Fighter Squadron who died after his plane was shot down by German fighters while defending French soil during WWII.
I found this recently as I was going through my father’s things.
Steve Rogers landed in North Africa in November 1942 with the first US troops to enter the European Theater. He traveled across North Africa, Italy, and Southern France. Throughout the war, Steve helped manage the troop movements, including the notifications of next of kin. It was during the move north through France that my father’s path and that of your uncle crossed.
He made a point of keeping this all his life. I think it was because he found the sentiments so true and powerful. So here it is now for you.
Norbert died providing aerial support for men like my father. Had it not been for men like Norbert, they may not have gone on to Nuremberg, Dachau, Salzburg, and Hitler’s Eagles Nest—Berchtesgaden as Steve did. He lived a long and happy life, dying at the age of 95.
So from my family to yours—thank you for Norbert’s service. We may not have had our wonderful father without him.
I didn’t know the details of my uncle’s death when I wrote a letter to my father telling him I was registering for the draft as a conscientious objector as a 19 year-old college student. I said things like “I abhor war” and “I didn’t want to die needlessly like my uncle Norbert did”. I was young and stupid.
It hasn’t been until more recently I have learned some of the details from men like Mr. Rogers that I come to realize how important our contribution to World War II was, both for us as a country and for the countries that we served to help. It hasn’t been until more recently that I have come to realize how hurtful that letter to my father was. He died a number of years ago. While he expressed his feelings about my comments in that letter in a return letter to me, we never talked about it again. I wish sometimes my father was still around so that I could talk to him about my regret for having said such things, especially in referring to his beloved brother in the way that I did, now that I know how idiotic they were. That is my American Story.