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If you like Michael Thornton's story, you might also like:
Stephen Ambrose,
Tom Clancy,
David Halberstam,
Daniel Inouye,
William McRaven,
David Petraeus,
Neil Sheehan,
James Stockdale,
Colin Powell and
Norman Schwarzkopf

Related Links:
MOH: Thornton
MOH: Norris

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Michael Thornton
Michael Thornton
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Michael Thornton Profile

Medal of Honor

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  Michael Thornton

"For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while participating in a daring operation against enemy forces..."

The Medal of Honor is the highest military decoration the United States of America can bestow. It is an honor reserved for the bravest of the brave, but even in that company of heroes, Michael Thornton is exceptional. His is the rare case of one Medal of Honor winner receiving the award for saving the life of another.

In Vietnam in 1972, Thornton was attempting to lead three comrades to safety under withering enemy fire. On hearing that his Navy SEAL commander, Lt. Thomas Norris had been killed while covering their escape, Thornton replied, "I'm not leaving without my Lieutenant," and returned under fire to find Norris gravely wounded but alive. Although he himself was also injured, Thornton slung the unconscious Norris over his shoulder and carried him out to sea. Taking hold of another wounded comrade in the water, he swam into the open sea and tread water for hours until they could be rescued.

In the words of his Medal of Honor citation: "By his extraordinary courage and perseverance, Petty Officer Thornton was directly responsible for saving the life of his superior officer and enabling the safe extraction of all patrol members, thereby upholding the highest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service."

Profile: Thomas R. Norris
Medal of Honor

Inducted into the Academy in 1976

As a Navy SEAL in Vietnam, Lt. Thomas Norris completed numerous dangerous missions, including "an unprecedented ground rescue of two downed pilots deep within heavily controlled enemy territory."

But the story of Norris's courage does not end there. Only six months after his historic rescue of the stranded fliers, he was gravely wounded during a firefight behind enemy lines. Rescued by Petty Officer Michael Thornton, he was initially given no chance of survival, much less of returning to a productive life, but Norris confounded his doctors with his relentless determination to survive and recover.

He endured years of painful reconstructive surgery and arduous rehabilitation, until he was ready to serve his country once again as a hostage rescue specialist for the FBI. In 1976 he at last received the Medal of Honor for "his outstanding display of decisive leadership, undaunted courage, and selfless dedication in the face of extreme danger."

This page last revised on Jun 17, 2010 14:48 EDT
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