By LARRY BOWERS
Tributes continue to pour in for Cleveland resident and Korean War veteran William "Bill" Norwood, who passed away Wednesday at the age of 87.Norwood served in the U.S. during the Korean War, and …
Tributes continue to pour in for Cleveland resident and Korean War veteran William "Bill" Norwood, who passed away Wednesday at the age of 87.
Norwood served in the U.S. during the Korean War, and spent more than two years in a Chinese Communist prison camp.
He has spent recent years involved with veterans projects and programs, and has been active with multiple POW organizations.
Visitation is scheduled Monday, from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Shenandoah Baptist Church, 138 Osment Road, just off Waterlevel Highway.
The funeral service will be at 10 a.m. Tuesday at the church, with interment at 12:30 p.m. Tuesday in Chattanooga National Cemetery, with full military honors.
Norwood is survived by his wife, Elizabeth; a daughter, Paula Norwood; and son, Dennis Norwood. Complete arrangements are published in today's edition of the Cleveland Daily Banner.
Norwood was a member of the national Korean War Prisoners of War Association, and elected as one of its officers. That group is now virtually inactive, activities being discontinued when membership declined to less than a dozen.
Norwood has long found himself among thinning ranks of Korean War veterans, but has found time to tell his story of captivity. He said he wanted to keep alive the memories of those left behind.
“That was my main concern," he said. “I fly the POW/MIA flag, because those were my closest friends and my buddies, and I can’t ignore them. I’ve got to keep their memory alive.”
Norwood was very cognizant of the respect and gratitude he has received in the community, and knew of plans to erect a granite statue in his honor. Still, he thought it was a little too much for an "old East Tennessee country boy."
In a recent brief telephone discussion, he said there have been hundreds of community veterans who served and sacrificed for their country. He said he didn't feel he should be singled out for his service, or his captivity.
The statue and honor were the ideas of 10th District Attorney General Steve Crump, who's family are longtime friends of Norwood and his wife, Elizabeth.
Former Bradley County Veterans Affairs Officer Joe Davis, now retired, supervised the fundraising effort, and the Cleveland City Council unanimously voted for placement of the statue in the city's 1st Street Square.
Davis said Thursday the artwork is currently being created in North Georgia, and he expects the dedication to be scheduled in the next two to three months.
In addition to the City Council's support, other top fundraisers include the American Legion, VFW, Sons of the American Revolution, Disabled American Veterans, Cleveland's Elks Lodge, the Rolling Thunder Motorcycle Club, as well as a number of individuals.
Davis spearheaded the campaign, as he and his wife are good friends of the Norwoods.
Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland, in extending his sympathies Thursday , said Norwood "was a hero's hero."
Bradley County Mayor D. Gary Davis added similar comments later in the day.
"I have been notified of the passing of another one of our local heroes, a dear family friend, Mr. Bill Norwood," said Davis.
"And while it is important to honor him in his death, it is equally important to remember that he lived and that he truly lived a life of service! I cannot even fathom what he endured as a Korean Era prisoner of war, yet when he left his service to his country, his continued service to his community began."
"Bradley County, our region, the state of Tennessee and indeed the nation is a better place today because people such as Bill Norwood lived," continued Davis.
"Thank you sir for a job well done. May we all stop today to say his name in our prayers along with a thank you for the freedoms that we all enjoy, that he fought for and lived to protect!" Davis added in conclusion.
After joining the Army in an effort to assist his widowed mother, Norwood went to Fort Jackson, S.C., and then to Fort Lewis, Wash., for basic training.
He was assigned to the 24th Infantry Division, and arrived in Korea in September 1950. He was a rifleman, but was assigned to drive trucks, which he thought was "comfortable" duty.
That changed six months later, when he was caught in an ambush. He an another soldier escaped the ambush site, but were taken prisoner the next morning.
"I assumed I'd be killed, and I wasn't afraid anymore," Norwood has said of the experience.
Norwood was marched north from the 38th Parallel to the Chinese camp at Ch’ang-Song. It took four months and covered hundreds of miles. Along the way, the prisoners’ ranks thinned for lack of food and water.
“If you’ve ever been thirsty – I mean really, really thirsty – it’s the most uncomfortable feeling,” the former POW has reflected. “Hunger kind of goes away, but thirst just keeps increasing.”
Norwood became ill in captivity, and says he was waiting for the end. He credited his continued existence to another prisoner.
He said Dave Dawson, another Tennessean, asked him, “Do you want to sit here and die?” He said Dawson then told him, “These people don’t care. It’s just a mouth they don’t have to feed. If you’ll help yourself, I’ll help you, but if not, I’m not going to waste my time.”
Dawson brought Norwood charcoal from the bottoms of kitchen pots to help control diarrhea caused by dysentery, and in two weeks, Norwood was up and about.
Together they survived two years as POWs, and were eventually taken to Freedom Village at the DMZ. Norwood was released to U.S. authorities, and he returned to the States in the same ship that took him to Korea.
Norwood and Dawson remained close friends over the following years.
After returning home, Norwood married his wife, Elizabeth, and they had a son and daughter. Neither child knew about his POW experiences until they were in high school, because their father didn't talk much about the war.
He has said he didn't talk much about his captivity, except for hunting or fishing trips with Dawson.
Then, that changed. He has said he realized that he could keep the memory alive for those left behind by telling his story.
He has done so for a number of years, as well as volunteering with almost every local veterans organization, and multiple projects.
Those efforts are what made him a "hero's hero" in the eyes of others in the community — not what he endured in captivity.
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