Norstad, Lauris [Gen VCoSAF]

Lauris Norstad

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Lauris Norstad
General Lauris Norstad
Born (1907-03-24)March 24, 1907
Minneapolis, Minnesota
Died September 12, 1988(1988-09-12) (aged 81)
Tucson, Arizona
Allegiance biography United States
Service/branch biography United States Air Force
Years of service 1930-1963
Rank biography General
Commands held Supreme Allied Commander Europe
Battles/wars World War II
  • Air Force Distinguished Service Medal (2)
  • Silver Star
  • Legion of Merit (2)
  • Air Medal
  • French Legion of Honor

Lauris Norstad (March 24, 1907 September 12, 1988) was an American General in the United States Army Air Forces and United States Air Force.

Early life and military career

Lauris Norstad was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota to a Norwegian immigrant Lutheran minister and his wife. He graduated from the United States Military Academy June 12, 1930 and was commissioned a second lieutenant of cavalry. In September 1930, he entered Primary Flying School at March Field, California, and graduated from Advanced Flying School and was transferred to the Air Corps in June 1931. Going to Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, in January 1932, he was assigned to the 18th Pursuit Group, assuming command of it in July 1933. In March 1936 he was named adjutant of the Ninth Bomb Group there. Entering the "short course" the Air Corps Tactical School at Maxwell Field, Alabama, in September 1939, he graduated three months later and returned to Mitchel Field as officer in charge of the 9th Bomb Group Navigation School.

Moving to Langley Field, Virginia, in July 1940, General Norstad was adjutant of the 25th Bomb Group, and the following November he was named assistant chief of staff for intelligence of General Headquarters Air Force there. In February 1942 he was appointed a member of the Advisory Council to the commanding general of the Army Air Forces at Washington, DC.

World War II

In August 1942, Norstad was named assistant chief of staff for operations (A-3) of the Twelfth Air Force, going to England with it the following month in support of Operation Husky, and to Algiers, North Africa in October 1942. Here he met General Dwight Eisenhower, who had this to say about him:

"It was on that occasion that I first met Lieutenant-Colonel Lauris Norstad, a young air officer who so impressed me by his alertness, grasp of problems, and personality that I never thereafter lost sight of him. He was and is one of those rare men whose capacity knows no limit."

In February 1943, he was promoted to brigadier general and assumed the additional duty of assistant chief of staff for operations of the Northwest African Air Forces. In December 1943 he was appointed director of operations of the Mediterranean Allied Air Forces at Algiers, moving with it to Caserta, Italy, two months later.

Norstad was transferred to Washington, D.C. in August 1944, where he was deputy chief of Air Staff at Army Air Force Headquarters with added duty as chief of staff of the 20th Air Force. He was relieved of this additional duty May 8, 1945, and assumed additional duty as assistant chief of Air Staff for Plans at Army Air Force Headquarters. He was promoted to major general the following month.  Relieved of assignment as chief of staff of the 20th Air Force in February 1946, he continued as assistant chief of air staff for plans until the following June, when he was appointed director of the Plans and Operations Division of the War Department at Washington, DC. On October 1, 1947, following the division of the War Department into the Departments of The Army and The Air Force, General Norstad was appointed deputy chief of staff for operations of the Air Force, and the following May assumed additional duty as acting vice chief of staff of the Air Force.

SHAPE leadership

Joining the U.S. Air Forces in Europe in October 1950 General Norstad was commander in chief, USAFE, with Headquarters at Wiesbaden, Germany. On April 2, 1951 he assumed additional duty as commanding general of the Allied Air Forces in Central Europe under the Supreme Headquarters of the Allied Powers in Europe. He was designated air deputy to the supreme allied commander, Europe, SHAPE, on July 27, 1953.

Relieved of duty as air deputy to the Supreme Allied Commander, Europe (SACEUR) on November 20, 1956, Norstad was appointed by the president as the new Supreme Allied Commander Europe, and Commander in Chief, U.S. European Command. He served in that post until January 1963 when General Lyman Lemnitzer replaced him. Norstad initially encouraged France to develop its own nuclear capacity, but then defected on the idea once he grew disillusioned with French President Charles de Gaulle's interference with NATO.

His decorations included the Air Force Distinguished Service Medal with two oak leaf clusters, Silver Star, Legion of Merit with oak leaf cluster, Air Medal, and the French Legion of Honor by decision of General de Gaulle himself. He was rated a command pilot, combat observer, and technical observer.

Later Years

General Norstad retired from the USAF on December 31, 1963. After his military retirement, he became the Chief Executive Officer and President of Owens Corning from 1963 until 1972 and also served on the Board of Directors of Rand Corporation. He died on September 12, 1988.



August 4, 1950

About this same time the JCS likewise felt a need for closer liaison with MacArthur. For one thing the JCS still had grave doubts about the proposed amphibious landing at Inchon, and the doubt was spreading far and wide. It seemed that MacArthur was being deliberately vague about the details of Inchon and the chiefs could not understand why. Accordingly, the JCS detailed Matt Ridgway and Air Force Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations (and acting Vice Chief of Staff) Lauris Norstad (West Point, 1930) to accompany Harriman to Tokyo, to brief MacArthur on JCS thinking and to find out what MacArthur was up to. The generals took along several subordinates to do legwork. In addition, Ridgway hand carried a letter from Joe Collins to MacArthur, wishing him well and expressing the hope that MacArthur could win in Korea with the six plus American divisions already in the Far East or on the was.[7-12]


August 7, 1950


August 8, 1950

It has been alleged by at least one officer of General MacArthur's staff that MacArthur, on 8 August 1950, when Ridgway was a member of a group accompanying Averell Harriman to Japan and Korea, told Ridgway that, if anything happened to Walker, "you are my No. 1 choice. General Ridgway later said privately that General MacArthur never mentioned the subject to him on that visit to the Far East.'

Gen. Lauris Norstad, the only other officer in Averell Harriman's party in this Far East Command visit, told Ridgway that MacArthur had said to him that MacArthur wanted to see Ridgway in command of Eighth Army. Ridgway was taken aback at this news and burst out to Norstad, "Oh, don't you breathe a word of that while I am up here anyway, because it would look as though I was seeking a job there, which I am not at all." Later, Ridgway learned that General MacArthur had indeed recommended him as a replacement if anything happened to Walker. But he had the impression that higher officials in the Pentagon had other plans for him.