Located seventy miles east of Paris, France lies the World War I Oise-Aisne Cemetery and Memorial. The Oise-Aisne American Cemetery and Memorial serves as the final resting place of 6,012 Americans who gave the ultimate sacrifice during World War I in this vicinity of France, including former Lakesider, Fred Norton. Fred Norton was a pilot in the United States Army Air Forces, stationed at Touqin Aerodrome in France. Norton was killed in action on July 23, 1918, just three days after receiving injuries during aerial combat with German planes.
Fred Norton was born on February 3, 1893 in Marblehead, Ohio to Frank and Catherine "Kate" Lynch Norton and two days later he was baptized at the village's St. Joseph Roman Catholic Church. His father, Frank, was born near Elmore, Ohio in 1868. Fred's mother, Kate, was born in Marblehead in 1877. In September of 1908 Fred entered Lakeside High School, previously located on present route 163, near today's South Entrance to the Lakeside Chautauqua. Lakeside High School’s enrollment in 1908 was only thirteen students and by this time, it had graduated only 26 males and few, if any, of these had come from Marblehead working class homes, similar to Fred’s. This was the beginning of an outstanding academic and athletic career, both at Lakeside High School and the Ohio State University. Fred played and competed in football, baseball, basketball, and track. Perhaps the highlight of Fred’s local athletic stardom came on May 27, 1912, exactly two weeks before he graduated, when Fred competed in the first ever Ottawa County track meet. It was reported that Fred won seven first places and four second places, earning Lakeside High School the title of Ottawa County champions.
Fred Norton was the first four-sport varsity letter winner at Ohio State, competing for the school’s baseball, basketball, football, and track and field teams between 1914-1917. Mentioned at times by the press as the greatest all-around athlete at Ohio State, Norton was the blocking back for Chic Harley on the 1916 championship football team, but he also scored six touchdowns in one half against Indiana that year. He was the baseball team’s most valuable player in 1917, leading the Buckeyes with a .422 batting average. Norton was able to do this while maintaining a 4.0 grade point average and was inducted into the Sphinx Honorary, the oldest and most prestigious honorary at Ohio State.
Fred enlisted in the U.S. Army aviation corps in 1917, after graduation from OSU and received pilot training with the 27th Aero Squadron in Toronto before being sent to France in January 1918. On July 20, 1918, during the Chateau-Thierry campaign, Norton led a patrol of eight American planes over the German lines in the Toul sector. His command gave battle to nine enemy planes. Both guns in Norton’s plane jammed at the beginning of the fight but he stayed in formation. During the engagement, he was attacked at least four times by enemy planes, but overmanuvered them and, as his citation for the Distinguished Service Cross says, “his continued presence was a great moral help to his comrades, who destroyed two of the enemy planes.” He was severely wounded by ground fire while strafing a column of German troops. Although he was able to land his Nieuport 28 behind Allied lines, it took him two days to get to a hospital in an ambulance because of traffic congestion near the Front. He contracted pneumonia and died on July 23 at a military hospital near Angiers. His last conscious act before he died was to scribble a note to his squadron, "Twenty-seventh, more power to you." Norton was then buried in France. For his acts of heroism and valor in the sky, Fred Norton was posthumously awarded The U.S. Army’s Distinguished Service Cross in 1918.
On August 25, 1918, mourners from across the peninsula showed up to St. Joseph's Catholic Church to attend the first mass in memory of Fred Norton. Fred Norton is not only remembered on the Peninsula, but across the state as well. In Columbus stands the Norton House, a dormitorium on Ohio State’s campus that was built in 1962. From 1923 to the early 1950s stood Norton Field, the first airfield to be built in central Ohio. Norton Field was located in Columbus and served as a refuel site for US Mail planes as well as a military training location. On display at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in Dayton, Ohio is Norton’s WWI pilot jacket, with the same bullet holes in the back and right arm that cost him his life. Still, not much is known of Fred’s early years and his time spent on the Peninsula. As perhaps the Peninsula’s most interesting and impressive former resident, the story of Fred Norton will continue to be uncovered for years to come.