Lauris Norstad

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Lauris Norstad
Lauris Norstad NATO photo.jpg
General Lauris Norstad
Born(1907-03-24)March 24, 1907
Minneapolis, Minnesota
DiedSeptember 12, 1988(1988-09-12) (aged 81)
Tucson, Arizona[1]
Allegiance United States
Service/branchUnited States Air Force seal United States Air Force
Years of service1930–1963
RankUS-O10 insignia.svg General
Commands heldSupreme Allied Commander Europe
Battles/warsWorld War II

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[edit]

Lauris Norstad was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota to a Norwegian immigrant Lutheran minister and his wife. He earned his high school diploma from St. Thomas Military Academy in St Paul, Minn. (presently relocated in Minneapolis and renamed St Thomas Academy).[2] 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. [3]

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.[4]

World War II[edit]

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 said of 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."[5]

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.[6] 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.[7]

SHAPE leadership[edit]

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.[8]

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.

Later years[edit]

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.[9] He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.[10]

Awards and decorations[edit]

General Norstad's military awards included the following:

COMMAND PILOT WINGS.png US Army Air Forces Command Pilot Badge
ObserverBadge.jpg US Army Air Forces Combat Observer Badge
Technical Observer.jpg US Army Air Forces Technical Observer Badge
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Army Distinguished Service Medal with two bronze oak leaf clusters (one of the three medals was awarded by the Air Force)
Silver Star Medal ribbon.svg Silver Star
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Legion of Merit with oak leaf cluster
Air Medal ribbon.svg Air Medal
Bronze star
American Defense Service Medal with one bronze service star
American Campaign Medal
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with four service stars
World War II Victory Medal
Army of Occupation Medal with "Germany" clasp
National Defense Service Medal
Order of the British Empire (Great Britain)
French Legion of Honor (awarded by General Charles de Gaulle)
Croix de Guerre with bronze palm (France), WWII[11]


  1. ^ "Lauris Norstad Dies at 81; Former NATO Commander - New York Times". 1988-09-14. Retrieved 2011-12-21.
  2. ^ St. Thomas Academy Alumni Bulletin
  3. ^ "Norstad, Lauris (1907–1988)". Minnesota Historical Society. December 13, 2013. Retrieved September 1, 2015.
  4. ^ "Lauris Norstad's Story". Red Wing Area Archived from the original on August 12, 2014. Retrieved September 1, 2015.
  5. ^ Dwight D. Eisenhower, Crusade in Europe. London: William Heinemann, 1948, p. 132.
  6. ^ Torolf Rein (February 14, 2009). "Lauris Norstad". Store norske leksikon. Retrieved September 1, 2015.
  7. ^ "Lauris Norstad". Retrieved September 1, 2015.
  8. ^ "General Lauris Norstad". Official United States Air Force Website. July 1960. Archived from the original on December 12, 2012. Retrieved September 1, 2015.
  9. ^ "Lauris Norstad". Find A Grave. Retrieved September 1, 2015.
  10. ^ "Lauris Norstad, General, United States Air Force". Arlington National Cemetery Website. 11 November 2007. Retrieved September 1, 2015.
  11. ^ "Lauris Norstad - Awards And Citations". Military Times. Retrieved September 1, 2015.

Further reading[edit]

  • Jordan, Robert S. Norstad: Cold War NATO Supreme Commander—Airman, Strategist, Diplomat St. Martin's Press, 2000. 350 pp.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

Military offices
Preceded by
Sir Hugh Saunders
Air Deputy to SACEUR
Succeeded by
Leon W. Johnson
Preceded by
Gen. Alfred Gruenther
Supreme Allied Commander Europe (NATO)
Succeeded by
Gen. Lyman Lemnitzer